Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Oct/1868) - The Huddersfield Infirmary: Laying of the First Stone

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.



[ An old and highly respected inhabitant has kindly favoured as with a copy of the first number of the Halifax Commercial Chronicle, containing, — and especially for the time at which it was published, — a copious account of the proceedings connected with the laying of the first stone — (or rather, first stones, for, as the reader will find from what follows, there were two laid) — of the Huddersfield Infirmary. Appropo to the forthcoming ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of what will form, when completed, a sister Institution to the Huddersfield Infirmary, — the Convalescent Home at Meltham, munificently provided and endowed by Charles Brook, Esq., jun., of Enderby Hall and Meltham Mills, we give, in our present number, the main portion of the account of the proceedings at the stone-laying of the Infirmary — feeling convinced that the report will not only be perused with interest by the present generation, but that it will also furnish valuable hints as to the procedure to be observed on the 28th inst., on the occasion of the foundation stone-laying of the intended Convalescent Home.

[ The paper from which we give what follows, is itself a curiosity. We have already given its name — Halifax Commercial Chronicle. The first number was published on Saturday, July 4th, 1829. The publisher was Mr. Nathan Whitley, Crown Street, Halifax. It consists of four pages only — each page of print being narrower by three-fourths of an inch than the printed matter in the Chronicle in which the account of the proceedings of the Infirmary stone-laying is now re-produced, while each column is two-and-a-half inches shorter than the column of its Huddersfield name-sake. The price of the Halifax Chronicle of 1823 was sevenpence — four-pence of that amount being tax. The right to publish news and observations thereon, without tax, has, since then, been conquered from the Government, but not without an arduous struggle, in the course of which many were called on "to bear bonds" for asserting the social right to circulate knowledge freely. The battle thus waged was successful on the part of those who arrayed themselves against the taxes on knowledge — and the beneficial results are seen and felt on every hand, in the increased power and usefulness of the broad-sheeted and cheap newspaper press.

[ We give, then, from the sevenpenny journal of the date stated, the following account of the stone-laying — and shall next week present a selection from the after-proceedings at the dinner in the Queen Street Court House. ]


Never perhaps did any public event excite an interest so deep and general throughout all classes of the inhabitants of Huddersfield and its neighbourhood, as that of laying the first stone of the Infirmary, on Monday last; and, with a view to give it the most splendid and imposing effect, a number of gentlemen formed themselves into a committee, for the purpose of organising a grand procession, and making the necessary arrangements for a dinner on a splendid scale. So great was the importance attached to this ceremony, a considerable number of visitors, both pedestrians and in vehicles, reached Huddersfield on Sunday. The principal part, however, deferred their journey till Monday morning, when the dense population of the surrounding district made its way into the town. The weather was unfavourable in the extreme. The rain, although not heavy, was incessant, and the clouds were thick and threatening ; but this (lid not seem to damp the ardour of the inhabitants. Between nine and ten o'clock, large bodies of Freemasons, Oddfellows, and Royal Foresters, attended by bands of music, began to perambulate the town, the bells of the Parish Church, at the same time, striking up a merry peal. Business was in a great measure suspended, and all seemed to have made the 29th of June a day of rejoicing.


No idea could, however, be formed of the immense thousands who had crowded into the town, until about half-past eleven o'clock, when the procession began to form in the Market Place, at which time the inns and other places of resort poured their numbers into the streets, presenting one vast moving panorama. The procession was formed and conducted by Mr. John Bower, of Engine Bridge, whose exertions were above praise. He was mounted on a white charger, and distinguished by a white rosette at his bosom. About half-past twelve (Mr. Bower and his two assistants, Messrs. Wigney and Bradley, having completed its formation), the procession moved towards the ground, along New Street, High Street, &c., in the following order:—

Constables, and Leeds and Yorkshire Firemen. Three abreast.
Huddersfield Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.
Mr. Oates, the architect, with plans.
Constable of Upper Agbrigg, and the Constable of Huddersfield.
The Vice-President of the Dinner. } J.C. Ramsden, Esq., M.P. { The President of the Dinner.
and Vice-Presidents of the Dispensary.
Treasurers and Secretaries.
and Dispensary Committee.
Inhabitants, and Friends to the Institution. Four abreast.
Order of Oddfellows.
Royal Foresters.

The line of procession, already of immense length, and stretching along the Market Place and up the New Street, was increased by the members of the Milton and other Friendly Societies; those of the former wearing an orange favour, the electioneering badge of the nobleman from whom their society takes its name.


On arriving on the ground, the most casual observer could not but admire the excellence of the arrangements which had been made by the Committee of gentlemen, for the comfort and convenience of all who might attend, either as spectators, or partakers in the solemnity. On the east side, near the foundation-stone, a platform was prepared, from which any gentleman might address the spectators, and near to which the choristers of the Parish Church were stationed. Near to this stood the clergy, ministers, and subscribers. On the west side (admirably situated for commanding a good view of the ceremony,) a spacious gallery was erected for the accommodation of those ladies who might have a desire to be present. It was capable of accommodating 1000 spectators, and was in the form of an amphitheatre. About 300 ladies, including a great proportion of the fashion and beauty of Huddersfield, were present; and many more would have attended had the day been favourable. That portion of the ground which had been dug out, was covered with planks, which was a great accommodation to those gentlemen whose presence was necessary for laying the stone, as the ground was in an extremely bad state, from the late rains. It was also very useful for ingress and egress to the ladies' gallery. The high ground, in front, was occupied by the various fraternities. The Freemasons ranged themselves on the north side; the Royal Foresters on the south, and the Odd Fellows on the west behind the ladies' gallery, while thousands of well-dressed persons, of both sexes, covered the remainder of the ground. This was about half-past twelve. The rain having abated and the atmosphere begun to clear, a despatch was sent for the Hon. Mrs. Ramsden, who, we believe, had expressed a strong desire to be present at the ceremony, should the weather become favourable ; and she arrived with all possible expedition. The sun, at this moment, burst forth ; a great number of flags, bearing various devices, and inscriptions, were waving in the air, and the scene, for interest and effect, was such as we never before witnessed.

The ceremony commenced by the Choristers singing appropriate verses, selected for the occasion, to the lure of the Old Hundredth Psalm, the whole company present joining.

The Rev. J.C. Franks, vicar of Huddersfield, commenced by pronouncing the first five verses of the 103rd Psalm, and some other appropriate passages of scripture; and then briefly exhorted his hearers to supplicate the blessing of that God, without whom "the labour of them that build is but lost." He reminded them of the encouragement afforded by the example of Christ, and the promises of scripture, and expressed a hope that the building they were about to erect, and the institution they had formed, might stand, a monument of Christian liberality, so long as there is a suffering child of humanity to require its aid. The rev. gentleman concluded a comprehensive prayer with two collects selected from the close of the Communion Service.

The stone having been lowered into its place, J.C. Ramsden, Esq., M.P., descended upon it, and inserted into a cavity, made for that purpose, a brass plate, bearing the following inscription :—

This first stone of the Huddersfield and Upper Agbrigg Infirmary, erected by the voluntary donations of the inhabitants and landowners of the district, was laid 29th day of June, 1829 by John Charles Ramsden, Esq., M.P., of Newby Park, in this county. John Oates, architect ; Joseph Kaye, builder.

Mr. Ramsden then struck the stone three times with a mallet, pronouncing the following words :— "I hereby lay the first stone of the Huddersfield Infirmary, and may God, of his infinite mercy, prosper and support this institution."

Mr. Ramsden then took his station upon a more elevated situation, and spoke as follows :— My friends and fellow countrymen. — After the powerful address which you have just now heard from your excellent minister, it would be superflous in me to attempt to add anything to what he has so beautifully expressed. But as this is the first opportunity I have had of paying my respects to my friends in this district, I cannot help expressing my heartfelt gratification to see so large a body of fellow beings, whose presence evinces a desire, with heart and hand, to promote the welfare of the great work which I just now had the honour to found by laying the first stone. (Applause.) When I look to the list of subscribers that I hold in my hand, and consider in how short a time those subscriptions were obtained, and the largeness of the amount, I must say that I know not whether more honour is due to your benevolence of heart, or to the public spirit of the projectors of the undertaking. But this I will say, that there is no man whose name is enrolled on this list, there is no person who has been, or who intends to be a contributor, but, on looking around upon this assembly, and revisiting this spot, will consider himself repaid one thousand fold — (applause) — for he will feel the gratifying reflection that he has contributed to the raising an institution which has for its object to restore health to those labouring under sickness, and of healing the wounds of the poor and destitute. (Loud cries of hear.) My friends, it is hardly necessary for me to tell you, that in this large and extensive county, there are only four such institutions as the one we are about to erect. All but one of these four were commenced with a list of subscriptions much smaller in amount than that for the Huddersfield Infirmary ; and may we not from this circumstance, augur the ultimate success of our undertaking? (Applause.) Gentlemen, in a manufacturing county, where machinery is necessarily extensively employed, the working classes are exposed to much greater danger than in an agricultural district, or one less populously inhabited. It is in a great measure to provide against casualties of this nature, that infirmaries become necessary. It is known to many here, that this institution had its origin from a most dreadful accident that occurred not far from the spot on which we are assembled, when 16 or 18 individuals were, at one time hurled from the top of a scaffolding to the bottom [the deplorable accident at Ramsden Street Chapel] ; four of the sufferers lost their lives, and the others were greatly injured. This was the time when such an institution was most sanguinely wished for by the benevolent, and found necessary. I do not say that, by its means, the lives of any of the sufferers might have been saved; but still, there is great reason to believe it would have contributed much to alleviate the sufferings of the survivors. (Applause.) Gentlemen, here I must mention, to the immortal honour of one person, that he, with the greatest alacrity and perseverance, went about from door to door to beg subscriptions for the relief of the unfortunate families of those who were sufferers. The result was most gratifying; for within the precincts of a short distance, no less a sum than £560 was collected. (Applause.) I will mention the name of the man to whom I allude. Mr. Samuel Clay was not satisfied with what he did on that occasion, but to his great and indefatigable exertions, is in a great measure due the commencement of the great work which we are now met to commence. (Applause.) Gentlemen, might I not add, — and I do hope and think that there is not one here that will not sympathise with me in the feeling — that he who has taken so much trouble, and lost no opportunity of exertion, will live long, and that the grateful feeling of his townsmen will attach him to the institution which I hope, in a short time, to see reared on this spot ? And now, my friends, it is not my intention longer to take up your time, further than to express the high gratification I feel, that this town to which I am bound by every hereditary tie — and, I am happy to add social tie — (applause) — has done itself so much honour. It is a place in the success of which I have a warmer interest than in any other part of the world. (Applause.) My affections are in this neighbourhood ; and I think there is nothing so delightful as to see large bodies of persons assembled for so praiseworthy a purpose. And although my rev. friend (the vicar) has used certain words this day, yet I will conclude by repeating them. They are the words of Holy Writ, and cannot be too often used or too much quoted ; for the Bible is a book calculated to leave an impression on the mind, and make the heart of everyone who studies it well disposed towards his fellow beings. The words are — "Blessed be the man that considereth the poor, for the Lord will remember him in the day of trouble." (Three times three cheers from the assembled thousands rent the air on the conclusion of this speech.)

The Freemasons then proceeded to lay the second stone. In the absence of the Right Hon. Lord Viscount Polling-ton, the Provincial Grand Master of the West Riding, the duty was performed by Robert Carr, Esq., of Wakefield, the Deputy Grand Master, assisted by the Worshipful Master of the Huddersfield Lodge, and the officers of the West Riding Lodges. The stone having been lowered, the Deputy Grand Master struck it with the mallet, and said — "I pronounce this stone firmly laid, firm and trusty."

The Rev. Charles Clapham, curate of Armley, near Leeds, as Deputy Provincial Grand Chaplain to the Freemasons of the West Riding, delivered the following address :— Gentlemen, — It has fallen to my lot to represent the fraternity on behalf of whom I now appear, and nothing but a sense of duty could have made me comply — in consequence of the unavoidable absence of the Grand Chaplain of the West Riding. The absence of my clerical brother is greatly to be regretted. My brethren around me can testify how reluctantly I have undertaken to supply his place, and no one has so much occasion to regret his absence as myself. I confess, however, that it is in perfect accordance with my own feelings that I represent a society of which I have been, for the last 14 years, a truly joined member. [The rev. chaplain here made some remarks which, from the pressure of the crowd, could not be collected by our reporter.] Many individuals, I am aware, regard our assembling upon occasions like this as an unmeaning pageant. Such is not the case. Our processions are no more open to objection than is any other assembly of persons, met together for an excellent purpose, — and I say this without any individual ostentation. I do not use this language with a view to defend the fraternity for which I may appear, any more than on behalf of a great number of other persons whom I see around me. The speaker concluded by a few excellent remarks upon the utility of the projected building.

A party of glee singers (consisting of Messrs. Dyson, Mercer, Broadley, Brook, and Peace, assisted by Miss Dransfield), who had been stationed on the ground for that purpose, then led-off the National Anthem, "God save the King," in beautiful style, the company joining in the chorus. The ceremony concluded by the Rev. the Vicar of Huddersfield pronouncing the Benediction in a most impressive manner.

According to a preconcerted arrangement, the various bodies remained stationary until Mr. Bower hoisted a large white flag, when they took their stations in the most admirable order and with the greatest regularity, and returned to the Market Place, along the Halifax Road, and through Westgate, Kirkgate, Ramsden Street, &c. The muster of the various crafts was greater than we ever witnessed. The Royal Foresters were particularly numerous, and the whole line of procession (which on its way back was joined by carriages and an immense number of town's people), was so extensive as almost to exceed belief. Four bands of music were put in requisition, and no one could be present without partaking of the elation which seemed generally to prevail — for, notwithstanding the protracted pressure upon manufactures, all seemed to have imbibed a joyous feeling.

On arriving in New Street and the Market Place, on its return from the ground, the procession halted, and the conductor formed it in two lines facing each other, in order that the Hon. Mrs. Ramsden might be gratified with a better view of the whole. This being done, the carriage of J. C. Ramsden, Esq., (containing the lady of that gentleman and Mrs. Armitage) followed by the carriage of J. Armitage, Esq., of Milnsbridge House tilled with ladies, and that of John Horsfall, Esq., of Thornton Lodge, in which that gentleman and his daughter were seated, drove from the door of the George Inn, through the Market Place — every window which commanded a view being crowded with females. This having been done the various societies returned to their respective inns, by the same route as they arrived in the morning.

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Huddersfield Chronicle 17 October 1868 - The Huddersfield Infirmary.png