Almondbury Mechanics' Institute

Almondbury Mechanics' Institute provided educational classes to young adults between 1843 and 1883 but, despite repeated attempts, was unsuccessful in building a dedicated mechanics' hall.

History

The Almondbury Mechanics' Institute was formed in September 1843. By April 1844, the institute had "upwards of seventy members" and lessons in reading, writing, grammar and arithmetic were being taught.[1]

The following advert was place in the local press at the start of 1846:[2]

WANTED, at the Almondbury Mechanics' Institution, an intelligent, active, and strictly moral Man and his Wife, to TEACH A DAY SCHOOL and superintend the Classes three nights a week. Salary £60 per Annum, with Dwelling and Coals free.

By 1856, the institute had "upwards of 70 members, chiefly young men of ages between 14 and 20" and were holding their meetings in the National School Rooms.[3]

A reading room was established in 1858 along with a subscription library, but the latter scheme was not successful and was abandoned a few months later.

The institute's first annual soirée took place in February 1860 at the Wesleyan School Rooms with around 160 people in attendance. Mr. Charles Booth, the outgoing secretary, gave a report and noted that there were currently 67 members on the books and that weekly attendance during the winter months had been about 40. The annual income was £53 14s. 2½d. whilst the expenditure was £49 3s. 9½d., leaving a balance in hand of £4 10s. 6d.[4]

In November 1860, the institute began running classes for women.[5]

In April 1864, the institute's committee began discussing the possibility of building a dedicated mechanics' hall. A committee was created and around £50 was subscribed at the meeting.[6]

At the eighth annual soirée, held in February 1865, Mr. Samuel Sykes reported that the institute had 110 men and 41 women on the books, with an average nightly attendance of 68. The finances were healthy enough that the committee was able to subscribe £40 to the building fund for the proposed hall.[7]

By June 1865, the hall subscription fund stood at £330, with subscriptions of £50 from John Fligg Brigg and Messrs. John E. Taylor Brothers.[8] In 1869, Mrs. Taylor of Fenay Hall bequeathed £50 to the Mechanics' Hall Building Committee, although the Huddersfield Chronicle reported that the committee was struggling to find a suitable site.[9]

A decline in attendance led to the institute being suspended for a number of years before being "resuscitated" in 1881. However, "apathy on the part of the inhabitants and paucity of attendance" led to the decision "to close the institution as far as educational work was concerned". The committee had by then invested around £500 in Corporation Bonds and it was decided to let the funds accumulate in value in the hope that a mechanics' hall might one day be built in Almondbury.[10]

A public meeting was held on 1 March 1887, "to consider the question of building a mechanics' institute and public hall for Almondbury". Chairman, Josiah Mellor, reported that the funds stood at £614.[11] By 1894, the fund stood at about £800.[12]

In August 1900, a public meeting was held to consider options for using the fund, which then stood at just over £950. The suggestions were to build a recreation park and a set of new almshouses, but seemingly these proposals came to nothing.

The funds were finally used for the maintenance of a new branch library in Almondbury that had been paid for by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.[13]

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. "Almondbury" in Leeds Times (27/Apr/1844).
  2. Leeds Mercury (10/Jan/1846).
  3. "Almondbury Mechanics' Institution" in Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Oct/1856) and "Almondbury: Mechanics' Institution" in Huddersfield & Holmfirth Examiner (15/Nov/1856)
  4. "Almondbury Mechanics' Institution Soiree" in Huddersfield Chronicle (25/Feb/1860).
  5. "Almondbury Mechanics' Institution" in Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Nov/1860).
  6. "District Intelligence" in Huddersfield Chronicle (25/Feb/1860).
  7. "Almondbury" in Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Mar/1865).
  8. "Almondbury: The New Mechanics' Hall" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Jun/1865).
  9. "Almondbury" in Huddersfield Chronicle (25/Sep/1869).
  10. "Almondbury" in Huddersfield Chronicle (10/May/1884).
  11. "Proposed Mechanics' Institute and Public Hall for Almondbury" in Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Mar/1887).
  12. "The Proposed Public Hall for Almondbury" in Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Jan/1894).
  13. "New Library at Almondbury" in Leeds Mercury (26/Feb/1906).