University of Huddersfield History

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University of Huddersfield History

The University of Huddersfield (informally Huddersfield University) is a public university located in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England.

History

The present University of Huddersfield can trace its history back through several predecessor institutions.

An early failure (1825)

In 1825 there was an attempt to set up a Scientific and Mechanics Institution in the town. Supported by a group of donors, its patron was leading Whig and large local landowner Sir John Ramsden. Its aims were to instruct local mechanics and tradesmen in scientific principles relating to their work, through lectures and a circulation library, which by 1827 contained over 700 volumes. The financial crisis of 1825–1826 led to the failure of the institution’s bankers, and it faltered and later became part of the Huddersfield Philosophical Society, an organisation with which its rules now more closely aligned. Some 19th century students earned qualifications as external students of the University of London.

Young Men’s Mental Improvement Society (1841–1843)

The history of the University is usually traced to 1841. It was in that year that five young men who were employed by local industrialist Frederic Schwann,[5] who had been born in Frankfurt, approached their employer for support in establishing a new subscription library and some elementary educational classes, ‘to supply in some cases the deficiency of early instruction, and to procure for others the means of further improvement’.[6] They first met in the Temperance Hotel, Cross Church Street, Huddersfield in May 1841. Classes began for the first 40 or so pupils in the room of the British School at Outcote Bank, and were taught by experienced staff from the local Collegiate Schools and businessmen like Schwann. A subscription library was founded, and classes were delivered in Reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, design and French.

Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institution (1844–1883)

The increase in student numbers prompted a move to Nelson’s Buildings in New Street, and the renaming of the institution to more closely reflect its remit. The first Secretary, Robert Neil, was appointed in 1844, and acted not just as a Secretary but as a teacher-supervisor, influencing the formative development of the organisation. In March 1844 he organised an Soiree (tea-party) for 700 at the town’s Philosophical Hall, and in May a Rural Gala for 500 at Fixby Pastures. Negotiations with the local railway company led to reduced fares into York for 300 membership to enjoy the cultural opportunities of the city.[7] In 1846, Neil was succeeded by George Searle Phillips, who was described by historian John O’Connell as ‘philosopher, propagandist and missionary’ of the institution. He oversaw expansion of the curriculum, revision of the fee system to make the institution self-supporting, the visitation of absent students and the compilation of statistics of the institution’s achievements.