Meltham Female Educational Institute

The Meltham Female Educational Institute is believed to have been established at the same time as the men's Meltham Mechanics' Institute, which was in existence by 1848.

Only a handful of newspaper references to the institute were located during research, but they indicate that classes were taught in the subjects of reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar and history. However, there are no references to domestic subjects such as sewing or dressmaking, which were typically encouraged at other female institutes and this perhaps suggests the Meltham institute had more of a parity with the separate men's institute.

An annual soirée was held on Monday 20 April 1851 in the National School Rooms, "when about 200 friends sat down, and did ample justice to a sumptuous tea". Afterwards, they were entertained by several singers, including the noted soprano Mrs. Sunderland.[1]

The 1851 annual festival was held on 15 May in the Oddfellows' Hall with around 200 people in attendance. At that time, the president of the institute was the Rev. Joseph Hughes of Meltham. The secretary, James Fred Eastwood, reported that membership had decreased from 48 to 36 during the year, although it was noted that five of the women had moved away from the village, one had died, and two had been married. The library contained 169 volumes and the treasurer's balance in hand was £16.[2]

In May 1854, three young boys — Joseph Eastwood (aged 9), Reuben Eastwood (13) and Benjamin Taylor (12) — were brought before Huddersfield magistrates charged with stealing 9s. 6d., "property of the Female Educational Institute", which had been taken from the school room desk. It was stated that Taylor had a key to the desk. The magistrates sentenced Taylor to 3 months at Wakefield and Reuben Eastwood to 1 month, with each to receive "a good flogging".[3]

In 1865, J. W. Carlile reported average the attendance was 40 pupils, compared to 48 for the men's institute.

The institute was still in existence in October 1873, when the classes were taught in the Meltham church school rooms on three evenings per week.[4]

Notes and References

  1. "Meltham Female Educational Institute" in Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Apr/1851).
  2. "Meltham: Annual Festival of the Female Institute" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/May/1852).
  3. "Meltham: The Schoolmaster Abroad" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (06/May/1854).
  4. "The Meltham Mechanics' Institute" in Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Oct/1873).