Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (07/Feb/1898) - Meltham Town 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.




Another interesting epoch in the history of Meltham was reached on Saturday, when a Town Hall, which is the gift to the township of Mr. Edward Brook, of Hoddam Castle, Dumfries, senior partner in the firm of Messrs. Jonas Brook and Bros. (Ltd.), Meltham Mills, was publicly opened. The hall, a compact and somewhat imposing building, is almost centrally situated in the town. It stands at the opposite corner to the Carlile Institute, at the junction of Market Place and Carlile Street. The front faces the institute, and the building, which is a two-storeyed one, harmonises in architecture with it. It has been erected from plans prepared by the clerk to the Meltham Urban District Council (Mr. William Carter), and the total cost, including furnishing, is £2,882 8s. 3d. The style is semi-Gothic, and the shell is constructed of Yorkshire rock-faced wall stones, relieved with ashlar dressings. There is no public assembly-room included in the premises, Meltham being already well provided with accommodation of tint description, but the block contains all the apartments necessary for the conduct of the business of the Urban District Council and its officials. In the basement there are two store-rooms, an apartment for the heating apparatus, and coke-room. The ground floor comprises a vestibule, and hall entered from Carlile-street, an ante-room and offices for the clerk, rate collector, and surveyor. When coroners' inquests in the central portion of the township are necessary the surveyor's room will serve as the coroner's court. Rising from the hall a handsome staircase gives access to the Council Chamber, committee-room, and lavatories. The chamber, occupying the principal portion of this storey, is 29ft. 6in. long, 18ft. wide. The decorations of the interior have been most elaborately and artistically carried out by Mr. J. H. Stuttard, Ramsden Street, Huddersfield. On the Council Chamber the decorative art has been the most lavishly expanded. The ceiling is of bold plaster enrichments, decorated in harmonious colours and well relieved with gold leaf. The walls and frieze are of Tynecastle tapestry, with base border picked out in blue, red, and citron. The woodwork is decorated in enamel, relieved with gold and finished with finest carriage varnish. A free use has been made of the primary colours, and the general effect is extremely pleasing. The ceiling and cornices of the committee-room are decorated in dead colours, with a stencil frieze specially designed by Mr. Silber, a celebrated London architect. The walls are of imitation cheviot cloth, with Lincrusta Walton dado. The woodwork is in imitation of knotted oak, with ebonised moulding. The lavatories are likewise elaborately fitted up, and the walls and frieze are in imitation mosaic. The staircase and hall ceiling and cornice are in dead colours, with high relief Elizabethan anaglypta frieze, decorated in rich tones of blue and lemon. The walls are of raised flock, filled in with orange and cerulean blue, and the dado is in imitation of bold wood carving. The walls of the vestibule are decorated with a specially designed representation of tapestry diaper, and the woodwork is of imitation American walnut, ebony and mahogany. The collector's, clerk's, and surveyor's rooms are embellished much after the style of the committee room, so far as the ceiling and freize are concerned, with some little difference in detail, but being none the less effective and striking in design and colour. Characteristic consideration has been given in regard to the furnishing of the hall. The furniture in the Council Chamber is in Spanish mahogany. There are arm chairs for the members, with a handsome chair for the head of the local authority, together with special seats and other accommodation for reporters. The seats and backs of the chairs are upholstered and covered in rich tapestry. The tables are also in Spanish mahogany, on massive turn legs, fitted with drawers, &c., and the tops of them are covered with morocco leather embossed in gold. The floor is covered with rich Axminster pile carpet in tones to harmonise with the decorations. The committee-room is fitted with a similar but smaller table, and arm chairs upholstered in crimson Utrecht velvet. The offices below are elaborately fitted with desks, drawers, &c. ; the floor coverings throughout, except the Council Chamber, are in inlaid tiled linoleum, and the steps are fitted with brass treads. A subdued tone is given to the surroundings by the use of tinted glass in the upper lights of the windows. The work has been carried out by the following contractors :— Masons, Messrs. John Moorhouse and Sons, Meltham ; joiner, Mr. J. M. Moorhouse, Meltham ; plasterer and slater, Mrs. W.E. Jowett, Huddersfield ; ironfounder, Mr. James Kilburn, Meltham ; concreter, Messrs. James Wilkinson and Sons, Meltham ; plumber, Mr. J. W. Kaye, Meltham ; heating apparatus, Messrs. Calvert and Co., Huddersfield ; inside painting, Mr. J. H. Stuttard, Huddersfield ; outside painting. Mr. J. Hinchliffe, Meltham ; furnishing of the Council and committee rooms, Messrs. Alfred Taylor and Sons, New Street, Huddersfield ; and furnishings of the clerk's, collector's, and other rooms, Mr. George Pogson, Meltham. In the turret is a four-dial clock, erected by Messrs. Potts, of Leeds. The clock strikes the hours, and is the only one in the locality illuminated by night. The site on which the hall stands is 165 square yards in area, and is also the gift of Mr. Brook.

It may appropriately be mentioned that the gift is but one of a series of munificent acts on the part of members of the world-famed firm at Meltham Mills. Mr. Edward Brook had provided the inhabitants with a recreation ground, covering between 12 and 13 acres, in commemoration of the Queen's Jubilee. He also defrayed the costs, on behalf of Meltham (£700), incurred by the County Council and Local Government enquiries, rendered necessary by the application of the Meltham District Council to have portions of the Honley and Netherthong districts (mainly Meltham Mills) annexed to the Meltham township on the ground of convenience of administration. The area sought for was placed under the Meltham local authority, and the result is that the Meltham general district rate has been increased by about £300 per annum. The Town Hall, as already mentioned, faces the Carlile Institute, built and endowed, at a cost of between £6,000 and £7,000, by Mr. J.W. Carlile, formerly a partner in the firm, and uncle of Colonel E. Hildred Carlile, J.P., himself a partner, and who last year sent a cheque for £8,000 to defray the estimated cost of a new wing to the Huddersfield Infirmary in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The town of Meltham also possesses a Convalescent Home, erected and endowed by the late Mr. Charles Brook at a cost of £40,000. Numerous other generous deeds have been carried out by the Brook family, and through them the interests of the church and voluntary schools in the district have been greatly furthered.

Much interest was displayed by the inhabitants in the proceedings on Saturday, when the ceremony of formally opening the hall was performed by Mr. Charles Brook, of Durker Roods, Meltham, son of the donor. About three o'clock a procession started from the Oddfellows' Hall, in beautiful weather, headed by the Meltham Mills Brass Band and Fire Brigade, who were immediately followed by Colonel E.H. Carlile and Mr. James Kilburn (local magistrates), and Mr. Charles Brook, who was accompanied by Mr. J. Durrans (vice chairman of the Council) and Mr. W. Carter (clerk). Then came the following members of the Council :— Messrs. Richard Mellor (chairman), J.B. Hirst, Joel Pogson, William Manchester, Sam Brook, John Pjgson, Tom Earnshaw, Wilson Sykes, John Carter, Jos. Hy. Preston, and John Moorhouse. They were succeeded by Mr. Benjamin Allen, Huddersfield, treasurer to the Council, and Mr. William Haigh, a former member of that body, members of the press, the following officials :— Dr. T.A. Green, medical officer, Henry Thomas, collector, Fred Dearnley, surveyor, and Edwin Taylor, gas manager ; the contractors, and representatives of various friendly societies, some with their chiefs in official costume :— Royal Foresters, New Year Lodge of the Meltham Oddfellows, Druids, Friendship Lodge of the Meltham Mills Oddfellows, and the Order of the Golden Fleece, the rear being brought up by the general public. The procession, which was marshalled by Mr. R.H. Wood (the sanitary inspector), assisted by Mr. T.H. Mellor, wended its way round by the church and up Station Road, going thence to the Town Hall, in the vicinity of which a large concourse of people assembled. Bunting, flags, and other decorations lent enchantment to the scene, and in various directions suitable mottoes gave expression to the people's appreciation of and respect for Mr. Edward Brook. One from America, forwarded by a Meltham man, ran "Long live Mr. E. Brook," another "God bless the giver," and one in large letters on the Cooperative Stores adjoining the Town Hall, "Long live the people's friend," over which was a large crayon sketch of Mr. Brook. Flags floated gaily on the new building, and it was prettily decorated with bannerettes, shields, innumerable tiny coloured lamps and gas designs, the last named of which included a motto "Long live E. Brook." Over it was a design of a goat's head — the crest of the Brook firm. The building was illuminated at dusk and it presented an exceedingly attractive appearance, and was admired by crowds of people the night long.

When the procession arrived at the Town Hall, Councillor Durrans, acting on behalf of the chairman of the Council, who was somewhat physically indisposed, conducted the formal proceedings. He said he believed he was voicing the sentiments of not only the district councillors of Meltham, but the whole of the inhabitants, when he stated that they would have been delighted to have seen amongst them that afternoon the kind and generous donor of that building. (Applause.) With his characteristic modesty, however, Mr. Brook respectfully declined to perform the opening ceremony of that which was his own gift, and so they were compelled to approach the nest best man, his worthy son, to do so. (Applause.) They would all bear with him that they were most deeply indebted to Mr. Brook for that magnificent gift, and he hoped all would heartily join with him in the invitation to Mr. Charles Brook to open the Town Hall. (Applause.)

Mr. W. Carter, on behalf of himself as architect and the contractors, then presented Mr. Brook with a beautiful gold key, suitably inscribed, with which to unlock the door. He remarked that one pleasant feature in connection with that building was that it was handed over to the township that day quite free of debt — (applause) — every bill in connection with the work having been paid by Mr. Edward Brook. (Applause.)

Mr. Charles Brook, who was very cordially greeted on stepping forward to address the crowd, said he was very much obliged for the kind way in which he had been introduced. If his memory proved him right he had been before the people of Meltham previously. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) He was not quite a stranger, and he hoped he would come before them again — (applause) — and that he would not get too modest just yet. (Laughter.) Perhaps when he got on towards 70 he might be. (More laughter.) He was glad the weather was so satisfactory for the day's proceedings, and hoped it was an omen for the future success of the District Council, who must have experienced difficulties in the past in carrying on the public business of that growing and prosperous little town, difficulties which, he trusted, would be done away with now that affairs could be attended to under one roof. He knew his father w is personally acquainted with the difficulties and had been anxious to remove them, and he was sure he would be expressing the wish of his father in saying in a few words that it was a pleasure to him to give that Town Hall, and that the building was a credit to the architect who designed it. (Applause.) Ha added that it was perhaps not too much to expect that party spirit and personal feeling would be altogether absent from the deliberations of those who met to transact business in the hall — (hear, hear) — and that every member of the District Council would attend the meetings with a full determination not to allow his feelings to overcome him, but to do that which was best for the interests of the district. (Hear, Hear.) He hoped the electors also would always endeavour to place upon the local authority the best men they could select — men as good as he believed those were who constituted the present District Council. (Applause.) He then unlocked the door, and added that he had great pleasure in declaring the Town Hall open. (Cheers)

Mr. J.H. Preston, in proposing a vote of thanks to Mr. Brook for opening the building, endorsed what Mr. Durrans had said in reference to Mr. Edward Brook, who well knew from past experience, through noble gifts to the township, that his generosity was deservedly appreciated by the people. They had, next to Mr. Brook, one whom they hoped would be resident amongst them as long as his honoured father had been, and they hoped they would be able to look upon him with the same respect and admiration as they did upon Mr. Edward Brook to-day. (Applause.)

Mr. J.H. Hirst, in seconding the motion, said he felt sure that Meltham people were highly pleased with the benevolence and generosity of Mr. Edward Brook, and that Town Hall would be a memorial to him for many years to come. He (Mr. Hirst) would be heartily supported in expressing the hope that the remainder of Mr. Edward Brook's life might be one of continued happiness. (Applause.) He hoped the son who had had the honour of opening the Town Hall would tread in the footsteps of the founder of the building. (Applause.)

The motion was carried amid a scene of enthusiasm, the people cheering lustily and the band striking up "For he's a jolly good fellow," in which the crowd heartily joined.

Mr. Brook, in reply, thanked them for the way the vote had been received. It was always a pleasure to him to "come forward to Meltham" — (laughter) — for they always received him very well. He hoped he would never give them cause to do otherwise. (Applause.)

Mr. Brook, his friends, members of the District Council, and others then entered the building, and after making an inspection of it, the general public were allowed to view the interior.

Subsequently a banquet was held at the Swan Hotel, where Mr. and Mrs. Hirst provided a first rate repast. It was attended by Mr. C. Brook, the members and officials of the Council, and others, the company numbering 39. At the conclusion of the repast a pleasant evening was spent in the honouring of toasts and listening to musical pieces by a quartet party, consisting of Messrs. S. Berry, J. Roberts, Dennis Wood, and Sam Downs. The chair was occupied by Mr. R. Mellor, chairman of the District Council, and after he had submitted the usual loyal toasts, which were received with musical honours.

Mr. J.H. Preston proposed "The West Riding County Council." He remarked upon the utility of County Councils, and said he believed that such authorities could do a large amount of good by keeping District Councils up to the mark, and without being unduly harsh or imperative. It was a question to his mind whether such important schemes as those relating to the satisfactory treatment of sewage, the isolation of infectious diseases, and the pollution of rivers would have been taken up as early as they had been by District Councils had it not been for the iron hand of the County Councils. In the course of further observations he suggested that the West Riding County Council might not have gone so far as to decide upon spending £120,000 on new offices at Wakefield. He coupled with the toast the name of County Alderman Jas. Kilburn, J.P. (Applause.)

Mr. Kilburn, in responding, spoke in eulogistic terms of the generosity of Mr. Edward Brook, and proceeding to refer more directly to the subject of the toast, said that the County Council had only one object in view, viz., looking after the best interests of the community amongst whom they were located, and they ever desired to work in harmony with the various local authorities which covered the administrative area of the Council. He mentioned that it was now possible for any institution to obtain periodically a complete record of the business of the County Council on payment of 10s. annually to cover the postage. The Council, in providing the large new offices at Wakefield, had had the wants of the future in view, and if the ratable value of the administrative area of the Council were taken into consideration it will be found that no extravagance had been indulged in, but that the outlay was reasonable. At the rate the county authority proposed to spend in building, calculated on a ratable value basis, the Meltham Town Hall should not have cost more than about £600. The sewage question was a very serious one, and he had used and was still using every endeavour to see that the matter was not pushed forward hastily, but with great care and consideration. (Applause.)

The Chairman next submitted "The health of Mr. Edward Brook." In the course of a somewhat lengthy speech he reviewed the associations of the local authority with numerous unsatisfactory premises for headquarters, since 1860, when the Local Board was formed, and spoke with pride of the fine, comfortable building the Council now had at their disposal through the warm-heartedness and generosity of Mr. Brook, who himself was at one time a member of the old Local Board, and who therefore was in a position to fully realise some difficulties the Council had had to contend with in the past. He alluded to various acts of kindness Mr. Brook had shown in the interests of the township, and said that the new Town Hall was one of the most beautiful places he had ever put his head in. (Applause.)

The motion was supported by Mr. S. Brook, who hoped Mr. Charles Brook would carry away from the day's celebrations of the opening of the Town Hall the firm conviction that his father had a very warm place in the hearts and affections of the people of Meltham.

Mr. Joel Pogson also added a few well-chosen remarks, and the toast was then drunk with musical honours, the company enthusiastically singing "For he's a jolly good fellow," which was followed by loud cheering.

Mr. Charles Brook acknowledged the toast on behalf of Mr. Brook, and remarked that his father once told him that if he ever chaffed anyone he afterwards gave them something, but if he was very polite and bowed them out he never did. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) He thanked them very much for the very kind way in which the toast had been honoured. "Meltham Urban District Council," was next submitted by Mr. J.M. Moorhouse, and spoke of various improvements which had been effected in the township of late years, and Mr. Durrans responded.

Mr. Preston proposed "The health of the Chairman," which was suitably acknowledged by Mr. Mellor.

Several other toasts followed, including "The Officials of the Council," proposed by Mr. Brook and replied to by Mr. B. Allen and Mr. H. Thomas ; "The town and trade of Meltham," submitted by Mr. John Moorhouse and replied to by Mr. Killburn ; "The Architect and Contractors," proposed by Mr. Tom Earnshaw, and responded to by Messrs. W. Carter and J.H. Stuttard ; and "The Press," given by Mr. W. Manchester and acknowledged by Mr. T. Monk.

The proceedings, which were immensely enjoyed, concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.