The following section was written by Thomas William Woodhead (1863-1940) and is in the Public Domain as the author died more than 70 years ago.
By Coun. T. W. Woodhead, Ph.D., M.Sc., F.L.S., Hon. Director.
Ravenknowle Hall was built in I860 by John Beaumont, of Dalton, and on his death in 1899 was inherited by his daughter, Mrs. Standish Grove-Grady, and from her passed to her cousin, Legh Tolson, who in 1919 gave the house and six acres of ground to the Corporation of Huddersfield for a Museum and Park, as a memorial to his nephews, Lieut. Robert Huntriss Tolson and Lieut. James Martin Tolson who gave their lives for their country in the Great War, 1914-1918.
The Park was opened to the public on May 14th, 1921, and the Museum opened by the donor, May 27th, 1922. The grounds have since been extended and now cover thirteen acres, including a playing field for organised games, also bowling green, hard and grass tennis courts, putting green, rest room and cafe. Near the cafe is an aviary containing over 150 beautiful birds, presented by Alderman A. Hirst, which are a continual source of interest to visitors.
Objects of historical interest are being reconstructed in the grounds ; these include the Roman Hypocaust found at Slack in 1824 ; the Cloth Hall shelter preserving some architectural features of this building ; on it are two tablets which record its original erection in 1766 and enlargements in 1780 and 1848 ; in the cupola is the clock with dials of sandstone slabs four feet two inches in diameter, and above a bell inscribed : DALTON : FECIT : YORK : 1781. The doorway of the Sergeantson Street entrance to the Cloth Hall is preserved as an entrance to the Park in Ravensknowle Road. Part of cottage with mullioned windows from Wilber Lee, bearing the inscription :— 1634 NO DOWNI AH. S.H. IB. AN. ; also a primitive oven.
The Museum is planned to illustrate the geology, plant-life, animal-life and the history of man in that part of south-west Yorkshire of which Huddersfield is the centre. A consecutive story is revealed in rooms one to fifteen, and they should be visited in that order if the best idea of the aims is to be obtained. The Museum has grown rapidly since the opening. In 1925 a new bird room was added ; in 1935 a new wing provides two lecture rooms, reference library and additional exhibition rooms.
Ground Floor — Geology and Natural History.
Entrance Hall. — In the Entrance Hall is a relief map of the district on the scale of 6 ins. to 1 mile, also maps illustrating local geology, the geology of Yorkshire, and of the British Isles.
Geology. — Room No. 1 illustrates the formation, composition and disintegration of rocks, and the development and characteristics of local scenery. A series of 12 models shows how geology, together with topography and climate, have determined not only the plant and animal life in the district, but also the activities and distribution of man himself from the Ice-age to the present day.
Room No. 2 contains a collection of typical fossils, also sections, photographs and models showing the beautifully preserved microscopic structure of plants of the Coal Period. The exhibits showing the succession of rocks revealed in local boreholes and the characteristic fossils found in the successive marine bands, are of great practical interest. Local rocks of economic importance are fully illustrated, e.g., sandstone, shales, coal, ganister, fire-clay and ironstone, and their uses.
Plant-Life. — On either side of the entrance to Room No. 3 is a fine series of vegetation photographs illustrating the chief plant-associations in the district. The exhibits in Room No. 3 illustrate the chief groups of plants from the simplest to the highest forms ; beautiful models and preparations show the form and structure of the more important families of non-flowering and flowering plants. There is also a fine series of specimens, models and experiments relating to the composition and treatment of the soil and the cultivation of plants both in the garden and farm, with special reference to local conditions.
Animal-Life. — In Rooms Nos. 4 and 5 the lower forms of animal-life are illustrated. Beginning with the simple amoeba, the evolutionary tree is ascended through the sponges, polyps, worms, insects and spiders. The life-histories of the leading types are shown, and a large series of those injurious to man, his crops and stored goods, also those that are useful. An exhibit of special interest is that of the Buff Ermine moth, showing how inbreeding leads to malformation and sterility. In cabinets are preserved the valuable Porritt and Morley Collections of Insects, also a students’ collection of the chief orders of insects.
In Room No. 6 Molluscs are illustrated in cases showing the structure of the chief classes of shells and their wonderful variety in form and colour. In cabinets are the Hanley and Harvey Collections of Shells presented by Mr. J. C. North, and the Whitwam and Brierley Collections of Freshwater Shells.
The Lower Vertebrates, including the fishes, amphibians and reptiles, are illustrated by a fine series of specimens, dissections and models showing their structure and development. Living specimens are shown in the aquaria and vivaria.
First Floor — Birds, Mammals and Man.
Birds. — Room No. 7 is devoted to Birds. Of special interest are the specimens showing the transition from Reptiles to Birds, and those illustrating the structure, modifications and development of birds and their eggs ; others illustrate sex linkages in fowls, effects of crossing, albinism and melanism, and birds in relation to man. There is a fine collection of birds of the district, arranged in habitat groups.
Mammals. — In Room No. 8 are specimens, dissections and models illustrating the anatomy and development of mammals and their chief modifications. Local mammals are shown in cases indicating their habitat. The half-models of the common domesticated mammals are unique. By specimens and models the evolution of the horse is shown from a four-toed animal the size of a fox to the one-toed modern horse, the largest yet evolved.
Man. — Room No. 9 is devoted to the anatomy of man, illustrated by skeletons, dissections and models of great interest to students and the general public. Food, balanced diet and good nutrition, are illustrated by an instructive set of models.
Rooms Nos. 10 to 15 illustrate the history of man in the district from the Stone Age to recent times.
Prehistoric and Roman. — In Room No. 10 are collections of flint implements from numerous flint-workshop sites on the South Pennine moors ; these date from the end of the Palaeolithic through Neolithic to Bronze Age times ; Bronze Age and Iron Age pottery and implements, also Brigantian and Roman coins. There is a large collection of Roman remains from the Fort at Slack ; the Roman pottery from this site is of special value for dating purposes. There are photographs and plans of local earthworks and of the Roman Road at Blackstone Edge.
Anglo-Danish Monuments. — In Room No. 11 is a unique series of casts and restorations of monuments of the Angles, Danes, Norse and the Normans based on remains found in local churches ; evidence of Christian worship two centuries before the Conquest.
Later Medieval to Modern. — In Rooms Nos. 12 to 14 are many objects of interest belonging to later medieval times, illustrating early customs and changing habits, byegones of the home, occupations, pastimes and weapons. Two painted panels of the Kaye family, which hung on cranes in the Great Hall at Woodsome, bearing date 1567, also the Buckley Collection of Old English Glass and the Heywood Collection of Copper Lustre Ware, are worthy of note.
In Room No. 14 are many good examples of needlework, samplers and beadwork, also a collection of shoe buckles and other articles of dress.
In Room No. 15 is a rare collection of machines and tools used in cloth making when it was a cottage industry and prior to the factory system. These illustrate wool combing, spinning, winding, warping, weaving, dyeing and finishing, also cloth printing. The cropper’s table fitted with the cropping shears is of special local interest, and was the forerunner of the shearing frame ; the collection includes the cross-cut and perpetual — all hand-driven machines. A large collection of cloth patterns show the excellent qualities and designs made locally in these early days.
There are many examples of amateur craftsmanship and local handicrafts. The historical collection of musical instruments is of special interest.
Much attention has been devoted to labelling the exhibits, and visitors will find in them a great store of information. The Museum publications are original contributions to local history ; the parts already published (including Guide) deal with Early Man ; the Romans ; Angles, Danes and Norse ; Vegetation of the Southern Pennines ; Climate Vegetation and Man ; Mining ; and the Textile Industry.
There are many portraits of men who have made discoveries and played a leading part in building up both local industries and our social and educational institutions. Around the balcony of the Entrance Hall are portraits of ail those who have occupied the Mayoral Chair since the Incorporation of the Borough in 1868 to the present time.
The Museum owes much to the generous help of many experts ; every room contains evidence of their skilful work, done with the aim of contributing to local knowledge and thereby increasing the interest of the place in which we live.