The building was designed by John Samuel Alder (1848-1919) of London and constructed by J. Moorhouse and Sons of Meltham using local stone from Crosland Moor.
The Institute comprised a reading room, library and newspaper room on the ground floor, and a classroom and large lecture hall on the first floor. A detached two-storey building at the rear provided two further classrooms. In a letter published in the Huddersfield Chronicle, Carlile stated that the Meltham Mechanics' Institute could lease the classrooms on an annual basis.
The cost of construction was reported to be between £6,000 to £7,000.
Plans for five cottages to be built near to the Institute were approved by the Meltham Local Board in May 1891.
A few weeks before formally opening, the Institute's trustees advertised for the post of caretaker in the local press.
The following letter by James W. Carlile to the people of Meltham and Meltham Mills — a copy of which was attached the catalogue in the building's library — was published in the local press:
No one can visit your beautiful valley, so full of busy industry, without being impressed by the many memorials of the Brook family, the churches and schools, the public grounds, the neat cottages, and Convalescent Home, all proving the deep interest which they have felt in you, and now that I have ceased to be their partner, I have built you an institute in order that you may keep my "memory green," and I have bestowed my own name upon it, so that in years to come your children may give a kindly thought to him who ever held your best interests very near to his heart.
Having been always fond of books, I desire to foster among you the same taste ; you will find in the institute a carefully selected reference library, and comfortable rooms, where you may have a quiet retreat when the bustle of the day is over, and become familiar with the thoughts and fancies of many a master mind.
I earnestly trust this library, the selection of which has given me great interest, may be well kept up and extensively used. In adding books to it, I particularly wish the trustees not to permit any additions which are at variance with the principles which have guided me in my original selection.
A newsroom is provided for conversation, to be supplied with papers, magazines, and various games, but cards and gambling of any description is strictly prohibited throughout the whole building.
Within a few months of opening, the Institute was holding regular events on Monday evenings, typically comprising of lecturers or concerts.
|22/Feb/1892||Lecture by John Jaques of Liverpool titled "From Ocean to Ocean" in which he talked about his experiences of Canada and projected photographs using a magic lantern.|
|07/Mar/1892||Concert chaired by Jonas Brook Hirst and organised by the Kilburn sisters. A rendition of the "Holmfirth Anthem" (aka "Pratty Flowers") was reported as the highlight of the evening, with "the audience joining in the chorus most heartily".|
|11/Apr/1892||Concert charied by the Rev. H. Davis with the Roberts' Glee Party.|
|16/Jan/1893||Concert held in the main hall.|
|27/Feb/1893||Concert arranged by Mr. W. Chatterton, in which Walter Austerfield played two pieces on the autoharp ("kind of instrument is new to a Meltham audience").|
|13/Mar/1893||Lecture on the topic of "Cairo" by Mary Brook of Harewood Lodge, widow of Charles J. Brook, which included a magic lantern show.|
|27/Mar/1893||Concert by the Lockwood Church Choir.|
|10/Sep/1893||The annual Meltham Feast was held in the field behind the Institute.|
|06/Nov/1893||Lecture by Charles W. Wilkinson of Leeds on the topic of "Drawing Room Music". This was the first of the winter season of lectures and concerts.|
|20/Nov/1893||A lengthy "Grand Concert" of music by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, and Haydn.|
|04/Dec/1893||Concert arranged by Edward Haley, with the other vocalist being Herbert Binns (solo chorister at Huddersfield Parish Church).|
|12/Feb/1894||A "Miscellaneous Concert".|
|26/Feb/1894||Concert by the Wesleyan Chapel choir.|
|12/Mar/1894||Concert by the Lockwood Church Choir.|
|02/Apr/1894||Lecture by E.W. Mellor of Lytham titled "North Portugal", accompanied by projected slides and chaired by Edward H. Carlile.|
|08/Oct/1894||Concert arranged by Messrs. J.C. Beaumont and F.W. Sykes.|
|05/Nov/1894||A "Miscellaneous Concert", arranged by Messrs. Harry Turton and J.E. Lunn.|
|17/Dec/1894||Concert arranged by Messrs. W. and L.A. Chatterton.|
|18/Feb/1895||Lecture titled "Paris to Moscow" by Eli Sowerbutts of the Manchester Geographical Society.|
|02/Dec/1895||Lecture titled "From England to Japan, by way of Gibraltar, Mediterranean, Suez Canal, and the Straits of Malacca" by J. Howard Reed of Manchester.|
|16/Jan/1899||Concert organised by B. Redfearn with the Æolian Quartet Party.|
|30/Jan/1899||Lecture titled "British East Africa" by Eli Sowerbutts of the Manchester Geographical Society.|
|13/Feb/1899||Concert by "Mr. Walter Beaumont and party".|
|29/Oct/1900||Concert by the Taylor Hill Primitive Methodist Choir.|
|12/Nov/1900||Concert, which was reported to be "one of the best ever given" at the Insistute.|
At a meeting of the Meltham Local Board in August 1894, an application by the Institute's committee "for the use of the Board's hose-pipe and town's water to wash the windows of the building" was approved, pending payment of 2s. 6d.
The 1901 Census recorded John Bramley (aged 51) as the Carlile Institute caretaker, apparently residing in one of the five cottages behind the Institute. These are named as the Carlile Cottages in the 1911 Census, when James W. Mellor (48) was the caretaker.
In September 1901, Carlile donated a set of twelve oil paintings of the Prime Ministers who had served during his lifetime to date.