Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Feb/1856) - Meltham Mechanics' Institute: Annual Soiree

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.



The annual soiree of the Meltham Mechanics' Institute was held on Thursday evening last, when about 300 members and friends partook of tea in the National Schoolroom. The public meeting was held in the Odd-fellows Hall, at seven o'clock, when about 400 persons assembled. Amongst those present were J.W. Carlile, Esq., president; the Revs. J. Hughes, Dr. James, E.C. Ince, D. Walton, and T. Thomas ; Messrs. J. Hirst, sen., J. Hirst, jun., — Wimpenny, &c. An excellent band of vocalists gave various musical compositions during the evening, Mr. R. Tarlton presiding at the piano. The singing of Miss Broadbent, a young girl, was greatly applauded, and often encored. Her voice is very sweet and flexible, and if not over-exerted too early, she may become an excellent vocalist. The Secretary read the following


In looking over the proceedings of the institution for the past year we cannot but express with feelings of regret the loss of several very useful members — two of whom have been cut off by the hand of death, viz., W.L. Brook, Esq., and Joshua Eastwood, Esq. ; the former had for several years past been a liberal subscriber to the institution, and the latter had held the office of president for five years, and that of treasurer for nearly two years, with honour to himself and great credit to the institution. The number of members last year was 149; at present 110, being a decrease of 39 ; a circumstance principally caused by the trade in the village being much depressed, and the high price of provisions. The balance in band last year was £2518s. 6d. ; and at the present time £19 10s. 4d., showing a decrease in the funds of £6 8s. 2½d. At this particular crisis we earnestly call the attention of the members, and those who feel mainly interested in its welfare, to use every effort in order that the committee may be able to carry out the objects for which the institution was first established. Although there has been a decrease in the number of members, the classes continue to be well attended. The subjects taught are reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, &c. ; and it is gratifying to learn that in each of the branches of instruction many of the members have made very considerable progress. The number of books in the library last year was 359, of which 331 belonged to the institution ; 26 were lent ; and some of these had been recalled. There has been an addition of seven volumes, and the present number is 338 volumes. Two lectures on chemistry had been delivered during the year by Mr. G. Creaser. The reading-room in connection with the institution is well attended six nights a-week. In addition to the reading-room, the members have a free access to the library ; and in order that the institution may be still further extended, the committee have recently contracted for the Oddfellows' Hall for their teaching room, and the ante-room for the reading room.

J.W. Carlile, Esq., president, said they found by the report that he had been appointed president of the institution for the coming year. He felt totally incapable of standing before them in that capacity; still, as he was chosen, he intended to work, and trusted that all would assist him. He wished to see the institution prosper; and it could not prosper unless they rendered their assistance. Their library was not large enough ; and at present they had not a sufficient number of lectures delivered. Some of the gentlemen who would address them would tell them what they ought to do in Meltham. (Hear, hear.) He hoped that after hearing those addresses, they would part with the determination to act up to what they had heard. (Applause.)

The Rev. J. Hughes, incumbent of Meltham, in moving the adoption of the report, said he could not but refer to a remark made by the Rev. Mr. Sidney Smith, 25 years ago, "if men had made no greater progress in the common arts of life than they have done in education, we should be at this time dividing meat with our fingers, and drinking out of the palms of our hands." However applicable this might be in his time, it was not applicable now ; because in no period of the history of this country had the subject of education so much occupied the public mind as at present. It was no longer a subject of discussion whether the people were to be educated; for the voice of the nation had already decided it. The question now was, in what way were the people to be educated ? He contended that ail education ought to be based upon religion. It was an instructive fact that under the highest and greatest efforts of reason, the human mind had been satisfied with the most puerile and absurd notions of religion. The men that built the pyramids, and left behind them such architectural and imperishable monuments — monuments which excited the wonder and admiration of the world even in the present day — these men were satisfied with the most absurd ideas on the subject of religion, worshiping cats, onions, and garlic ; and yet they were men of gigantic mind, who had left to posterity an imperishable name. The same was the case with the Phoneticians, Grecians, Romans, and other ancient nations. All proving that religion ought to form the basis of education. An enlightened conversation facilitated the acquisition of knowledge, and was the handmaid of education. What made the Atheniaus a great people? What made them admire the oratory of Demosthenes, and the firery eloquence of Pericles? And what taught them to conquer in the field of battle ? It was said that most of them were unable to read or write, yet they found the Athenians distinguished for their greatness. It was the constant intercourse of thought, which some master mind originated, which like the rays of the sun animated and enlightened the whole body politic. He had great pleasure in moving the adoption of the report.

Mr. J. Hirst said he thought that they would all regret that the Institution was in a rather falling state ; and when he saw so many young people in Meltham who ought to be its supporters, it was greatly to be regretted it was not more flourishing. Mr. Hughes said the question of education was settled ; but he begged to say it was a question whether education was effecting that which the country had right to expect from it. It was already asked what were their mechanics' and other institutions achieving? And he felt bound to say that the educational institutions of their town had not effected what they ought to have done, or what they had a right to expect. He concluded by seconding the adoption of the report.

The report was carried unanimously.

The Chairman read letters of apology for non-attendance from E. Baines, Joseph Batley, and W. Willans, Esqrs.

The Rev. Dr. James, of Marsden, said, in the absence of so many, it devolved on those present to do what they could to supply the meeting with useful information on the great subject which lay at the foundation of their institution — the improvement of the classes that attended. Before the war diverted the public mind in England to itself, it was an admitted fact that the attention of the nation was concentrated upon the subject of national education ; and although some master minds of the country had been engaged for many years in the investigation of the subject, and the results of their investigations given to the public, his own conviction was, that education still remained, to a great extent, a profound mystery — little understood, and not fathomed by the plummet of any statesman or philosopher up to the present time. They had all heard of the floating islands which mariners had seen in the distance ; and when the vessels had gone in pursuit of them, had kept ahead, and disappeared in the horizon. He did not mean to say that the subject of education had filled exactly that position with reference to them ; for he thought they had neared the floating island a little, and did understand the subject now better than they did 20 years ago. If they could bring their power to bear upon the cultivation of the young people and adults who attended their schools and mechanics institutions, he was convinced they would produce a far wider and more extended improvement than they had hitherto done ; and there would be less reason tor the complaint to which Mr. Hirst had given expression. As to the actual results produced by the means applied, it was necessary to keep attention directed to the subject, until they understood it better; and especially to carry these principles into execution, which were fully capable of producing groat results in the end. For this reason they endeavoured to improve their schools for the instruction of young children, and to establish schools for the training and improvement of those who had passed away from their national day schools into active life. Thus, mechanics' and religious institutions bad been established throughout the country, to deal out instruction, and cultivate the minds and morals of the community at large. There was no question that the neglect of education in former years arose either from the want of schools, or from the want of means by the parents. Thus, there was a vast mass of ignorance pervading our population at the present moment, which it would require many years to affect in the least degree. He was anxious that they should hold on their way; and although the report just presented might cause some degree of regret, that their Meltham institute was in a declining state, he did not look upon it as a bad omen, but rather as a good one. It was often the case with societies that they went back in order that they might gather strength ; to pass on far a-head in future years — the same as a man, who, when stopped by a stream of water, went back in order to gather strength ; then rushed forward and cleared the stream. He hoped this would be the case with their institution. (Cheers.) He was glad to hear that they were arranging for a course of lectures, from which he felt sure much benefit would be derived. He would also advise the young men attending classes to devote themselves to some one branch of instruction ; master its details, and then go from that one branch to another. There never yet was a great preacher, orator, statesman, philosopher or historian, who did not become great, because he had first paid the cost of his greatness ; he had laboured hard, thought often, and read much, until at last his mind became stored, his views expanded ; and he then gave expression to what he had learned, showing to the world that he had grasped the subject with a giant's strength, and was prepared to teach the nation. If they would learn, they must be ready to pay the cost. (Applause.) They would then rank amongst the honourable and distinguished in the country. After a reference to the condition of Meltham some 25 years ago, when he was curate there, the rev. gentleman said he had a claim to be heard amongst them, and he felt anxious to rouse them into action. They must press onward and onward, and they would stand in a far nobler and higher position than they had yet filled, if they threw their whole hearts into the great and glorious work. (Cheers.)

Mr. Wimpenny and the Rev. D. Walton, of Holmfirth, delivered short addresses, after which votes of thanks were proposed to the singers, to the ladies who had presided at the tables, to the gentlemen who delivered addresses, and to the chairman. The votes were carried, the last with several rounds of applause. The chairman briefly responded ; and the national anthem having been sung, the proceedings terminated.