Mechanics' Institutes

Mechanics' Institutes — sometimes branded as Technical Institutes — were educational establishments typically formed to provide education to working adults, often in technical subjects.

The University of Huddersfield began as a Young Men's Mental Improvement Society[1] in 1841 before becoming the Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute in August 1843.

Although most institutes made use of existing meeting rooms or school rooms to provide their evening classes, a few were able to erect their own dedicated building, often with the support of a local benefactor. In many cases, the establishments were financially supported by local industrialists on the basis that they would benefit from an educated workforce.

Most establishments also provided a small library with book and journals, which students could usually borrow, and also a reading room stocked with a selection of recent newspapers. Members of the public were often able to make use of the library or reading room on payment of a regular free.

The majority of establishments were initially for working men only, although a small number later provided separate lessons for women. The founding of the Huddersfield Female Educational Institute in 1846 increased pressure on the existing institutes to provide classes for women.

A feature of many of the institutes was a season of lectures.

Many of the dedicated buildings still exist and some continue to be used for education, as libraries, or as community buildings.

Local Mechanics' Institutes

According to Hudson's The History of Adult Education (published 1851), the following were in existence in the Huddersfield area:

name members volumes in library annual issues pupils in classes secretary
Almondbury Mechanics' Institute 30 420 400 20 R. Field
Austonley Scientific Society 35 J. Beardsal
Berry Brow Mechanics' Institute 30
Dogley Lane Mechanics' Institute 60 260 973 25 W. Whitehead
Farnley Tyas Mechanics' Institute 51 150 728 62 J. Eastwood
Holmfirth Mechanics' Institute 150 700 2000 70 S. Wimpenny
Honley Mechanics' Institute 137 545 2774 60 J. Lockwood
Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute 887 1800 14000 650 G.S. Philips
Huddersfield Female Educational Institute 140 500 300 97 W. Nelson
Huddersfield Philosophical Institute 250 1850 5470 W. Thompson
Kirkburton Mechanics' Institute 70 320 500 69 A. Hargreaves
Kirkheaton Mechanics' Institute 40 840 2400 20 J. Dyson
Lindley Mechanics' Institute 94 220 320 50 J. Crosland
Lockwood Mechanics' Institute 63 293 719 25 J. Ashton
Longwood Mechanics' Institute 80 250 1035 60 D. Smith
Marsden Mechanics' Institute 150 1100 2500 30 J.B. Robinson
Meltham Mechanics' Institute 151 178 767 80 J. Garlick
Meltham Mills Mechanics' Institute 62 122 200 41 J. Heywood
Netherton Mechanics' Institute 75 323 669 20 G. Dyson
Slaithwaite Mechanics' Institute

The following were listed in The Literary and Educational Year Book for 1859:

Almondbury Mechanics' Institute
Crosland Moor Mechanics' Institute
Dogley Lane Mechanics' Institute
Hepworth Mechanics' Institute
Holmfirth Mechanics' Institute
Honley Mechanics' Institute
Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute
Huddersfield Female Institute
Huddersfield Philosophical Institute
Lockwood Mechanics' Institute
Marsden Mechanics' Institute
Meltham Mechanics' Institute
Netherton Mechanics' Institute
Shelley Mechanics' Institute

Notes and References

  1. The Huddersfield Young Men's Mental Improvement Society was formed as a mutual improvement society.