The Meltham Mechanics' Institute was in existence by 1848, together with a companion Meltham Female Educational Institute.
A separate Mechanics' Institute was established at Meltham Mills circa 1849.
An anniversary soirée was held on 5 January 1849, chaired by the institute's president cotton-spinner Joshua Eastwood, when "between 200 and 300 persons partook of an excellent tea".
On 31 October 1850, Thomas Mitchell created "a disturbance" at the institute during a lecture given by Sidney Jeanes entitled "The Rise, Origin, and Process of Natural Language". Mitchell was required to pay a £1 fine, print an apology in the local newspaper, and to promise "never to disturb the Institution any more"!
By 1851, the average attendance at the evening classes was around 50, with a total of around 130 members on the institute's books. The library contained around 220 volumes, with a circulation of around 30 volumes per week.
In February 1853, a suggestion to rename the institute to the "Meltham and Meltham Mills Mechanics' Institute" was rejected. However, there was agreement to "establish a reading-room in connection with the institution".
The anniversary meeting held at the Oddfellows' Hall in April 1854 was marred when the incumbent of Meltham, Rev. Joseph Hughes, took exception to comments made by the Wesleyan minister Rev. Gervase Smith of Buxton Road Chapel, Huddersfield. The Rev. Smith was required to leave the meeting, and "many more [attendees] left the meeting at the same time".
At the 1856 annual soirée — chaired by the institute's president, James W. Carlile — it was noted that the membership had declined from 149 to 110, which was blamed on "the trade in the village being much depressed, and the high price of provisions". The institute's balance in hand was recorded as £19 10s. 4d.
During the 1860s and 1870s, classes were supervised by bookkeeper William Carter and cotton mill clerk George F. Hinchliffe.
Members of the institute formed a cricket club in June 1861.
By 1862, the president was Edward Brook of Bent House. At the annual meeting in January, the secretary Dan Holroyd reported that the institute's debt of £40 1s. 11d. from the previous year had been cleared and they now had a balance in hand of £2 11s. 2½d., that the total membership was 84 pupils and that the library now held 709 volumes.
At the 1865 annual soirée, the secretary Michael Firth reported that the balance in hand was £9 8s. 4½d. and the membership had increased from the previous year's 71 to 97 pupils. The average class attendance was reported as 48, compared to 40 for the women's institute. By 1866, the number of members had increased to 125 and the balance in had was £16 1s. 9d.
By 1867, the membership had decreased slightly to 121 and the balance in hand had dropped to £10 16s. 9½d. The annual report also noted that no separate lectures during the year, "in consequence of the lack of support" the institute had received compared to previous years. Membership increased over the subsequent year to reach 169 and the balance in hand was £22 8s. 6d.
At the 1868 anniversary meeting, thanks were given to the institute's president, Edward Brook, for refurbishing the rooms and providing entertainments such as chess and draughts sets for use by the members. The report also noted that the committee were discussing the possibility of building a dedicated mechanics hall.
The 20th annual soirée took place on Saturday 6 February 1869, with around 180 people sitting down for tea at the Oddfellows' Hall. Membership had remained at 169, but the balance in hand had increased to £39 9s. It was also stated that both James W. Carlile and Edward Brook had "expressed their readiness to help in providing a new hall for education purposes in connection with the institute". During the year, 26 pupils sat the Yorkshire Board of Education exam, with 20 obtaining a certificate of merit.
The 1870 annual meeting was addressed by John Arthur Roebuck, who had been the M.P. for Sheffield fro 1849 until 1868. In his speech, Roebuck referred to Meltham as "The Happy Valley" and praised the fact that all religious denominations collaborated in the efforts of the institute.
At the 1872 annual soirée in March, secretary J. Shaw Rawcliffe reported that the library had over 700 volumes, that the number of members had dropped to 161 (compared to 176 in the previous year) and that the balance in hand had increased to £44 14s. 7d. By the following year, the balance in hand had increased to £51 19s. 7½d. and the subjects being taught were reading, writing, arithmetic, and dictation.
Charles Rayner's report to the 1874 annual general meeting reported that the balance in hand had decreased to £36 15s. 6½d, partly due to the expense of refurbishing the reading room. Among the new volumes added to the library were "Handy Book of Bees", "Doyle's Book of Poultry", "Piper's Book of Poultry", and "Wright's Poultry-Keeper and Model Dockyard". James W. Carlile was elected as the president for the coming year.
By 1880, the membership stood at 87 and classes were being taught in English grammar, shorthand, writing, arithmetic, and French.
In March 1888, the institute's president, Edward H. Carlile, held an event at his residence of Thickhollins Hall "for the purpose of wishing God-speed" to four on the members who were all leaving to start a new life aboard. Jim Dyson, Robert Mozeley, and Amos Taylor were going to New Zealand whilst Joe Dawson was going to America. Dyson had been the institute's librarian for four years and was presented with a silver pencil case and a purse of money.
The institute's former president, James W. Carlile built the Carlile Institute, which opened in 1891. Although not built specifically for the Meltham Mechanics' Institute, Carlile empowered the trustees to give a preferential lease of the classrooms to institute.
In 1894, the institute organised a series of four lectures on poultry farming which were given by Mr. H. Dibgy. The lectures were accompanied by "the aid of a magic lantern, under the careful manipulation of Mr. Armitage of Meltham".