Loyal and Royal: Souvenir of the Victoria Tower, Castle Hill (1958) by Stanley Chadwick
Loyal and Royal: Souvenir of the Victoria Tower, Castle Hill was written by Stanley Chadwick and published in 1958.
- 14 pages
LOYAL AND ROYAL
SOUVENIR OF THE VICTORIA TOWER CASTLE HILL
- Height 106 feet
- Castle Hill is 900 feet above sea level
- Cost of erection £3,120 5s. 5d.
- Estimated cost of restoration £5,880
- 1897 Aug. 31 — Design by Isaac Jones, of London, selected for prize award.
- 1898 June 23 — Permission granted by the Queen for the building to be called “Victoria Tower.”
- 1898 June 25 — Corner stone laid by Mr. John Frecheville Ramsden.
- 1899 Mar. 25 — Informal opening by Mr. Isaac Hordern.
- 1899 June 24 — Official opening by +he Rt. Hon. the Earl of Scarbrough.
- George William Tomlinson, JP. Originator of memorial tower on Castle Hill. Born June 23rd, 1837. Died August 21st, 1897.
FIRST HUDDERSFIELD NEWSPAPER
- "The Huddersfield Chronicle" (weekly) was first published on April 6th, 1850.
- "The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle" (morning) made its appearance on February 6th, 1871, and was published for the last time on June 8th, 1916.
LOYAL AND ROYAL
The completion of sixty years’ reign by Queen Victoria in 1897 was commemorated in many ways by her loyal subjects throughout the country. “Local Rejoicings” committees not only arranged treats for young and old on Jubilee Day, June 22nd, being rewarded with “Queen’s weather” — brilliant sunshine — but considered projects of a more permanent nature.
A few days before the Mayor of Huddersfield (Ald. John Lee Walker, J.P.) called a meeting of representative townspeople to discuss the best way of celebrating the Queen’s record reign, the “Huddersfield Daily Chronicle” published a short article with the heading “Suggested Memorial on Castle Hill.” The writer, later revealed as Mr. George William Tomlinson, was loud in his praise of “the noble and commanding site of Castle Hill,” but deplored the fact that it was not adorned by some massive architectural masonry. In his opinion this would give an air of classic dignity to the town.
Many suggestions were made at the town’s meeting, including one for a statue of Her Majesty. A letter was read from Mr. Tomlinson repeating his plan for a tower on Castle Hill, with a platform 100 feet from the ground. The Rev. Dr. Robert Bruce, pastor of Highfiedd Congregational Church, commented that a tower would be an object of greater interest and attraction than a statue, but still ornamental rather than useful.
In two subsequent letters Mr. Tomlinson emphasised the advantages of his scheme. The proposed tower would be a perpetual memorial visible from a very large area. Its erection would entail no charge to the ratepayers and could be made practically self-supporting, while not being very costly to build. Above all, when future generations asked why the tower had been built, the opportunity would be presented of recalling the wonderful progress made by the town during the record reign, and the loyal affection displayed by the inhabitants.
The public meeting in the Huddersfield Town Hall on April 6th, 1897, adopted the proposals of the previously appointed committee, viz., local rejoicings, establishment of a free library and art gallery, and the institution of free district nurses. Mr. Tomlinson’s tower proposal found a champion in Mr. J. H. Dransfield, but some who were present regarded the idea with evident disfavour.
According to the “Huddersfield Examiner” report, Mr. Dransfield’s remarks were greeted with “shouts of laughter.” The “Examiner” slyly hinted that unless the design proved an attractive one, the erection might mar the landscape. Certainly it would serve no useful end.
Having failed to get official backing for his scheme, Mr. Tomlinson resolved to launch his own appeal for funds. With a personal subscription of £40 and a gift of £100 from Mr. Edward Brooke, J.P., the support of the editor of the “Huddersfield Daily Chronicle” was obtained. One of the last acts of Mr. George Harper — he died three days afterwards — was his consent to the opening of a subscription list in his paper for the building of a tower on Castle Hill.
The first list of subscriptions appeared in the issue for April 10th, the total amounting to £152 2s. 0d. An accompanying statement disavowed all hostility to the schemes adopted at the town’s meeting. At the end of the first week, notwithstanding it being Easter, the fund stood at £366 15s. 6d., and the “Chronicle” boldly claimed that the result justified the course which had been taken.
The £500 mark was passed at the end of the second week, largely assisted by a £100 cheque from Mr. T. J. Hirst, J.P. The first month’s total amounted to just over £800, which the “Chronicle” considered made it “positively certain” that a tower would be erected on Castle Hill. The “Daily Chronicle” Fund had to compete for public offerings against the official threefold celebrations fund, and the fact that over £1,000 was subscribed within six weeks was highly satisfactory.
The visionary stage having been passed, a meeting of subscribers was held in the George Hotel, Huddersfield, on May 28th. Mr. G. W. Tomlinson, the originator of the scheme, was elected chairman, and both a committee and trustees were appointed. Mr. Tomlinson informed the gathering that Sir John William Ramsden, Bart., Lord of the Manor of Huddersfield, had promised to give a site for the proposed tower on payment of ten shillings annually.
As a local historian Mr. Tomlinson was fully aware that a former attempt to erect a tower on Castle Hill had to be abandoned because of opposition from the Ramsden Estate. On this occasion Mr. Tomlinson made certain of Sir John’s approval before embarking on his proposal.
By Jubilee Day the Huddersfield public had subscribed £5,881 2s. 0d. to the official fund, as against £1,366 1s. 3d. to the “Chronicle’s” unofficial effort. After the local celebrations, which incidentally included the lighting of a bonfire on Castle Hill at the stroke of ten, interest was largely exhausted in the tower proposal.
Each morning the “Chronicle” still printed the full list of subscribers, but the total increased only by pounds, and finally shillings. The fund was closed on July 31st, and with subscriptions received afterwards the total realised was £1,426 18s. 3d. This was short of the £1,500 which the committee estimated would be required.
DEATH OF ORIGINATOR
Confident that the money would be forthcoming at a later stage, the committee advertised for competitive designs for the tower. Over a hundred architects and other persons in all parts of the country applied for particulars, and thirty submitted designs for the premium of twenty guineas offered for the one selected.
The conditions stipulated that the tower must be of stone, with random walling, and 100 feet in height. Provision had to be made for a caretaker’s dwelling within the building, and for a platform with three intermediate floors of iron girders and concrete, with a staircase 4 ft. 6 in. in width.
It was intended to make the prize award on August 24th, but instead the committee had the melancholy duty of attending the funeral of their beloved chairman. Mr. Tomlinson died on August 21st, aged sixty years. Born in a house near the building now serving as Heywoods departmental store in Market Street, his father, George Dodgson Tomlinson, was a noted local artist and painter. The son studied engineering and set up in business at Engine Bridge (Chapel Hill) as an ironfounder and machine maker.
G. W. Tomlinson was keenly interested in local history studies, and for many years undertook secretarial work for the Yorkshire Topographical and Archaeological Association. He was closely connected with the Huddersfield Parish Church and wrote about the history of the building in the “Parish Church Magazine.” His most important contribution to local history was an account of some of the leading families in the town first published in the “Huddersfield Daily Chronicle” and afterwards in book form.
Mr. Tomlinson was possessed of a strongly imaginative nature, and the idea of a permanent memorial of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee appealed to him with peculiar force. Although somewhat disappointed at the chilling reception at first accorded his idea, the response to his appeal through the “Chronicle” was what he fully expected.
The measure of respect in which George William Tomlinson was held by his fellow townsmen was shown within a few days of his death by Mr. John Arthur Brooke. In a letter enclosing a cheque for £100, Mr. Brooke stated that the best way to show respect for his memory was to bring the tower subscription fund up to the required amount.
Mr. Brooke’s cheque made the total £1,531 8s. 3d. and the fund was increased by other sums to its final figure of £1,567 18s. 5d. The committee decided to add to their number the names of Mr. J. A. Brooke and Mr. G. J. F. Tomlinson, a son of the late chairman, Mr. Brooke also being made a trustee.
The collection of designs for the Castle Hill tower was placed on view to the general public upon payment of threepence each, in Somerset Buildings, the premises set aside by Sir J. W. Ramsden for the Free Library and Art Gallery. The committee met on August 31st, elected Councillor Edward Brooke, the vice-chairman, into the vacant chairmanship, and then proceeded to select the six best designs.
The prize award was given to Mr. Isaac Jones, a London architect, and it was resolved to carry out the work in accordance with his plans. Sir J. W. Ramsden’s approval was at once sought for the winning design. Among the designs submitted was one from an inmate of the Workhouse, and the committee decided to send him a special letter of thanks.
When tenders were submitted for building the tower it was found they were considerably in excess of the committee’s funds. The figures were from £3,000 to £5,200, but by slightly altering the specifications a tender was obtained for £2,625. It was evident a further appeal would have to be made for subscriptions, this time on a wider and official basis.
Accordingly a meeting was summoned by the Mayor — now Ald. W. H. Jessop — and on February 25th, 1898, it was agreed to open a second subscription fund. Once again the “Daily Chronicle” offered to acknowledge the sums received in its columns, and a resolution of appreciation of the paper’s past services was carried. Letters were read from Coun. E. Brooke and Mr. J. A. Brooke offering to double their original subscriptions, and it was suggested other subscribers might consider doing likewise.
The first published list presented a total of £255 1s. 0d., and in order to rouse enthusiasm the “Chronicle” presented each reader with an art plate of the architect’s drawing of the tower. The accompanying description gave the comforting news that in times of national danger the tower would serve as a beacon, with a powerful light on the summit. By a strange irony of circumstances when the country was placed in jeopardy forty years later, it was feared the tower would serve as a landmark for enemy aircraft! Its demolition or camouflaging was urged upon the Town Council.
ROYAL AND MANORIAL APPROVAL
Subscriptions were steadily received for the new fund, and at the end of April work was commenced on the site at Castle Hill for the concrete foundation. The discovery was made of a shaft 5ft. Gin. square, hewn out of the solid rock, which penetrated to a considerable depth. Just in time for the corner stone laying ceremony, the Home Office informed the committee that the Queen had been graciously pleased to grant permission for the building to be henceforth called “Victoria Tower.”
No doubt Sir John William Ramsden recalled his own introduction to the Huddersfield tenantry nearly fifty years before, when he watched his son lay the corner stone of the Victoria Tower on June 25th, 1898. Sir John made his first visit to Huddersfield in 1851 when he laid the foundation stone of the new St. John’s Church at Birkby. Now his son and heir, John Frecheville Ramsden, was making his first public appearance at a similar function, the building being secular instead of religious.
The sun shone brilliantly from a cloudless sky and thousands of people gathered on all sides of Castle Hill to watch the brief ceremony. It really looked as if the editor of the “Huddersfield Chronicle” would be proved a true prophet, for he had written in the current issue: “The tower will stand out well and boldly, and be seen from all parts of the town. Every stranger will want to know its history and meaning. A pilgrimage to Castle Hill will be an absolute necessity for everyone in the future ... People will come from far and near to see it ... A famous landmark.”
Councillor Edward Brooke, chairman of the committee, invited his colleagues to meet Sir John and his son at luncheon at the Huddersfield Club, while the Mayor similarly entertained members of the Council at the Town Hall. Preceded by an escort of Yeomanry, the carriages containing the local dignitaries went in procession by way of Aspley, Somerset Road, through the village of Almondbury, and along Kaye Lane to the plateau. A procession on foot was formed at the Castle Hill Hotel, with the Mayor wearing his chain of office, accompanied by the mace bearer, Council members, and subscribers.
IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
The proceedings commenced with the Volunteer Band playing the late Bishop of Wakefield’s Jubilee hymn, which was sung with much heartiness. The venerable Vicar of Farnley Tyas, the Rev. Cutfield Wardroper, M.A., next offered three prayers, the last having special reference to the tower.
A silver trowel, with ivory handle, and suitably inscribed, was presented to Mr. J. F. Ramsden by the committee and subscribers, and he received a mallet of ivory from the contractors, Messrs. B. Graham and Sons. Under the stone was placed a sealed leaden casket containing current local newspapers and special references to the afternoon’s ceremony. Having declared the stone well and truly laid, Mr. Ramsden briefly expressed thanks for the gifts.
There was loud applause when in proposing a vote of thanks to the young Ramsden heir, the Mayor referred to the big part played by the “Huddersfield Daily Chronicle” in making the ceremony possible. Only the courage of its promoters and the public spirit of local people had made the building of the tower an actuality. It was appropriate that the son of the originator, Mr. G. J. F. Tomlinson, seconded the vote.
In his reply, Mr. Ramsden made reference to the prosperity of the country during the Queen’s record reign. He believed that when completed the tower would prove an ornament to the town. “It will stand fast for centuries to come as an enduring memorial of the loyalty of the people of Huddersfield to our gracious Queen.”
Mr. Ramsden’s father also praised the Queen. Commenting on his son’s first local appearance, Sir John emphasised the fact that the friendship with those who would share his future life must be close and intimate. The ceremony concluded with the singing of the National Anthem and three cheers for the Queen. Almondbury Brass Band remained on the hill and entertained those who visited the site during the remainder of the afternoon and throughout the evening. Sir John Ramsden invited a large number of guests to afternoon tea at Longley Hall, with music by the Volunteer Band.
It was a profound shock to everyone in Huddersfield when just a month after the corner stone laying ceremony, Coun. Edward Brooke committed suicide by walking into the River Clyde near Renfrew Ferry. Aged sixty-eight years, Mr. Brooke was the son of “Squire” Brooke, owner of the fireclay works at Fieldhouse. When the firm was merged into the Leeds Fireclay Company, Mr. Edward Brooke joined the board as a director. Mr. Brooke was a member of the first Huddersfield School Board and was elected to the Town Council as one of the members for the Central Ward on May 4th, 1897. He was an able geologist.
Mr. John Arthur Brooke was the choice as the third chairman, and Mr. N. Jagger and Mr. Legh Tolson joined the committee. When a visit to the site was made on September 7th, the tower had reached a height of fifty feet — half its actual projected elevation. A notable contribution to the second subscription list about this time was the sum of one hundred guineas by Messrs. Bentley and Shaw, Ltd., of Lockwood Brewery.
The famous firm of Read Holliday and Sons, Ltd., promised to give an acetylene gas engine and apparatus for lighting the tower, signalling, etc. The last stone was placed in position before the close of 1898, and on January 2nd, in the New Year the workmen were entertained to a rearing supper at the Albion Hotel, Buxton Road.
FULFILMENT OF A DREAM
It was decided not to wait until the official ceremony but to open the tower in time for the Easter holidays. The weather was decidedly unpropitious for the informal opening on Saturday, March 25th, 1899, and only a few enthusiasts were present. It was with difficulty they were able to make their way to the hill top against the strong wind, with sleet and snow.
Mr. I. Hordern, the treasurer, recalled the heavy losses sustained by the committee during its short existence, and expressed a wish that the completed tower would long remain a centre of attraction. There were few visitors on that wild afternoon, but the following Easter week-end hundreds of people visited the site. At times there was a crush at the entrance to the tower.
The Right Honourable the Earl of Scarbrough, Lord-Lieutenant of the West Riding, was the official opener of the Victoria Tower on Saturday, June 24th, 1899, a year following the laying of the corner stone. From the first statement of accounts published during the middle of 1900, it was revealed that the subscriptions totalled £2,507 Is. 5d.
The second appeal to the public therefore brought in £939 3s. 0d. The contractors were paid £2,797 12s. 4d. Isaac Jones, the architect, received £60 7s. 0d., while Messrs. Abbey and Hanson, architects and surveyors, of Huddersfield, were paid £78 for superintendence of the work by Mr. John Haigh, a member of their staff.
The total expenditure in connection with the erection of the Victoria Tower was £3,120 5s. 5d. From the date of the first opening to June 24th, 1900, a total of 29,17*6 persons paid £242 0s. 4d. for the privilege of making the ascent of the tower. The wages of the caretaker during this period were £34 6s. 0d. A sum of £380 19s. 7d. was owing to the bank on June 30th, 1900.
Fine weather favoured the official opening, but a strong wind was blowing at the top of Castle Hill. In the town the Parish Church bells were rung for about an hour, and there was a public luncheon at the George Hotel attended by the Earl of Scarbrough. The Lord-Lieutenant visited Huddersfield in his capacity as the direct representative of the Queen. Once again there was a procession of carriages to Castle Hill, that of the noble Earl being drawn by four horses and postilions in livery.
PRAISE FROM THE HEIGHTS
A new terraced path had been constructed from Kaye Lane on the Hall Bower side of the hill, which enabled visitors to make the final ascent in comparative comfort and ease. It was estimated that fully 20,000 persons were assembled at different vantage points, and they presented a magnificent sight from the top of the tower.
Every religious “denomination in Huddersfield had been invited to make up the choir under the conductorship of Mr. Arthur Pearson, the borough organist. Accompanied by the Volunteer Band the proceedings opened with the hymn “O King of Kings,” sung to Sir Arthur Sullivan’s tune “Bishopgarth.” Prayers were offered by the Vicar of Farnley Tyas.
The Earl of Scarbrough made an effort to open the entrance door of the Victoria Tower with the gold key presented to him by Mr. J. A. Brooke, but it failed to perform its duty. There was a short delay until the ordinary key could be found, but at last shelter was obtained from the half a gale of wind which was blowing. His Lordship and the members of the committee ascended to the turret, where the Union Jack was unfurled. The guard of honour gave a salute and the band played “Rule, Britannia.”
In the meantime a selected choir of sixty male voices had assembled on the very top of the tower, and gave a splendid rendering of “Here’s life and health to England’s Queen.” The composer, a Bradford man named Hollingworth, was present, and later congratulated the singers. Unfortunately the wind destroyed the effect of the singing for most of the listeners.
In the entrance hall of the tower a large commemorative tablet had been affixed to the wall. The inscription was enclosed in an ornamental border with the Yorkshire rose at each corner, and the lettering nicely coloured in black and red. The speeches were confined to a vote of thanks to Lord Scarbrough. After the opening Almondbury Brass Band played selections until eight o’clock.
The Victoria Tower rises to a height of 106 feet, the highest point of public access being 100 feet. Castle Hill itself is 900 feet above sea level. The style favours the 15th century, but is of no very pronounced type. The tower is solidly built of Crosland Hill stone, on virgin rock which was found to be 16 feet below the surface. In the architect’s original design the building was square-topped. The addition of the turret was in accordance with the desire of the ground landlord, in order that it might break the “plainness” of the top.
The slight sinking which cracked some of the stones over the windows before building was completed, was caused through the uncovering of the ancient shaft on part of the site. This was subsequently filled in and stated to have been made secure. Unfortunately in later years further subsidence took place and cracks developed on the south wall.
The principal entrance is on the ground floor, which is approached by a short flight of steps. Inside the tower the stairs ascend in short flights to the different landings, and are enclosed by walls and windows. From the fourth floor the summit can be reached by climbing the turret stairs.
Excellent viewpoints are obtained from the windows at the different stages of ascent, with seats provided at convenient positions. The charge for admission to the tower was twopence each person, and one penny for use of the telescope. For a number of years a signal gun was fired at sunset from the tower.
Not long after the opening of the Victoria Tower it was the scene of its first — and happily only — tragedy. Mr. Edgar North, thirty-five-year-old cashier and general manager, was killed by falling a distance of 104 feet from the top of the turret.
Mr. North called at the Castle Hill Hotel on the afternoon of November 14th, 1899, and enjoyed two beers and three whiskies — “specials” at threepence each — before deciding to make an ascent of the tower. The evidence at the inquest pointed to an accident and not suicide, and a recommendation was made that the northwest side of the turret should be fenced to prevent any possibility of a similar mishap.
FREE FROM DEBT
The Victoria Tower Committee assembled for the last time on June 26th, 1900, prior to handing over the building to the trustees. The secretary reported that already during the current season upwards of 5,000 persons had paid for admission. Since the opening the number of visitors was nearly 30,000, which the committee regarded as “Very satisfactory.”
Instructions were given for the placing of the previously ordered “toposcope” on the summit of the tower. This would give the exact direction of York Minster and numerous other nearer landmarks, and enable them to be observed by visitors through the telescope.
The trustees held their first meeting on July 24th, when Mr. Robert Welsh, who had been the honorary secretary of the former committee, was presented with a timepiece. In accordance with the trust deed the statement of receipts and payments was published in the “Huddersfield Chronicle” annually. This paper ended its existence in 1916, and the part which it played in the erection of the Victoria Tower is now completely forgotten.
The other local newspaper, the “Huddersfield Examiner,” gave the “unofficial” project “scant attention.” Its proprietor and editor, although a former Mayor and member of Parliament, is not known to have been a subscriber.
A determined effort was made by the trustees during 1907 to pay off the debt on the tower, and special gifts were obtained for this purpose. The annual meeting on August 25th, 1908, disclosed that the object had been accomplished, and for the first time there was a small balance in hand.
The tower continued to be open each year throughout the summer months, with its affairs regulated by the trustees. The first European War brought about a suspension of many activities, and there were few visitors to Castle Hill during those years. Following the purchase of the Ramsden Estate by the Huddersfield Corporation, the trustees asked the newly-formed Estate Committee in 1921 if it would take over control of the Victoria Tower. The answer was “No.”
REPAIRS IN HAND
The last of the trustees died in 1935, and this time the Finance Committee of the Town Council was asked to take over. The members resolved that the Estate Committee should be recommended to assume responsibility. Approval was forthcoming on September 30th, 1935. Shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939, the Victoria Tower was closed to the public and taken over by the Home Guard. Later it became the headquarters of the Huddersfield Raid Spotters’ Association.
Two bombs were dropped at Hall Bower on the night of August 29th, 1940, and made a crater a short distance from the tower. Because of wanton damage during the war years and the impossibility of undertaking repairs, the Town Council decided to close the Victoria Tower at its meeting on December 3rd, 1947. A steel door was placed at the entrance, and with all its windows broken the tower appeared forlorn and derelict, and certainly a long way from being a “Royal” building.
Following the annual inspection of its properties by the Estate and Property Management Committee on July 30th, 1956, the borough engineer was asked to submit a report on the state of the Victoria Tower. The official reported that no further subsidence was likely to take place, and recommended the repair of the tower. The borough architect and planning officer was invited to submit tenders for the repair of windows and new windows. Finally on September 26th, 1957, the Finance Committee approved repairs to the stonework and windows at an estimated cost of £1,380 A further sum of £4,500 was needed for cementation work on April 21st, 1958.
Castle Hill had a place in Huddersfield history centuries before the building of the Victoria Tower. H.M. Office of Works decided on March 30th, 1925, that the earthworks on the hill were a monument of national importance, and the site was included in the list of Ancient Monuments.
The Yorkshire Archaeological Society received permission in 1939 to carry out excavations, and these were undertaken under the direction of Mr. W. J. Varley, then of Liverpool University. The war prevented the work being continued the following year, but the excavations were resumed during 1947 and also 1948.
The “discoveries” included a Brigantine roadway, the oldest house, a Norman dungeon and torture chamber, and a rich haul of pottery. Whether Henry de Laci (1147-87) built the first castle and in whose reign it was demolished, has not yet been settled by the archaeologists.
The Gothic tower planned by a company of shareholders in 1848 was, as previously stated, abandoned because of opposition from the Ramsden Estate agent. During discussions (1852) on a suitable local memorial to the late Sir Robert Peel, consideration was given to the erection of either an obelisk or a Peel Tower on Castle Hill. It was perhaps unfortunate that the statue of Sir Robert finally found a resting place in St. George’s Square, for he would at least have been safe from the road traffic planners at Castle Hill!
Nothing came of the proposal made during June, 1909, for using the Victoria Tower as a meteorological station. A friend of Mr. J. A. Brooke, of Fenay Hall, offered to provide the necessary instruments at a cost of from £100 to £150, the only extra expense being the remuneration of the tower keeper for taking records.
DANGER AND REJOICING
Down the years Castle Hill has been a prominent site for beacons and bonfires. The Victoria Tower actually stands on Beacon Hill. It is said that a beacon was lit on the hill at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588. When Napoleon Bonaparte threatened this country with invasion in 1807, a beacon light was kindled every night at about six o’clock. During the industrial unrest of 1820, the lighting of a beacon on Castle Hill was to have been the signal for a general uprising in Huddersfield and neighbouring towns.
The bonfires on Castle Hill have been part of the local celebrations on occasions of national rejoicings. The victory at the Battle of Alma during the Crimean War only produced a brace of tar barrels, but for the Queen’s Jubilee (1887) the huge fire blazed for two nights. Thousands of people attended, and the adjacent grounds were covered with all the paraphernalia of a fair — shows, roundabouts, swings and shooting galleries. The diamond jubilee bonfire (1897) was on a much reduced scale.
At the postponed Coronation celebrations of King Edward VII (1902) a Royal Salute of twenty-one guns was fired from the Victoria Tower, followed by a display of fireworks. Miss Beadon, daughter of Colonel F. W. Beadon, Sir J. W. Ramsden’s agent, set alight the bonfire to mark the Coronation of King George V.
Their Majesties Silver Jubilee on May 6th, 1935, was an occasion for nation-wide rejoicings. The Castle Hill bonfire formed part of a national chain of beacons. It was built by members of the local Boy Scouts’ Association, and the Mayor performed the lighting ceremony. For the first time the Victoria Tower was floodlit at night and acquired a new beauty. The Coronation of King George VI on May 12th, 1937, again provided the Scouts with plenty of work.
The VJ-Day bonfire on August 15th, 1945, was built at short notice, but proved a big attraction. Although rain stopped the firework display in Greenhead Park on the evening of the Coronation of our present Queen (June 2nd, 1953), the Mayor lighted the bonfire on Castle Hill at 10 p.m. as arranged. For a number of years students of the Huddersfield Technical College organised a torchlight procession and bonfire each November 5th, but this event has been discontinued because of the damage caused to property by some of the revellers.
THE INN REMAINS
The present “very commodious” Castle Hill Hotel, with its square tower and castellated battlements, was completed during March, 1854. Originally the grounds were laid out as pleasure gardens, complete with bowling green. Both have long since disappeared.
In 1931 the landlord of the Castle Hill Hotel applied at the adjourned Brewster Sessions for the removal of the licence to Fieldhead, Quarmby, but the magistrates refused their consent. For many years a separate Castle Hill Temperance Hotel catered for visitors.
Chartists, secularists, weavers on strike, and prize fighters have all held demonstrations on Castle Hill. Charles Bradlaugh (“Iconoclast”) and George Jacob Holyoake were speakers at freethought gatherings held on Sundays. Good Friday “pilgrimages” have been organised since 1947 by a local Congregational minister, with a short service held at the base of the tower.
A new “toposcope” was presented to the Huddersfield Corporation in 1935 by a Scottish lady named Miss F. M. Clough, and it was erected on a stone pedestal a short distance from the tower on the Huddersfield side. The toposcope, a circular bronze plate, 2 ft. 9 ins. in diameter, was removed during the invasion scare of the last war.
After being refixed in 1946 the plate was damaged and ripped off the pedestal by some unknown person. It is now in the safe keeping of the Estate and Property Manager, but of what use a toposcope is away from the site where it acts as an indicator to the different landmarks, is a civic secret!
The present restoration should be completed in time for the Victoria Diamond Jubilee Tower to celebrate its own Diamond Jubilee in 1959. With so many other attractions competing for leisure moments, it is doubtful whether a visit to Castle Hill and ascent of the Victoria Tower will ever recapture its old appeal. Those who do climb the south-east heights of Huddersfield will still be rewarded on a clear day with one of the most imposing and panoramic views in the West Riding.
Queen Victoria’s long reign assumes rather a different aspect today than it did to her devoted subjects. The Victoria Tower, however, is a perpetual reminder to Huddersfield people that their town grew from a little village to a large industrial community while the Queen was on the throne.
The tower is also a memorial to a townsman who was not afraid to pursue an unpopular path, and of a local newspaper which gave generous support “without strings.” Perhaps a future generation will find cause to salute the reign of a Queen with a landmark as prominent and enduring as the Victoria Tower.