THE ROYAL VISIT TO HUDDERSFIELD.
The town of Huddersfield, which was last week the seat of the Social Science Congress, to-day receives its first visit from members of the Royal family — namely, the Duke and Duchess of Albany. Its entire history is modern, and in rapid progress it vies with any of its competitors as to the advance which it has made during the last few years. One portion of the present borough has, however, considerable claims to antiquity, and that is the township of Almondbury, adjacent to the Castle Hill, a noble eminence, from the summit of which a splendid view can be obtained of the town.
Manufacturers finding a good supply of water in the valley at the foot of Castle Hill, began to build their large mills, to give employment to thousands of hands connected with the manufacture of cloth. Early in the field, devoting strict attention, great skill and enterprise to their work, and keeping well up with the times in new improvements, availing themselves of the latest discoveries in science, producing excellent goods of beautiful designs, the Huddersfield manufacturers have gained, and up to the present have succeeded in maintaining, the very foremost position as makers of fancy cloth goods. Indeed, so marked has this been that the town has suffered far less from foreign competition than many of its great rivals, both in Yorkshire and the neighbouring county of Lancashire. The cloth goods produced in the Huddersfield district are a speciality, and their fame is world wide. The manufacturers and merchants of the town have spared themselves no trouble or expense in sending the productions of their looms to the most distant parts of the globe, and in every possible way have sought to increase both the home and foreign trade. Recently, feeling that something more was required if in the future the town and the neighbourhood were to still keep their high position as the centre of the fancy woollen industry, the committee of the Mechanics’ Institute co-operated with a committee of the Chamber of Commerce in attempting the task of raising a technical school, which should be fully equal to the requirements of the times, and enable the youth of Huddersfield to acquire that technical knowledge which will place them in a position of equality with any Continental rivals. Success has crowned the efforts of the joint committee, and the inauguration of the new school was commenced with a Fine-Art and Industrial Exhibition, which was opened in July this year.
West Yorkshire has been described as “one of the greatest manufacturing districts in the world,” and in West Yorkshire Huddersfield holds no mean position. Amongst the textile industries of the country, the cloth manufacture ranks next to the cotton. It is estimated that fully one half of the whole population engaged in the manufacture of cloth in the United Kingdom reside in West Yorkshire. In Huddersfield and district, plain and fancy woollens, broadcloths, doeskins, worsted coatings, trouserings, woollen cords, Bedford cords, vestings, tweeds, mantle cloths, shawls, serges, cashmerettas, mohair, and sealskin cloth, are produced in large quantities. In addition to these, an endless variety of fancy goods, including fancy-dress skirts and dresses of the finest quality, are here manufactured from worsted, silk, and cotton. Although the staple industry of the town and district is the cloth trade, there is also cotton and silk spinning, some extensive ironworks, dyeworks, and many other branches of industry, which are pursued with all the indomitable skill and perseverance which are characteristic of Yorkshiremen.
Huddersfield was created a Parliamentary borough in 1832, and a charter of incorporation was granted to the town in 1808. Local Acts have enlarged the municipal borough considerably, so as to include a good many of the outside townships. The waterworks and gasworks are in the hands of the Corporation. In connection with the former, there are five storage reservoirs on the moors between Huddersfield and Saddleworth, and, combined, they are capable of holding 900,000,000 gallons of water.
The town has a clean and solid appearance, from the fact that, nearly all the buildings are of stone. The stone-quarries in the neighbourhood supply the material in abundance. Indeed, in the matter of public and other buildings, the borough is far ahead of some provincial towns of more pretensions. The Townhall and borough offices, though built in a back street and almost hidden by surrounding buildings, are, nevertheless, a fine block. The Borough Offices cost £13,000. The Townhall adjoining, in which there is a magnificent concert-room with a fine organ, cost £30.000. It was opened very recently with a musical festival. The Infirmary is a fine building in New North-road, in one of the most pleasant positions in the town. It was erected in 1831 by public subscriptions, and cost between seven and eight thousand pounds. An additional wing has since been added, at a cost of £1000, and a thorough system of medicated baths, at a cost of £2000, has, also been provided within the building. The Market-hall, which cost £30,000, was finished in 1880. The Estate Buildings were finished in 1870, and cost £40,000. In St. George’s-square, on one side of which is the railway station, is a statue of Peel, erected in 1873. It cost £1000, and the money was raised by subscription. In the same square are the Britannia Buildings, a fine block of warehouses and offices, erected in 1859, at a cost of £12,000. The Post Office was built in 1874 by Sir J. W. Ramsden, Bart., M.P., the ground landlord of the town, and by him is leased to the Government. It cost £2400. A few weeks ago the Huddersfield Banking Company opened new offices in West-street, one of the best streets in the town. The bank is a massive stone building, and cost £23,000. The parish church was built in 1506, at a cost of £9000. Space would not permit to mention one-half of the public buildings of Huddersfield. In the opinion of many of the ratepayers the School Board has been extravagant in building ; but the fact remains that the town now possesses a splendid series of Board Schools such as any town might well be proud of. The Board has fourteen schools, and Huddersfield has for several years in succession occupied the first place (as it does for the present year) both in the percentage of passes and in the amount of the Government grant. All the Board Schools are modern buildings, and have been erected in the most approved style, with all the latest conveniences and with all new improvements. About 16,000 children attend the various Board and voluntary schools in the town.
The present year has been a busy one in the town. In addition to the opening of the Exhibition, the town has welcomed the Social Science Congress, the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics’ Institutes, and the Yorkshire Union of Baptist Churches, while the Yorkshire Poor Law Conference will hold its sittings here next month.
The Exhibition which their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Albany will visit to-day has for its immediate object the assisting to provide a good endowment fund for the Technical School. It was opened with a balance of several thousands of pounds against the committee ; but so well has the attendance been, kept up, and so hard have the voluntary committee worked, that this has been all wiped out; and no doubt when it closes a considerable balance will be left for the Technical School. Of the Exhibition itself much might be said. It has been very popular, and the attendance up to last Saturday night exceeded 180,000. As Prince Leopold could not make it convenient to open the Exhibition on July 7, his visit of inspection is to make up for his absence on that occasion, when the Duke of Somerset came in his stead.
But the Prince visits Huddersfield not only for the purpose of seeing the Exhibition, which indeed was first the cause of his visit, but also to open a new public park. The ground for the park was given to the Corporation by Mr. H. F. Beaumont, of Whitley Beaumont. At the time the gift was made the ground was in a wild condition ; but the Corporation, after spending many thousands of pounds, have laid out the park in a manner which redounds much to their credit. The terraces, the ornamental water, and the rocky ravines, clad with verdant shrubbery, are shown in our Artist’s Sketches of Beaumont Park. From several points good views can be had of the Holmfirth and Meltham Valleys, of the moors towards Penistone, and of the pleasant suburb of Lockwood. Here can also be seen the viaduct belonging to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, which is 350 ft. in length, built on thirty-six arches, the highest of which is 130 ft.
Members of the Royal Family have frequently visited Yorkshire; and Leeds, Bradford, Hull, and York have several times had the honour of entertaining Royalty. But up to the present Huddersfield has not been so favoured, and the inhabitants are in a flutter of excitement about to-day’s proceedings. The Royal party are expected to arrive in the town at a quarter to eleven. They will be received at the railway station by the Mayor and Mayoress (Alderman J. F. and Mrs. Brigg) and members of the Corporation. Their Royal Highnesses may be quite sure of a hearty welcome from Huddersfield people quite independently of the good objects of the visit ; but, with these considerations added, the certainty of an enthusiastic reception is doubly assured.
Our Views of Huddersfield are supplied by Sketches made for this Journal, with some assistance from the photographs of buildings taken by Mr. Vincent Hatch, of that town. We shall give Illustrations next week of the reception of the Duke and Duchess of Albany, and the opening of Beaumont Park.