Mechanics' Institutes — sometimes branded as Mental Improvement Societies or Technical Institutes — were educational establishments typically formed to provide education to working adults, often in technical subjects.
Although most institutes made use of existing meeting rooms or school rooms to provide their evening classes, a few were able to erect their own dedicated building, usually paid for by a local benefactor. In many cases, the establishments were financially supported by local industrialists on the basis that they would benefit from an educated workforce.
Most establishments also provided a small library with book and journals, which students could usually borrow, and also a reading room stocked with a selection of recent newspapers. Members of the public were often able to make use of the library or reading room on payment of a regular free.
The majority of establishments were initially for working men only, although a small number were established for women. The founding of the Huddersfield Female Educational Institute in 1846 increased pressure on the existing institutes to provide classes for women.
A feature of many of the institutes was a season of lectures.
Many of the dedicated buildings still exist and some continue to be used for education, as libraries, or as community buildings.
According to Hudson's The History of Adult Education (published 1851), the following were in existence in the Huddersfield area:
|name||members||volumes in library||annual issues||pupils in classes||secretary|
|Almondbury Mechanics' Institute||30||420||400||20||R. Field|
|Austonley Scientific Society||35||J. Beardsal|
|Berry Brow Mechanics' Institute||30|
|Dogley Lane Mechanics' Institute||60||260||973||25||W. Whitehead|
|Farnley Tyas Mechanics' Institute||51||150||728||62||J. Eastwood|
|Holmfirth Mechanics' Institute||150||700||2000||70||S. Wimpenny|
|Honley Mechanics' Institute||137||545||2774||60||J. Lockwood|
|Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute||887||1800||14000||650||G.S. Philips|
|Huddersfield Female Educational Institute||140||500||300||97||W. Nelson|
|Huddersfield Philosophical Institute||250||1850||5470||W. Thompson|
|Kirkburton Mechanics' Institute||70||320||500||69||A. Hargreaves|
|Kirkheaton Mechanics' Institute||40||840||2400||20||J. Dyson|
|Lindley Mechanics' Institute||94||220||320||50||J. Crosland|
|Lockwood Mechanics' Institute||63||293||719||25||J. Ashton|
|Longwood Mechanics' Institute||80||250||1035||60||D. Smith|
|Marsden Mechanics' Institute||150||1100||2500||30||J.B. Robinson|
|Meltham Mechanics' Institute||151||178||767||80||J. Garlick|
|Meltham Mills Mechanics' Institute||62||122||200||41||J. Heywood|
|Netherton Mechanics' Institute||75||323||669||20||G. Dyson|
|Slaithwaite Mechanics' Institute|
The following were listed in The Literary and Educational Year Book for 1859:
|Almondbury Mechanics' Institute|
|Crosland Moor Mechanics' Institute|
|Dogley Lee Mechanics' Institute|
|Hepworth Mechanics' Institute|
|Holmfirth Mechanics' Institute|
|Honley Mechanics' Institute|
|Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute|
|Huddersfield Female Institute|
|Huddersfield Philosophical Institute|
|Lockwood Mechanics' Institute|
|Marsden Mechanics' Institute|
|Meltham Mechanics' Institute|
|Netherton Mechanics' Institute|
|Shelley Mechanics' Institute|