Huddersfield Central Library

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This is a backup of the West Yorkshire Archive Service's "Off the Record" wiki from 2015. The live went offline in 2016 and remains unavailable.

The following source list was originally available only on paper in one of the West Yorkshire Archive Service offices. It may have been compiled many years ago and could be out of date. It was designed to act as a signpost to records of interest on a particular historical subject, but may relate only to one West Yorkshire district, or be an incomplete list of sources available. Please feel free to add or update with any additional information.

The first 'Subscription Library' was formed in Huddersfield during the year 1807. Original founders of this library included Joseph Radcliffe, Magistrate of Milnsbridge; Joshua Crosland, solicitor; Thomas Atkinson of Colnebridge (opposer to the Luddites); William Wilkes, surgeon; Abraham Horsfall, devoted churchman (and brother to William who was shot by the Luddites); Rev John Coates, Vicar of Huddersfield.

Local polls took place recommending a library but these were rejected by the ratepayers of Huddersfield. Eventually a public meeting was held in 1887 and the resolution to obtain a library for the people of Huddersfield was accepted. The first library was founded in 1897 to co-incide with Queen Victoria's Jubilee and the building of Victoria Tower at Castle Hill. Sir John Ramsden gave the year lease of Somerset Buildings in Church Street for the purpose of forming a Public Library there. In 1898 the library at Somerset Buildings was officially opened by the Marquis of Ripon and Lady Gwendolin Ramsden opened the Art Gallery on the same day. As time passed and more books were purchased, the premises in Church Street soon became inadequate.

In 1917 the Carnegie UK Trust [1] offered a grant towards the cost of a new library building. During the next few years several sites for a proposed new library were suggested including Upperhead Row at the bottom of Ramsden Street, Queen Street next to the Parish Churchyard, and later on the site of the demolished Cloth Hall. In 1933 the Ramsden Street Congregational Church finally closed through lack of support and the Council bought the site.

Huddersfield Central Library

In 1934 the site was finally designated for the Library and Art Gallery. Excavations eventually began in February 1937 and on 29th October that year Councillor Thomas Smailes laid the foundation stone. Local stone cladding from Crosland Moor was used to face the steel framed building which was designed by Edward H Ashburner, architect. The building contractors were J Wimpenny & Co of Linthwaite. San Stefano marble lined the entrance hall and all the furniture and fittings were of solid oak. The carved stone statues and stone decorative panels at the front of the building are the work of James Woodford OBE., RA. He was born in 1893 and educated at Nottingham School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He died on 8th November 1976, aged 83. One statue is intended to symbolise literature and the other art; they stand over six feet high.

The old library in Church Street closed on Saturday 30th March 1940 at 7.30pm. All publications, books and volumes were moved to the new site in two weeks. The official opening of the lending library took place on 15th April 1940 by the Mayor, Alderman Norman Crossley. The Art Gallery was reserved for possible use as an emergency hospital during the war years but finally opened as a gallery in 1943. The lower ground floor was retained as a decontamination post and First Aid centre during the war and eventually opened as a children's library on 19th May 1945. The cost of building the new library and art gallery had amounted to about £103,071.