Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society (01/Oct/1899) - The Carlile Institute at Meltham

The following is a transcription of a historic journal article and may contain occasional errors.


The Carlile Institute, at Meltham, has been affiliated with the Manchester Geographical Society for some years, and Victorians have frequently visited the Institute in the season to lecture. These gentlemen several times called the attention of the members of the Society to the beauty and convenience of the fabric, and to the unique group of buildings at Meltham, consisting of the Institute, the Mechanics' Institution, and the Town Hall, the gift of Mr. Carlile.

The Institute is a model building, and we should be glad if the sight of it would suggest to some of our members that a building like that would be of incalculable value to this Society. Last summer a number of members, visited and were delighted with Meltham. Mr. Armitage has placed at the disposal of the Society various photographs, which will give some idea. We were anxious to give some information regarding Mr. Carlile's conception, and as to the details of the Institute.

Colonel Carlile has been good enough to place a report of the opening of the Institute, in 1891, at our disposal, in the Huddersfield Chronicle, October 17th of that year, and from that account we extract the following :—


Yesterday the public institutions of Meltham were increased by one which promises to be not the least in its sphere of usefulness to the inhabitants of that thriving locality. The Carlile Institute, erected by Mr. J.W. Carlile, furnishes a library, reading-room, concert-hall, etc., each one of which would add materially to the attractions of the neighbourhood. The selection of books made by Mr. Carlile are all excellent. Attached to the catalogue of the library is the following address : —

To the Workpeople at Meltham Mills.

My Dear Friends, — It is nearly 40 years since you and I first made each others' acquaintance. During that time we have seen many changes, but I feel sure that I am right in saying that one thing has never changed, and that is the cordial relationship that has always existed between us.

No one can visit your beautiful valley, so full of busy industry, without being impressed by the many memorials of the Brook family, the churches and schools, the public grounds, the neat cottages, and Convalescent Home, all proving the deep interest which they have felt in you, and now that I have ceased to be their partner, I have built you an Institute in order that you may keep my "memory green," and I have bestowed my own name upon it, so that in years to come your children may give a kindly thought to him who ever held your best interests very near to his heart.

Having been always fond of books, I desire to foster among you the same taste ; you will find in the Institute a carefully selected reference library, and comfortable rooms, where you may have a quiet retreat when the bustle of the clay is over, and become familiar with the thoughts and fancies, of many a master mind.

I earnestly trust this library, the selection of which has given me great interest, may be well kept , up and extensively used. In adding books to it, I particularly wish the trustees not to permit any additions which are at variance with the principles which have guided me in my original selection.

A newsroom is provided for conversation, to be supplied with papers, magazines, and various games, but cards and gambling of any description is strictly prohibited throughout the whole building.

I hope that the hall will often be filled with an amused and edified audience, listening to recitals, lectures, or concerts, but I particularly wish the Institute to be kept free from local or party politics, that all subjects introduced may be strictly moral and intellectual, not opposed to the teachings of the Bible, nor of a sectarian character.

The adjoining classrooms, although under the same trust, have been built in the first place for the use of the members of the Meltham Mechanics' Institute, of which I was for many years president. My trustees have power to lease it to them yearly, as long as they are satisfied that their work is thoroughly efficient. The Mechanics' Institute will be governed by its own bye-laws.

With an earnest hope that God's blessing may accompany this effort to add to your happiness and well-being,

Believe me, my dear friends,
Yours sincerely,
October, 1891.
James W. Carlile.

Description of the Building.

The building is erected in the Elizabethan, or revived classic style of architecture, with portico of the Doric order, richly moulded windows and string courses, and ornamental gables towards the main street, and side fronts more simply treated but in harmony with the principal elevation. All the wall facings and dressings are of Crosland Moor stone, the walls being of lined with brick, with a cavity between outer and inner portions, to exclude damp. The roofs are of high pitch, covered with green Cumberland slates, and crested with red ridge tiles. Entering from the portico through a lobby formed by moulded oak screen and folding doors, there is a spacious entrance-hall, paved with marble mosaic, wide stone staircase, flanked by handsome hammered iron balustrade and moulded dark oak dado, the ceiling over staircase being panelled and moulded with plaster ribs and enriched cornice. On the ground floor to the right of entrance-hall, are the reading-room and library, together measuring 42 ft. by 21 ½ ft. The reading-room has a dado of panelled dark oak, and ceiling richly decorated with moulded plaster ribs and cornice. Massive oak tables, specially designed, like all the fittings, in harmony with the style of the building, comfortable arm chairs, and pictures round the walls, complete the furnishing of this beautiful room. The library is entered through a broad archway, and is fitted up with oak bookcases and shelves, well stocked with valuable books. Beyond the entrance-hall is a large news or magazine room, 27 ½ ft. by 17 ½ ft., where also quiet games might be played. This room is finished with pitch pine dado, and plaster cornice and frieze of simpler design than in the reading-room. The walls are hung with large maps. On the first floor, entered through moulded oak folding doors, is the lecture-hall, 42 ft. by 21 ½ ft. and 20 ft, high, with a handsome pitch pine roof of (arched shape, panelled with moulded ribs and cornice, and supported by massive curved principals, which spring from carved stone corbels. The dado round this room is of beautifully figured pitch pine, panelled, moulded, and polished. The hall is well lighted by large end and side windows filled with "rippled" glass which subdues the light, and has a pleasing effect ; also, at night by three handsome gas coronæ of hammered iron. Its good acoustic properties make it admirably adapted for concerts and recitals, as well as for lectures. Under four of the roof corbels are hung excellent portraits of present and former partners of Meltham Mills, also that of the founder of the Institute. Adjoining the lecture-hall is a large classroom 20 ½ ft, by 17 ½ ft., fitted with dado and cornice like the newsroom under it. The detached building in the rear of the Institute contains two large classrooms, specially adapted for technical education purposes, each measuring 27 ft. by 18 ft. The upper one has a lofty open timber roof, and both are fitted with pitch pine dados and hot air stoves. Ample lavatory and cloak-room accommodation is provided. A spacious smoking-room will shortly be provided in the buildings, in course of erection, near the Institute, for the purpose of affording by means of their rent roll, an endowment income for the support of the Institute. A principal feature in the decoration of the lecture-hall, staircase, and rooms, are the wise mottoes and homely proverbs which, in varying colours and styles of letters, are painted on the friezes below the ceilings throughout the buildings. These mottoes have been selected with great care and judgment by the founder, and should prove a lasting source of interest and instruction to those who may frequent the building. Much care and attention have been bestowed upon the details of heating and ventilation, in order to provide an ample supply of warm fresh air without draughts or the use of complicated appliances likely to get out of order. The Institute is heated by hot water radiators and pipes. The floors generally are of pitch pine, the ground floors being laid with small wood blacks, laid to an ornamental pattern, and set in damp-proof composition. The doors and wood fittings throughout are made of specially selected oak or pitch pine ; in the principal rooms and entrances they are elaborated, moulded, and polished, and the locks, hinges, etc., are all of a specially good character. The buildings, inclusive of fittings, decorations, and furniture, have been designed by the architect, Mr. J.S. Alder, of Palmerston Buildings, Old Broad Street, London, E.C. The work generally has been carried out in accordance with one of the founder's favourite mottoes, "Do everything well."

The opening proceedings were a luncheon in the beautiful Lecture Hall of the Institute. A distinguished company was present, amongst whom were Mr. W. W. Carlile (the son of the donor), Chairman, and the Bishop of Wakefield. Owing to illness, the donor could not be present. After loyal and other toasts had been honoured, the Bishop proposed "Success to the Carlile Institute." This was accepted with cheers, and, in response, the Chairman expressed his regret that his father was not present, but in his absence he would read his speech. First of all he would read a telegram which he had just received. The telegram was as follows :—

"Better, but unable to travel for some days. Wish every success to the trustees and the Institute. Thank friends for their kind wishes."

The address written by Mr. J.W. Carlile was as under :— "The kind and flattering words from my friends have gratified and given me the assurance that my hopes may be fulfilled, and that this building will really be the scene of much usefulness. So much has been provided in this valley by the liberality of the various members of the Brook family for the religious and educational wants of our people that any further extension in that direction is not called for. But years ago, when I was president of the Meltham Mechanics' Institute, I felt that the time would come when better accommodation would be required for classes and lectures. In addition to this, as I get older I feel a desire to escape from the bustle around me, and so I conclude that many here who are getting on in life, as well as those who have retired from daily work, would gladly seek a retreat made bright and interesting by books, lectures, and entertainments. This explains to you why this Institute is divided into two distinct departments, the portion in which we are now met being set apart for members above 21 years of age. I have chosen the Elizabethan style of architecture, as it is one of which I am very fond. My house in Bucks was built at that period, and I always experience in its bright and chaste architecture a style highly suited for quiet repose and study, and consequently most suitable for an Institute of this kind. Two years ago when I relinquished my interest in these works to my younger partners, I felt a strong desire to leave some permanent proof of the deep interest I have always felt in. our workpeople. I therefore invested a sum of money, hardly knowing at the time the form in which it should be expended. Along with my excellent architect and the clerk of the works, we formed ourselves into a moist harmonious committee, and I am delighted to find that our labours have fully realised our wishes. This building' has afforded me so much interest that it is almost with a pang of regret that I see its completion. I now long to see this pet work realise its destiny, and I have asked kind friends to take it into their keeping so that it may be a blessing to this neighbourhood. Some kind friends have hinted that a little extravagance has attended my functions as a trustee, but, let me assure them that such is not the case. The invested money has been entirely devoted to building and furnishing the Institute and cottages. The pictures, maps, and decorations are supplied as a pleasing addition to the original scheme. I have now to perform the pleasing duty of proposing the health of the trustees and the members of the two committees — one committee devoting itself to the portion set apart for the older members, the other taking the name of the Mechanics' Institute, will I trust carry out some good technical classes, and prove of inestimable value to the rising generation. The trustees whom I have chosen, are three members of my own family ; my son, my son-in-law, and my nephew, along with, a son of my old esteemed partner, Mr. Brook. I have also chosen the first committee, many of whom I have long known, and esteemed. In their hands I place the management of the Institute and the adjoining properties, from which a portion of the endowment will be obtained, feeling confident that they will use their utmost endeavours to make it a success when the Mechanics' Institute is managed by their own officers and committee."

The Chairman added his own thanks for the reception of the gift, and the kind words which had been used concerning it.

Mr. E.H. Carlile responded to the toast, dwelling upon the work of the Mechanics' Institute in the past, and the deep interest which Mr. Carlile had always evinced in its work. At the present time the Mechanics' Institute was at work in two small rooms, but it had done good work there. He dwelt upon the importance of technical education, holding it absolutely necessary for the future maintenance of our trade. In the words of one who had been much quoted, he would say that if knowledge was not virtue, ignorance was weakness, and he trusted advantage would be taken of that Institute to dispel ignorance. He promised, on behalf of the trustees, that they would attend to their part of the work, and endeavour to carry out the wishes of the founder.

Mr. James Kilburn also replied : That structure was a beautiful one, the material and workmanship being of the best possible description. He trusted that all the anticipations of the founder would be realised, and so far as the committee were concerned they would do their best to realise them. The building would certainly prove an enduring one, and he trusted would be an immense benefit to that locality. There were great social problems before us. It was no use ignoring them, and he held that to get the people to read and think would be the best way of preparing for a solution of those problems. In that way that Institute might do untold good.

Other toasts were duly honoured.

In the evening a meeting was held in the Dining-room, Meltham Mills, presided over by Mr. E.H. Carlile, to celebrate the opening. Since that meeting the Institute has pursued a career of great usefulness.

These buildings are not by any means the only gifts to the Yorkshire town from the members of the firm of Messrs. Brooks and Co., of Meltham Mills, but they are the ones to which our especial attention was directed.

The following is a scan of an original article and is made available under the terms of fair use for research purposes.

Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society (01/Oct/1899) - The Carlile Institute at Meltham


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