The visitor to Huddersfield by rail is almost certain to be impressed with his first glimpse of the town from the steps of the magnificent centre portico of the railway station. St. George's Square is flanked with buildings which reflect the solidarity of the town, while the grimy stonework is a reminder of the industrial activities of the district.
On the north side of the square stands the George Hotel, built in 1852 and recently completely modernised. The south side of the square is occupied by the Britannia Buildings, the new stonework of the lower portion contrasting strangely with the remainder of the building. The ground floor serves as the head office of the Huddersfield Building Society, which was founded in 1864 and now (1936) has assets amounting to £13,247,377 and 66,213 depositors' accounts.
A word about the Huddersfield Railway Station, the foundation stone of which was laid by Earl Fitzwilliam on October 9th, 1846. The front of the station is over 400 feet long, with a centre portico 68 feet high. The architect was Mr. J. P. Pritchett, and the building of the station was entrusted to Mr. Joseph Kaye, who was also responsible for many other buildings in the town.
Dominating the whole square is a fine Sicilian marble statue of Sir Robert Peel, designed by Mr. William Theed, the sculptor of the "Africa" group on the Albert Memorial. The total cost of the statue was about £1,000, which sum was raised by voluntary subscriptions. After a delay of over twenty-two years the statue was unveiled on Whit-Tuesday, June 3rd, 1873, by Lord Houghton, a personal friend and supporter of Peel.
Before proceeding along John William Street the visitor will wish to inspect the attractive window displays of the shops which form part of the Lion Building. This building was originally designed as an arcade, and a few years ago proposed to be converted into a cinema theatre. Now the interior of the building consists of office premises.
The end of John William Street brings us to the Market Place, where once the traders displayed their wares, but which is now much favoured by orators and "form experts." The base of the old cross makes an excellent "rostrum."
A few strides down Kirkgate and the Parish Church Of St. Peter stands before us. The celebration of the centenary of the opening of the present church took place during the week of October 25th to November 1st, 1936, when special services were held and the building floodlit. The present church is the third building presumed to have been erected on the site, and is in the Gothic style of architecture, with a square tower which contains a clock and peal of ten bells.
The interior of the church contains few objects of interest to the visitor. A tablet commemorates the great pastorate of the Rev. Henry Venn. The most beautiful painted glass window at the east end of the church was destroyed when the present memorial window was erected in 1923. In the words of one local historian this was "an act of vandalism for which there was no possible excuse."
Opposite the Parish Church is the Pack Horse Hotel, one of the oldest hostelries in the town, and as its title suggests once the place of arrival and departure of the pack horse trains and stage-coaches. Huddersfield was well provided with stage-coaches and mails to all parts of the country, and the Pack Horse Yard was once the busiest place in the town. The yard has changed very little with the passing of the years, although the 'clatter of horses' hoofs is no longer a familiar sound.
If we continue down Kirkgate we shall be able to visit the New Palace Theatre. The first Palace Theatre was destroyed by fire on January 23rd, 1936. The leading variety stage artistes appeared on its stage in addition to many spectacular revues. At the time of writing (December, 1936) no statement has been issued respecting the policy of the new theatre, but it is expected that it will make variety the principal attraction. Incidentally, the site of the theatre was once occupied by an inn known as the Rose and Crown.
From the Palace Theatre it is only a short walk to the scene of Huddersfield's great slum clearance schemes in Northgate and Thomas Street, but let us retrace our footsteps to the Market Place and continue along New Street as far as Cloth Hall Street.
The historic Cloth Hall site is now occupied by a cinema, but certain features of the old building, including the cupola and clock, have been incorporated into a shelter erected in the grounds of Ravensknowle Park. The steel framework of the new Corporation Electricity Showrooms towers alongside the cinema, while more shop premises are planned at the rear of the building.
After returning to New Street, let us proceed down King Street and enter the Market Hall. There is a clock tower over the fine Gothic entrance gateway. The Corporation purchased the market rights from the then lord of the manor in 1880, and the present market hall building was erected at a cost of about £30,000. The bright and clean appearance of the hall has made it a favourite shopping centre with the public.
Instead of walking back to New Street we will leave the Market Hall by the Victoria Lane entrance and continue along this narrow thoroughfare until it enters Ramsden Street. We are now confronted with the Municipal Buildings, at the rear of which is the Town Hall. The former building was built in 1878, while the Town Hall was opened on October 18th, 1881, with a three days' musical festival. The assembly hall contains an organ, and is used by the local choral and orchestral societies during the winter months for the holding of their concerts.
It is to be hoped that by the time these notes appear in print work will have commenced on the New Public Library and Art Gallery building which is to be erected on the site in Ramsden Street formerly occupied by the Ramsden Street Congregational Church. The present Public Library and Art Gallery is inadequately housed in premises in Church Street.
The Theatre Royal stands on the site of the Philosophical Hall, and during the past sixteen years has been the scene of many important theatrical events.
The lofty spire of St. Paul's Church next commands our attention. The church was built by the Government in 1831 at a cost of £5,486.
Adjoining St. Paul's Church in Queen Street South is the site of the extension to the Technical College. The Technical College celebrated its Jubilee in 1934. Since 1905 the college has been affiliated with the University of Leeds, and its status is now almost equal to that of a university.
Milton Congregational Church, which is in close proximity to the temple of learning, was a secession from Ramsden Street, and was erected in 1885.
From the Technical College it is a short walk to Buxton Road and the central premises of the Huddersfield Industrial Society, Ltd. The society has a membership of 34,290, and is building a new shopping emporium adjoining its present premises, which are to be entirely reorganised when the new building is completed.
To visit the other places of interest in Huddersfield a short journey by tramcar or trolley-bus is necessary. Greenhead Park is easily the most popular summer resort in the district. The park covers thirty-three acres, of land, and was opened to the public on September 27th, 1884. This valuable "lung" was secured for the town by the foresight of the late Alderman Thomas Denham, who saved the site from the hands of the builder by taking it at his own expense until the Council relieved him of the responsibility.
Occupying a commanding site in the park is the town's War Memorial, which was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson and unveiled by Lieut.-General Sir Charles Harington on April 26th, 1924. The South African War Memorial will be found in the beautiful Italian gardens.
The Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, situate in New North Road, was first opened in 1831. A south wing was added in 1861 and a north wing in 1874, while the Carlisle Wing was the gift of Sir E. Hildred Carlisle. The present King (then Duke of York) laid the foundation stone of a new extension to the Infirmary in 1932, and the new building was opened by the late Lord Moynihan in 1934.
The Huddersfield College, also in New North Road, was founded in 1838, and is now under the control of the local Education Authority. The late Lord Oxford and Asquith was a pupil at the college for a short time.
The sum of £64,000 was expended in building and equipping the splendid Cambridge Road Public Baths. During the winter months the large pool is converted into a dance hall.
The Clock Tower at Lindley, the gift of the late Mr. James Nield Sykes, is 83 feet in height, and each of the four large dials is 6 ft. 6 ins. in diameter. The tower contains some striking sculptures.
Huddersfield has many fine examples of church architecture. St. John's Church was designed by William Butterfield, one of the best known architects of the last century. The spire of the church has recently been repaired.
Recent gales have also damaged the spire of St. Thomas' Church in Manchester Road. This church was the work of Sir Gilbert Scott, and was built in 1857.
Beaumont Park, situated in the Crosland Moor district of the town, is a park of natural beauty, and was presented to the town by the late H. F. Beaumont, and opened by the Duke and Duchess of Albany on October 13th, 1883.
A visit to Almondbury must include the ancient Parish Church (restored 1873), Woodsome Hall (16th century) and the Victoria Tower erected on Castle Hill to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The tower is 106 feet high to the highest point, and is now scheduled as an ancient monument.
Another interesting visit is to Kirklees Park, the burial place of the famous outlaw Robin Hood. The Dumb Steeple, famous as the meeting place of local Luddites, is passed on the road to the park.
A final visit could perhaps be made to the B.B.C. North Regional broadcasting station at Moorside Edge, which is in the postal area of Huddersfield. The moorlands are within easy reach of the town, and a visit is as invigorating as it is beautiful.