Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Apr/1852) - Meltham: Opening of the Oddfellows' Hall

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.




On Monday last the Oddfellows-hall, in this village, was formally opened, the occasion being celebrated by a procession and meeting of the members of the district lodges. The building, the foundation stone of which was laid on Easter Monday, 1851, is a plain and substantial stone structure, designed by Mr. Creaser, and built by Messrs. Pogson at a cost of £1200. The lodge-room, which is admirably adapted for public purposes, is 69 feet by 36 feet, and is neatly fitted up. At the further end of the room there is a raised dais or platform, with a proscenium and curtains, having anti-rooms on either side.

The event was celebrated as a gala day, and the weather being exceedingly fine, the village presented a stining and bustling scene. At two o’clock the members assembled at the house of host Reuben Redfearn, the Waggon and Horses, and at half-past they formed in procession, headed by the Meltham Mills brass band, and the officers of the Meltham lodge, in the dresses of the order. The Holmfirth lodge, headed by the Holmfirth temperance band, and the officers came next, and the rear was brought up by members of other lodges. The procession (numbering about 250) proceeded past the church and Methodist chapel, returning through Meltham and Meltham Mills, thence to the hall, where they were received by the Rev. Mr. Hughes, incumbent ; W. L. Brook, Esq., of Meltham Hall ; C. John Brook, Esq., of Healey House ; Joseph Hirst, Esq., of Greave ; E. Eastwood, Esq., John Haigh, Esq., surgeon, and other gentlemen. The Rev. Mr. Thomas shortly afterwards entered the meeting.

In accordance with previous arrangements, the proceedings were presided over by W. L. Brook, Esq.

The Chairman on rising said — My friends, about twelve months ago you did me the honour of asking me to lay the first stone of the spacious and substantial building in which we are now assembled, and which does credit to the Oddfellows’ Society of Meltham, and will, I trust, be handed down to their children's children as a monument of the munificence of their ancestors in providing for them a building wherein they can meet and carry out the objects of this noble institution. (Hear, hear.) When you were kind enough to ask me to take the chair on the present occasion, I was not aware you would expect any address from me explanatory of the objects and doings of your society. I must leave this to those who are acting members, and consequently better acquainted with the facts. But, gentlemen, I know thus much, that your society is based upon noble and generous principles. (Hear hear.) You set forth in your general laws that the members are to be attached to the Queen and government. (Hear, hear.) In this you are paying homage to the Divine Dispensor of all Good, who has commanded us to obey them that have the rule over us. Whatever may be our political creed, and however much we may differ in minor points, if we carry out the principles you profess we must all be loyal and good subjects. (Hear, hear.) Your rules to enforce order and good conduct in your meetings are admirable. You have a rule to admit no one of improper character, and another to expel any member convicted of felony. (Hear, hear.) These are excellent regulations. But, my friends, the grand principle of your society is the relieving of brothers in distress. You subscribe by weekly payments money, which, in times when trade is bad you can ill spare, for the support of those amongst you who may be totally destitute, and when sickness comes upon you there is your own bank to apply to, and you are thereby independent of the charity of others. (Applause.) As I said on a former occasion this and kindred societies must materially relieve our poor-rates, and on this ground are deserving our support. Take, for instance, the number of members in this lodge and the one at Meltham Mills, and in proportion to our population you will find they and their families comprise about one-fourth, and there cannot be a shadow of a doubt that were it not for these societies, which number many of our poor amongst their members, our rates would be increased. (Hear.) Gentlemen, I admire this self-supporting principle. Some find fault with the society spending money in badges, banners, and other paraphernalia, which might be applied in granting relief, but I am confident every oddfellow feels proud of his badge — (hear, hear) — and looks forward with pleasure to those occasions when he is called upon to wear it ; and this is one means of strengthening your numbers. A man in enlisting for a soldier is dazzled with the uniform, and in going to fight our battles were he told to put on plain clothes his ardour would be damped, and the indomitable courage of the British soldier would flag, because the very fact of his wearing a scarlet coat stamps him as one, and he has a pride in maintaining the honour of his cloth, and no doubt you feel in wearing your badge that you are supporting the honour of your order. In conclusion let me urge upon you not to leave your principles within these walls, but carry them with you in your daily walks in life, and I am confident they will bring their own reward. (Loud applause.)

The Rev. Mr. Hughes, in responding to the call of the Chairman, congratulated the assembly on the successful issue of their labours in the completion of this spacious and elegant building, and he trusted that it would never be used for any purposes unworthy of themselves as men, and as members of the respectable Order of Oddfellows. (Hear, hear.) The resolution he held in his hand stated that this and similar institutions were deserving of the unanimous approbation of the Christian public, and he thought there was no one in that room, or in the township of Meltham, who would question the truth and rectitude of that sentiment. (Hear.) They were met together as members of a sick club, and he admired the principle on which their society was founded. It was the carrying out of the principle of doing good unto others, and to provide for what was called "a rainy day." (A Voice: "Now’t else", and applause.) After relating one or two humourous anecdotes, the reverend gentleman concluded by impressing upon his audience the importance of the duties devolving upon them, and by calling upon them, whilst considering their temporal interests, not to neglect their future and everlasting welfare, (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Kilburn seconded the resolution in an appropriate speech, expressive of his approval of the object of this society, and congratulated them on having provided so handsome a room, not only for the transaction of their own business, but also for public purposes.

Three times three cheers having been given to the Holmfirth band, who then left the room to fulfil another engagement,

Mr. Aitken, of Ashton, addressed the company in a long and excellent speech, during which he expressed the pleasure he felt on this occasion in meeting their chairman, and the gentlemen by whom he was surrounded, to celebrate the opening of this spacious building. He proceeded to refer to the origin of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, and to the question of vital statistics, and after denying the accuracy of the, statement that the Unity was insolvent, he recommended the members of the Meltham Lodge to take advantage at an early period of the Friendly Societies Act by enrolling themselves. After urging the necessity and importance of self-respect amongst their members, Mr. Aitken concluded by congratulating them upon the prosperous position of their lodge. It appeared from a paper he held in his hand, that in 1842 there were 157 members in connection with the lodge, whilst at the present time there was 210, showing an increase of 53. In 1842 they were worth £840. Since that period they had paid £1029 for sick relief and to travellers, and £309 for funeral fees, and at the present time were worth, notwithstanding this outlay, £1450. (Loud applause.)

Joseph Hirst, Esq., of Greave, moved the next resolution, expressive of gratitude to God in having enabled the lodge to erect such a noble building out of their surplus funds. He had never before had the pleasure of attending one of their meetings, but he had never been more gratified with any proceedings than on the present occasion. Indeed he felt so satisfied of the correctness and propriety, and of the local and national advantages of institutions of this nature, that he should have to ask them to accept of him in future as one of their members — (applause) — and he should also use his influence in endeavouring to induce his workpeople to follow his example, believing that in so doing he could not confer a greater benefit upon society generally. (Renewed applause.)

Edwin Eastwood, Esq., seconded the resolution in a brief and suitable address.

The Rev. Mr. Thomas moved the third resolution, to the effect that experience taught that societies of this nature tended to expand the intellect and improve the morals of their members. In the course of a humourous and excellent address, he said it was with very great pleasure he was present on this occasion. He wished to impress upon them the value of self-respect, for if they did not respect themselves, they could not reasonably expect to be respected by those above them. (Hear.) He had been a poor working man himself, and he could, therefore, sympathise with those before him, and feel a deeper interest in their welfare. If they desired to discharge those duties which they would be called upon to perform, they must seek moral and intellectual improvement, and if they sought to advance and rise in this manner no power could crush them. (Hear.) In conclusion he would just observe that the object of benefit societies was not a selfish one, but aimed at mutual assistance in hours of need, and as such they were deserving of their support. He wished them prosperity. (Applause.)

Charles John Brook, Esq., seconded the resolution in a short and excellent speech, during which he expressed his approval of the society and wished it every success.

Votes of thanks were then proposed to the chairman, the strangers, and to the band, after which the proceedings terminated by the audience singing the national anthem.

During the proceedings the band played several popular airs.

In the evening a second meeting was held in the lodge room, when the company present were addressed by members of the lodge. During the intervals recitations and songs were given, and the evening was spent in a most agreeable manner.