Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society

The Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society was formed in 1857 and was eventually subsumed into Huddersfield Technical School in 1884.


Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Mar/1857)

The first meeting of the society took place on 2 March 1857 at the schoolrooms of St. Paul's Church, Huddersfield, with G.H. Taylor in the chair. The Huddersfield Chronicle reported that Taylor "made a few remarks on the benefits to be derived from a society for literary and scientific pursuits, and hoped that the young men of the town would embrace the opportunity" before then reading out the rules and electing the relevant officers for the year.[1]

The first president of the society was local surgeon George Winter Rhodes.

The inaugural meeting took place two weeks later on 16 March at the Philosophical Hall, where Rhodes delivered the opening address. He urged members to study the natural sciences practically and "not to meddle with any of the pseudo-sciences". Following the address, there was an "interesting discussion" on Dalton's Atomic Theory[2], and also on the relationship between cause and effect.[3]

Many of the early meetings took place in a "room over Mr. Brown's shop, corner of Market Place."

A number of the papers and essays presented at the meetings were then published in print, including:

  • An Essay on the Antiquities of the West Riding of Yorkshire by Arthur Jessop (September 1857)
Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Jan/1859)

The society's second conversazione was held on 26 January 1859.

The third conversazione took place on 24 March 1860 at the Philosophical Hall. As well as a considerable number of exhibits, including over 200 fossils belonging to Mr. Sam Learoyd, around 20 microscopes had been set up in which visitors could view blood cells, vegetable substances, milk, etc. Around 30 stereoscopes displayed, including "a most splendid stereoscopic view of the full moon."[4]

The fourth conversazione was held on 21 February 1861 at the Philosophical Hall. Again, a large number of stereoscopes had been set up so that visitors could view stereoscopic images of scenes including Nubia, Palestine, Spain and Switzerland. George Jarmain of Almondbury conducting a number of chemistry experiments. Of particular interest was a new technique for creating transparencies on glass, exhibited by Major Kirby.[5]

Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Feb/1862)

In August 1861, David E. Brown died aged only 23 after contracting yellow fever whilst at sea. He had been one of the founding members of the society.[6]

The fifth conversazione was held on 20 February 1862 at the Philosophical Hall. The Chronicle reported that extra rooms had been used to make more space for exhibits and visitors. The centrepiece of the exhibition was a water feature supported on an imitation granite, from which "the water spouted in playful streams." Mr. G. Jarmain demonstrated "spectrum analysis" using apparatus lent by Professor Dalzell of Edinburgh whilst discussing the latest findings by Gustav Kirchhoff and Robert Bunsen on spectroscopy. Elsewhere, Messrs. Barratt and J. Wormall gave a number of demonstrations with electricity. The main welcoming speech was given by Bentley Shaw.[7]

In August 1862, society members attended a picnic on the grounds of Walton Hall, Wakefield, having first rambled through the woods.[8]

The sixth conversazione took place on 11 February 1863 at the Philosophical Hall. Cyril Dunderdale of Manchester had loaned a collection of telegraphic equipment which he demonstrated. The welcome speech was delivered by Edward Brooke jnr, the current president of the society. Following the speech, George Jarmain ("professor of chemistry at Huddersfield College") conducted experiments in galvanism whilst photograph J. Holroyd of Buxton Road took portraits of visitors with the aid of electric light.[9]

Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Feb/1864)

The seventh conversazione occurred on 25 February 1864. Of interest were a series of portraits of Aborigines, "curious specimens of Chinese dress and carvings", and "a novel application of electricity as a fire alarm".[10] The events continued to be held annually until at least 1867.

By 1866, a subgroup of the members had formed the Huddersfield Microscopic Society, with the Rev. T.R. Jones as president.[11]

The annual report in 1867 noted that the membership had increased to 246 people although the number of attendees at meetings had been disappointing.[12]

The winter season for 1867/68 began with a "microscopic soiree" featuring 22 microscopes and included a sample of the dry rot fungus that had "recently destroyed a portion of the flooring in Brunswick Street Schools". A demonstration was also given of an induction coil "containing 6 miles of wire" that was capable of "giving a six-inch spark" in the air.[13]

The eleventh conversazione, held in 1868, featured Professor Tyndall's "musical flames". The Chronicle reported that "a flame is produced by the ignition of hydrogen gas, and above it tubes of various lengths and diameters were held by Mr. Marriott, and these tubes emitted sounds, caused by the ascension of the flame."[14]

The first of a season of monthly summer meetings started on 25 May 1868 in which members were encouraged to bringing "any objects or facts of scientific interest". The Chronicle reported that this initially meeting "was considered to be one of the most interesting and successful which the society has ever held."[15]

The twelfth conversazione, held in February 1869, featured the latest in domestic appliances for women — a knitting machine and a sewing machine.[16]

The 1870 conversazione featured a "delightful performance" by the Reed Band of the 5th Dragoon Guards. Also of note was an experiment in which a large soap bubble was illuminated with electric light for "at least five minutes" and "the colours were most gorgeous."[17]

In May 1871, the society decided to move from their room at Wellington Hall, Queen Street, to the Mission Chapel on South Street.[18] The cost of the property meant that the society was in debt for several years until 1876, although they were able to recoup some of the costs by letting out the rooms for other meetings.

In August 1872, the society wrote to Henry Morton Stanley in the hope that he might speak to the society on the topic of his "African adventures and the discovery of Dr. Livingstone." Although Stanley replied that he was busy at the moment, "some time in November I shall be at leisure."[19]

By 1874, the society's president was Dr. James Spottiswoode Cameron.

By the early 1880s, the membership had declined to the extent that the society found itself in debt. In their 1882 report, president Samuel Learoyd reported that the annual expenditure had been £72, which resulted in the society now being £30 in debt.[20]

In October 1884, Charles Hobkirk was honoured at a evening event held at the George Hotel, Huddersfield. Hobkirk had recently moved to Dewsbury and was presented with a "very handsome silver tea and coffee service" from members of the Literary and Scientific Society, the Huddersfield Naturalists' Society, and the Huddersfield Paxton Society.

Towards the end of 1884, the society ceased to exist "as a separate institution" and was merged with the Technical School. Speaking at the first meeting after the merger, Mr. George Brook "thought that they could do more good [...] by becoming part of the Technical School" and that they "hoped to interest many of the students both in their lecturers and the museum which it was proposed should be established in connection with the school."[21]

The leasehold on the society's former property on South Street was auctioned on Tuesday 28 April 1885 with the following description:

The premises comprise a lecture hall 88ft. 6in. by 21ft. 3in., lofty, well lighted, and headed by hot water pipes ; carekeeper's cottage in the basement. Also large room 82ft. 9in. by 17ft., opening from the lecture hall, and four classrooms over same.

The property has a frontage of 42ft. to South Street, and contains an area of 362 square yards, and is held under a lease from Sir. J.W. Ramsden, Bart., dated 19 April 1878, for a term of 999 years, at the annual ground rent of £5 7s. 6d.

The premises are conveniently situated, and well suited for any religious denomination requiring a small church or schoolrooms, or for club purposes.

Selection of Meetings

The following is based on reports from the Huddersfield Chronicle.

date chair summary
30/Mar/1857 T.R. Tatham Paper on "Coal" read by Charles Hobkirk. He predicted that, at the present rate of consumption, the world's coal supplies should last for 50,000 years(!)
13/Apr/1857 G.W. Rhodes Paper titled "On the Three Great Plans of Animal Structure, the Terrestrial, the Aerial, and the Aquatic" by Mr. D. Brown.
27/Apr/1857 G.W. Rhodes Paper on "The Advantages of Literary, Scientific, and Debating Societies" by Mr. T.B. Hudson.
11/May/1857 G.W. Rhodes Paper on "Aquatic Beetles and their Transformations" by George Tindall.
06/Jul/1857 G.W. Rhodes Paper on "English Architecture of the Middle Ages" by Charles Fielding.
21/Dec/1857 G.W. Rhodes Paper on the "Causes of Steam-Boiler Explosions" by Joseph Hopkinson, illustrated with models and diagrams.
15/Nov/1858 ? Paper on "The Economy of Fuel in the Prevention of Smoke" by Joseph Hopkinson of the Britannia Works.
12/Dec/1859 ? Paper on "The Formation of Rocks" by Rev. T.B. Bensted, the incumbent of Lockwood.
09/Jan/1860 ? Paper titled "Our Pond and Some of its Inhabitants" by David E. Brown, in which he claimed to have found over 200 species of animals in his garden pond.
10/Dec/1860 ? Paper on "The Succession and Transmutation of Animals and Plants" by Mr. S. Learoyd.
09/Sep/1861 ? Paper titled "Notes on a Geological Ramble on the East Coast of Yorkshire" by George Jarmain.
07/Oct/1861 ? Lecture on chemistry by Mr. Jarmain, which ended with a series of experiments.
22/Jan/1863 Edward Brooke jnr Lecture on "The Life and Works of Tom Moore" by Mr. E.A. Leatham at the Philosophical Hall.
11/Apr/1864 Rev. T.R. Jones Paper on "Roman Britain" by Rev. H.V. Palmer of York. Reportedly the 132nd meeting of the society.
09/Oct/1865 n/a Demonstration of microscopes and stereoscopes.
23/Oct/1865 ? Lecture on "The Nature and Mission of Poetry" by Henry Williamson of Seed Hill.
29/Oct/1866 ? Rev. G.G. Lawrence gave a lecture on his tour of the Southern States of America.
03/Dec/1866 J.B. Pritchett Paper titled "Some Considerations on the Origin of the Species" by Charles Hobkirk.
10/Dec/1866 ? Lecture titled "The Unities of the Universe: Unities of its Organic Power" by the Rev. J. McCann.
14/Oct/1867 ? Microscopic soiree presided over by the Rev. J. McCann.
28/Oct/1867 ? Lecture of "The Glacial Period of North America and Europe" by Prof. Gunning of Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
04/Nov/1867 Rev. J. McCann Paper on the life of Sydney Smith[22] by Mr. E.A. Leatham.
13/Jan/1868 Rev. J. McCann Lecture on the "Manufacturers of the District Depending on Chemistry" (part 1) by Mr. G. Jarmain.
20/Jan/1868 ? Paper on the "Formation of Valleys" by Charles Hobkirk.
27/Jan/1868 William Hastings Paper on "the geological agents which had formed the present surface of the country around Huddersfield" read by John Hirst jnr of Dobcross.
10/Feb/1868 ? Lecture on the "Manufacturers of the District Depending on Chemistry" (part 2) by Messrs. Jarmain and Marriott.
19/Oct/1868 ? Address by the president, Charles Hobkirk, regarding the society and also "the recent advance made in natural science, and the utility of the experiments made by Mr. Darwin".
11/Jan/1869 Charles Hobkirk Lecture on "What Dreams are Made Of" by Dr. C. Browne of Wakefield.
25/Jan/1869 William Hastings Paper on the "English Royal Authors" by the Rev. William Braden of Hillhouse.
07/Mar/1870 John Freeman Paper titled "Scientific Education in England" by Henry L. Sales.
19/Dec/1870 ? A discourse on "The Early History of Domestic Animals" by Mr. L.C. Miall, F.G.S.
16/Jan/1871 John Freeman Lecture on "The Human Frame" by Mr. Rhodes M.R.C.S.
20/Feb/1871 John Freeman Paper on "Conchology" by the Rev. C.M. Phelps.
06/Mar/1871 John Freeman Paper titled "Can Darwinsim Account for the Existence of Man?" by Charles Hobkrik.[23]
06/Nov/1871 Rev. G.G. Laurence Lecture on "Paris Under the Commune" by Mr. William Trant.[24]
20/Nov/1871 ? Four papers: J. Tindall on the Aspern Springs, Edward Brooke on a Coal Commission report, Charles Hobkirk on the geology of Scarborough, and George Jarmain on the consumption of coal in steam boilers.
04/Dec/1871 Councillor Marriott Paper on "Professor Huxley's and Sir William Thomson's Theories of Life" by Charles Hobkirk.
18/Dec/1871 ? Paper on a new method of extinguishing fires by George Jarmain and another on sanitary arrangements with regards to sewers and drains.
15/Jan/1872 ? Lecture on the topic of "Smoke" by George Jarmain.
22/Jan/1872 ? Lecture on forms of mental illness by Dr. Bridgford.
19/Feb/1872 ? Lecture on "Intelligence in Animals" by Mr. Marchant.
15/Mar/1872 Mr. E. Brook Lecture on "The Education of Women" by Mrs. William Grey of the Association for the Education of Women of all Classes.
02/Dec/1872 Dr. Rhodes Paper titled "Edward Jenner and His Discoveries" by Dr. J.S. Cameron.[25]
03/Mar/1873 ? Lecture on the topic of "Food" by Mr. W.R. Smith, F.R.C.S.
17/Mar/1873 Charles Hobkirk Paper on the "Aesthetics of Poetry" by Mr. William Trant.
31/Mar/1873 Charles Hobkirk Paper on the "Huddersfield Milk Supply" by George Jarmain.
10/Nov/1873 Dr. Cameron Papers on a "New Mode of Dyeing with Indigo" by George Jarmain and Mr. Marriott. Read Holliday (of Read Holliday and Sons Limited), who had purchased the UK patent on the method, then exhibited samples.
24/Nov/1873 Dr. Cameron Papers on the "geological formations in the district around Ripon and Fountains Abbey" by Mr. E. Brooke, F.G.S. and on the "geological survey in the neighbourhood of Oughty Bridge" by Mr. J. Tindall.
09/Mar/1874 Dr. J.S. Cameron Discussion on the topic "Was Adam the First Man?" with Samuel Learoyd arguing for the affirmative and Charles Hobkirk arguing against.
19/Oct/1874 Dr. Cameron Discussion on "the question as to the sanity or otherwise of Shakespeare's Hamlet", with Cameron and Mr. Binnee advocating the theory of insanity and Messrs. D. Johnson, Duthoit, J.E. Webb and Dr. Coward arguing that Hamlet's insanity was feigned.
16/Nov/1874 Dr. Cameron Debate on the topic of "Materialism", as expounded by Professor Tyndall, led by Messrs. Learoyd and Hobkirk.[26]
14/Feb/1876 ? Lecture on "Toughened Glass" by George Jarmain. Examples of toughened glass were subjected to various experiments, which included being "thrown about the room by the lecturer"(!)
28/Feb/1876 Dr. Cameron Lecture on "The Moon as a Planet, a World, or a Satellite" by T.W. Tew of Pontefract.
06/Mar/1876 Dr. Cameron Lecture on "Don Quixote" by George Dawson, M.A., of Birmingham.
25/Sep/1876 Dr. Cameron Lecture on "Queen Elizabeth" written by Mr. J. Bate, but read by Charles Hobkirk in his absence.
02/Oct/1876 Dr J.S. Cameron Lecture on the subject "Dean Swift" by George Dawson, M.A., of Birmingham.[27]
16/Oct/1876 Dr. Cameron Discussion on "whether there were other inhabited worlds besides our own". Charles Hobkirk took the position that "ours is the only world inhabited by intelligent creatures like ourselves" whilst Mr. Nettleton felt it was very possible that other were other planets "similar in chemical constitution to the earth".
06/Nov/1876 Dr. Cameron Lecture on India by the Rev. W. Ridley, vicar of St. Paul's, Huddersfield.
13/Nov/1876 Dr. Cameron Lecture on the subject of "Charles Lamb" by the Rev. J.T. Stannard.[28]
27/Nov/1876 Charles Hobkirk Lecturer titled "Such Stuff as Dreams are Made Of" by Dr. J. Cameron, in which he talked about the necessity of sleep and the nature of dreams.
12/Feb/1877 ? Lecture on the "The Triumphs of Scientific Research as Exemplified in the History of Astronomical Discovery" by Charles Hobkirk.
12/Mar/1877 ? Paper on "Modern Phrenology" by Dr. J.S. Cameron, M.D., B.Sc.
26/Mar/1877 Charles Hobkirk Lecture on "The Pollution of Rivers" by George Jarmain F.C.S.
10/Dec/1877 Charles Hobkirk Lecture on "The Mode of Spelling the English Language" by M. Zossenheim.
25/Feb/1878 ? Discussion on the topic "That Animals are Possessed of Intelligence..." led by Charles Hobkirk.
11/Feb/1879 ? Lecture on "The Mechanism of Thought" by Dr. Major of Wakefield.
25/Feb/1879 ? Lecture on "The Plants that Grew When Coal Was Being Formed" by Mr. Cash, F.G.S., of Halifax.
25/Mar/1879 ? Lecture on the topic of "Salt" by George Jarmain, illustrated with experiments.

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. "The Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Mar/1857).
  2. Wikipedia: John Dalton
  3. "The Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Mar/1857).
  4. "Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (31/Mar/1860).
  5. "Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (23/Feb/1861).
  6. "Death of Mr. David Brown, Late of Huddersfield" in Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Sep/1861).
  7. "Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Feb/1862).
  8. Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Aug/1862).
  9. "Conversazione of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Feb/1863).
  10. "Conversazione of the Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/Feb/1864).
  11. Huddersfield Chronicle (19/May/1866).
  12. "Annual Meeting of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (16/Mar/1867).
  13. "Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Oct/1867).
  14. Literary and Scientific Society in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Feb/1868).
  15. Literary and Scientific Society in Huddersfield Chronicle (30/May/1868).
  16. "Literary and Scientific Society: Annual Conference" in Huddersfield Chronicle (20/Feb/1869).
  17. "Literary and Scientific Society: Annual Conversazione" in Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Feb/1870).
  18. "Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/May/1871).
  19. "Probable Visit of Mr. Stanley, the Discoverer of Livingstone, to Huddersfield" in Huddersfield Chronicle (31/Aug/1872).
  20. "Annual Meeting of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Oct/1882).
  21. "The Literary and Scientific Society and the Technical School" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Dec/1884).
  22. Wikipedia: Sydney Smith
  23. A religious man, Hobkirk felt that the difference between map and apes was too much to be explained by the Theory of Evolution.
  24. This was the second of Trant's lectures on the topic. At least one writer to the Chronicle felt it was inappropriate to have what they regarded as a political lecture.
  25. Wikipedia: Edward Jenner
  26. Wikipedia: John Tyndall
  27. Wikipedia: Jonathan Swift
  28. Wikipedia: Charles Lamb