Leeds Mercury (12/Jul/1928) - How I Would Celebrate Huddersfield's Diamond Jubilee: A Thrilling Chance to Make History
HOW I WOULD CELEBRATE HUDDERSFIELD'S DIAMOND JUBILEE.
A Thrilling Chance to Make History.
(BY JAMES R. GREGSON.)
I have no knowledge of what our Mayor, Aldermen, and Councillors are thinking— if they are really thinking about the matter at all. There may be a dim notion in the heads of some of them of a banquet, to be followed by laudatory speeches as things well within their own powers and abilities, but as they can indulge in both with much less excuse than that afforded by the Diamond Jubilee of Huddersfield's Incorporation, we plain citizens may quite usefully suggest other ways in which it may be commemorated.
Huddersfield prides itself on being a pioneer in several directions of municipal enterprise. It boasts of itself, for instance, as the proprietor of the first municipal Model Lodging House. (A sight of the place in question makes one hope it isn't the last!)
The Lodging House.
The rebuilding of this Lodging House, or its replacement, has been suggested as one way of celebrating the Jubilee of the town. By all means let us replace it, say I. And by all means let its substitute be worthy of the town, both socially and architecturally. But let us not celebrate an historic event by the improvement of a municipal trading establishment. Such an idea is more worthy of the Yorkshire thrift which inspired it, than the event it is intended to honour.
"Huddersfield needs Baths," is another idea, which has been advertised so often and so fragrantly, that there is no one, even on the Town Council, who does not believe it. Huddersfield does need new Public Baths — it is putting it mildly to describe the present establishment in Ramsden Street as old-fashioned and effete — but it by no means follows that the proposed memorial of the Jubilee should take the form of a new and up-to-date bathing and washing house.
Like Adding a Factory Wing.
Public Baths are a trading concern which pay, or should pay for themselves, financially and socially. Their erection should be paid for as a capital outlay on a revenue-producing concern. All Huddersfield would laugh in derision if one of its prominent manufacturer-citizens suggested celebrating his diamond wedding, or the Jubilee of his firm, by adding a new wing to his factory. Yet the Public Baths proposal, which is on all fours with this imaginary case, has not caused the least glimmer of a smile on any face I nave seen in the town.
Our memorial must be worthy of the town. We must make our boasting good by the foundation of some building, or some movement, which will mark a new departure in Civic consciousness.
The Art Gallery.
For this reason, after much thought, I have put aside the idea of a new Art Gallery. I know Huddersfield's need in this direction. Four poky rooms up,a shabby staircase is a "poor coming-in" for a town of Huddersfield’s self-consciousness, to say nothing of its importance.
But it is quite a pertinent question to ask, if Huddersfield had a bigger and a better Art Gallery would its pictures be worth housing there? If I may abide by the opinion of better critics than myself, especially the opinion of sonic of the local buyers who have private collections, my answer will have to be "No." One of these local collectors expressed himself publicly not very long ago. and his comments upon our municipal collection were far from flattering.
I believe that the latest purchases by the Corporation have met with more approval, but the bulk of the exhibits are but mediocre, and I would suggest in all earnestness to the four, five, or six local collectors that they personally might celebrate the town’s jubilee by presenting to the Art Gallery some item from their own collection, as a memorial of the occasion and their own good taste.
My own pet suggestion might be worked in conjunction with a new Art Gallery, probably to the gain of both schemes, and certainly to the honour of the town.
Huddersfield has no municipal building of outstanding architectural beauty or dignity. The Town Hall facade is like nothing so much as a glorified Mechanics’ Institute. The finest architecture in the town is the contribution of the railway company; the most charming thing in the town is the Clock Tower at Lindley, the gift of a private benefactor.
A New Idea.
It is time, therefore, that Huddersfield had a building, truly its own, in which its citizens might glory legitimately. But such a building in itself would not be unique enough for Huddersfield, which prides itself on its history as a pioneer in so many directions, and which prides itself on its love of music and drama. Our singers have been heard all over the globe, our actors have delighted America, and yet there is no fit home for either.
I suggest, therefore, that Huddersfield rouses itself, and takes this great chance to make history once again. Let our Civic Fathers give us a building of beauty and dignity in every sense, a nobly-planned structure with eloquent exterior, and let it house a Municipal Theatre and Opera House! Such a building as I suggest could easily assimilate an Art Gallery — in fact, its inclusion therein would make such a "Jubilee Hall" a true home of Art, pictorial, musical, and dramatic. A penny rate would endow a first-class company of artists, and Huddersfield would not only have a building worthy of her pride in herself, but would have even more cause for her civic pride than she has already, for she would possess the first municipal theatre in England, and once more prove herself a pioneer in a great cause.