Yorkshire Post (24/Oct/1919) - Huddersfield's Great Project: Scheme to Buy the Ramsden Estate

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.




Owing to a premature and inaccurate announcement as to the purchase by the Huddersfield Corporation of the Ramsden estate, which comprises practically all the centre and older part of the town, there is serious danger, we are informed, of the negotiations breaking down. Every effort possible will be made to prevent this unfortunate occurrence, as it is believed that the acquisition of the famous property would in time to come bring great benefits to the thriving and growing population of Huddersfield, and enable the Corporation to make notable developments on behalf of the citizens. The estate, which is owned by Sir John F. Ramsden, covers a large area, representing the most important and valuable business part of the town, and its leasehold rents are understood to amount to nearly £180,000 yearly.

Though we are unable to state precisely the purchase price which is under discussion, it is stated on good authority that the figure is well over a million sterling. The point is, however, that the negotiations are still incomplete, and the price has not yet been agreed upon. There was good ground for hoping that the outstanding difference, a comparatively small sum, would be adjusted, and the preliminary agreement signed within a few days, if nothing happened to establish a new point of view on one side or the other. Moreover, the Corporation, for obvious reasons, were not officially in the: deal, which was being conducted informally by a public-spirited committee of three, consisting of the Mayor (Alderman C. Smith), Councillor Wilfred Dawson, of the well-known firm of Messrs. F. W. Bentley and Co., stockbrokers, and Alderman E. Woodhead, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Corporation, and editor of "The Huddersfield Examiner."

A "Third Party."

No other member of the Corporation was made aware of what was going on, and the only additional persons in the confidence of the Committee were a few high officials of the Corporation whose technical assistance was necessary, These three gentlemen conducted their negotiations with a third party, who was to buy the estate, ostensibly for himself as a private speculation, with a view to re-sale to the Corporation. If the Town Council refused to purchase or Parliament declined to grant the necessary powers, this gentleman, so it is said, agreed to keep the estate in his own hands. Now that the negotiations are made public, there can be no harm in stating that the intermediary is Mr. S. W. Copley, a former Huddersfield man, who made a fortune in Australia some years ago, and now lives in London, and is chairman of directors of the Western Australian Insurance Company (Ltd.), besides being closely identified with several other undertakings. Some time ago he bought a large block of property in Huddersfield, near the railway station, known as the Lion Arcade, and by his subsequent re-sale he is reputed to have made a very substantial profit.

How far, if at all, Sir John F. Ramsden and those acting for him were aware that the individuals acting unofficially for the Corporation were behind Mr. Copley is not altogether clear; but the fact that Alderman Woodhead and another person in the confidence of the Committee informed our representative yesterday that they are in grave fear lest, because of the disclosures, the negotiations would now be entirely broken off seems to suggest that the real situation was not altogether clear to the intending vendor. Seen by our representative, Colonel F. W. Beadon, agent for the estate, appeared to be very angry about the matter. "I can tell you nothing," he said, emphatically. "And, as a servant of tho Ramsden family for 34 years, I may be expected to await a letter of information from Sir John Ramsden before I ray anything." Alderman Woodhead also expressed indignation at the possible rupture of the plan to benefit Huddersfield, but said he would not give up hope that the negotiations might yet be brought to a successful climax. "I greatly regret," he added, "that an incorrect and premature announcement has been made. Negotiations were coming to a head during the present week, and it was exceedingly important that nothing should get into the Press. That was the sole reason why I kept silent." The Town Clerk in the course of the day, issued a statement that " The Corporation have neither purchased nor considered the purchase of the estate," and this is no doubt strictly true.

Huddersfield's Future Expansion.

A great deal of the central and eastern portion of the town, comprising most of the principal streets, is included in the estate, and it has often been said that Huddersfield is practically owned by one man. The population of the place at tho census of 1911 was 107,821, and at a recent housing inquiry the borough engineer said the town was a very large area for the percentage of inhabitants. It contains 11,870 acres, of which 3,150 are partially built upon, leaving 8,720 acres to be developed. He estimated the present population at 119,266, and that at the present rate of increase it would reach 224,048 fifty years hence, this without allowing for the difference caused by certain large enterprises which had been started during the past few years. He also believes that some 8,500 acres will be opened up for building purposes during the next half century, and that 20,778 more houses will be required. For the accommodation of the families of persons employed at various industrial works 3,600 houses will be necessary in the near future.

The estate of Sir J. F. Ramsden, who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1914, and is known as a keen sportsman, comprises about 150,000 acres, of which 8,589 acres are in Yorkshire. It includes Muncaster Castle and estate, in Cumberland. In February he presented to Huddersfield 1,500 square yards of land at the northern end of the Parish Church graveyard, as a site for a public library and art gallery, to serve as a memorial to soldiers and sailors who have fallen in the war. The manor of Huddersfield was sold by the Crown to William Ramsden, ancestor of the present ground landlord, in 1599, for the sum of £975. Three hundred years ago the yearly value of Huddersfield is supposed to have been less than £25. Now, as we have stated, the yearly ground rents are said to amount to something like £180,000. The whole of the land in the old township, with the exception of a small plot in Firth Street, is the property of Sir J. F. Ramsden. A story is told of the present baronet's father, that he was so anxious to buy the one remaining house not included in his estate that ho offered to cover the site with sovereigns. But the owner, a Quaker and a keen Yorkshireman, wanted the sovereigns to be laid on their edges, with the result that the purchase did not take place.