Superlative WalksUrban and rural trails, each with something very special
This walk around the centre of the market town of Huddersfield visits the sites some splendid Victorian architecture, and a canalside walk. Huddersfield, population 162,000, is known for its role in the Industrial Revolution, and for being the birthplaces of rugby league, British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and the international film star James Mason. Huddersfield is a town of Victorian architecture, its development was hugely influenced by the Ramsden family, who purchased the Manor of Huddersfield in 1599. The family increased their holdings in the town until 1920, when they sold to the Corporation of Huddersfield.
1. The walk starts at the Railway Station.
Designed by the architect James Pigott Pritchett using the neo-classical style, the station is well known in architectural circles for its classical-style facade, with a portico of the Corinthian order, consisting of six columns in width and two in depth, which dominates St George’s Square. It faces out towards Lion Buildings. It is a grade I listed building. The station frontage was described by John Betjeman as the ‘most splendid in England’ and by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘one of the best early railway stations in England’. Neither of these comments counts as a superlative.
The station cat, Felix, joined the staff as a nine week old kitten in 2011. Since then she has patrolled the station to keep it free from rodents, and even has her own cat-flap to bypass the ticket barriers. In 2016 Felix was promoted to Senior Pest Controller and has her own hi-vis jacket and name badge. She has over 95,000 followers on Facebook. This is the greatest number of followers for any station cat’s Facebook page.
The statue of Harold Wilson was unveiled in 1999 by Tony Blair
2. From the Station walk east through St Georges Square towards John William St.
St George’s Square was created as part of the Ramsden’s family’s plans for a ‘new town” between 1846 and 1859. The Square has been re-modelled many times since then. Buildings of note round the square include The George Hotel – birthplace of the Rugby League in 1895, Lion Chambers, Britannia Buildings, Tites Building. To the right of the square on RailwaySt. Stand the Ramsden Estate Buildings (1872) by WH Crossland.
3. Turn right onto John William St and cross the road to the shop called Vinyl Tap .
Vinyl Tap rare record shop for record collecting, specialising in buying/selling rare collectables of CDs, vinyl, promos, hard to find out of date rarities and music memorabilia. It is the last independent high street record shop in Huddersfield. Vinyl Tap took a record amount for a seven-inch UK picture sleeve version of the punk band XTC’s Science Friction. The owner says says: “Apparently the band weren’t happy with it so it was withdrawn from sale. In 2009, we sold it for £4,500 to a Japanese guy. The 12-inch version is very common, but the seven-inch version with a picture sleeve is incredibly rare.”
4. Continue to the crossroads and turn right up St. Peter’s St. At the junction with Station St., turn left and at the next junction left again onto Westgate to find the entrance to the Byram Arcade.
A three-storey Victorian shopping arcade, built in1880, to a design by WH Crosland (who also designed Rochdale Town Hall) it is named, like nearby Byram Street and many other features of the town, after the Ramsden family seat of the of Byram near Ferrybridge, Yorkshire. The Arcade offers a variety of coffee and stops and independent retailers.
5. From Byram Arcade, turn left along Westgate, cross John William St and continue down Kirkgate to St. Peter’s Church on the left.
The church, like the railway station was designed by James Pigott Pritchett, and constructed between in 1834 and 1836. The church was built on the site of several earlier churches, dating back to the 11th Century. From 1759- 1771, Henry Venn, founder of the Clapham Sect, who campaigned against slavery, was the vicar. We think he was also the great-grandfather of the logician John Venn, but it would require a diagram to demonstrate this.
6. Return up Kirkgate to the crossroads with the Market Place to your left.
Huddersfield has been a market town since Anglo-Saxon times. Market rights were granted in 1671. The market cross, bearing the Ramsdens’ coat of arms is on Market Place and a number of notable Victorian buildings, now in commercial use, surround the square.
7. From the Market Place continue left along New Street to the crossroads with High St. and Ramsden St. to the Prudential Assurance Building on the corner, now a branch of Boots.
Built in 1898 and designed by Alfred Waterhouse, as one of several buildings for the Assurance Company, in their required red terracotta, it follows the Prudential House style in other respects. Note the terracotta statue of Prudentia by the prolific Scottish sculptor, William Birnie Rhind.
8. Turn left down Ramsden St. to the Town Hall on your right between Corporation St. and Peel St.
Huddersfield Town Hall was designed by John H. Abbey and built in two stages between 1875 and 1881. The first section opened on 26 June 1878, comprising the Mayor’s Parlour, Council Chamber, Reception Room and municipal offices including the Sanitary Inspector, Inspector of Weights and Measures, Medical Officer, Town Clerk, Borough Surveyor and the Rates Office. The second phase opened in October 1881 comprising the Magistrates’ Court and Concert Hall. The hall seats up to 1,200 people and hosts events ranging from classical to comedy and from choral to community events.
9. Continue down Ramsden St to the Library and Art Gallery which you will see ahead of you as the road bends left.
The Library and Art Gallery were built between 1937 and 1940, on the site of a congregational chapel. designed by EH Ashburner. The statues, on the steps are called “Youth awaiting inspiration” sculpted by James Woodford to represent the spirits of literature and art.
10. Continue past the Library, along the Piazza through the “Entrance to Queensgate Market and down the steps to Queen St. Turn left to The Lawrence Batley Theatre, 100 metres up the road on your right.
Originally built in 1819, as the Queen Street Wesleyan Chapel, for a time, it was the largest Methodist mission in the world. The architect was Joseph Kaye who also designed the town’s railway station. The building was vacated in 1970 and restored as a theatre in 1996, following a campaign supported by thespians including Prunella Scales, Patrick Stewart, Dame Judy Dench and Themla Barlow.
The project was supported by Lawrence Batley, a local businessman who founded “Batley’s Cash and Carry”. He claims to be the first to use the phrase and the concept of “cash and carry”.
11. Return along Queen St to the Queensgate Market, which is on Queensgate.
Queensgate Market, is a Grade 2 listed structure since 2005, with a bespoke roof system of curved shells is still lauded as a fine example of a 1960s retail market. The listing cites it as “an imaginative structure that combines innovative technology of its time to produce a dramatic space full of natural light with the striking focal point of the roof.” Queensgate Market provides us with a definite superlative: The external ceramic relief, by sculptor, Fritz Steller. 1969. “Articulation in Movement”, is deemed the world’s largest ceramic sculpture.
12. Cross Queensgate carefully at the traffic lights and head round the trees to St Paul’s Concert Hall
St Paul’s was built as a church in 1829 and converted in 1980, to a 400-seater concert hall. It was designed by John Oates (an architect from neighbouring Halifax) and by local stonemason Joseph Kaye.
13. To the south and west of St Paul’s is the University of Huddersfield
The University of Huddersfield has evolved from the purpose-built educational building which opened in 1883 as the Huddersfield Technical School and Mechanics’ Institution, which in turn had developed from Young Men’s Mental Improvement Society. It now has over 19,000 students registered. Prince Andrew is now the Chancellor of the University, having taken over from Sir Patrick Stewart. Huddersfield was “University of the Year in 2013”.
14. Across Queensgate from St. Paul’s, to the left of to the Zetland Pub, you will see the Hippodrome
This building, has been, since it was first opened in 1848: a riding shed, an armoury, a home for volunteer soldiers, a theatre, and a cinema. Following a fire in 1968 it was re-opened as a cinema until it closed in 1998, to become a pub and then a nightclub.
15. Make your way through the University, walking between modern buildings, with your back to St Pauls; pass the Lemn Sissay poem on a building on your left; enter the Schwann Building towards Heritage Quay then exit the building and go down steps to the canal. Cross the canal at the bridge and turn left to Aspley Basin, just through the Wakefield Road Bridge.
The Huddersfield Broad Canal, formerly the Sir John Ramsden Canal originally terrminated at Aspley Basin, which was developed in the 1780s as a transfer point for coal, lime, stone, timber, slates, corn, machinery and textiles, all these and more. In 1811 the Huddersfield narrow canal was opened running from the Basin under the Pennines, to Manchester.
16. Retrace your steps along the canal and leave the towpath at the second road bridge, Queen St. South. Turn left, right at Colne Rd and right onto Chapel Hill.
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal runs just under 20 miles (32 km) from Lock 1E near Aspley Basin in Huddersfield, to the junction with the Ashton Canal at Whitelands Basin in Ashton-under-Lyne. It crosses the Pennines by means of 74 locks and the Standedge Tunnel. The canal was mostly abandoned in 1944 and fully closed in 1963 After 27 years of campaigning and restoration the canal was fully re-opened to navigation in 2001 when it again became one of three Pennine crossings. The canal is now entirely used by leisure boaters.
17. Cross Chapel Hill and ascend to the ring road, noting the former Co-op building on the far side of the Ring Road, cross Manchester Rd. At the crossing of Manchester Rd you will see the façade of the former Grand Picture House, incorporated into the Lidl building. Before LIdl this was Ivanhoe’s nightclub.
Ivanhoe’s night club is the former Huddersfield Grand Picture Theatre, which opened as a cinema in 1921 which closed in 1957, and was turned into a nightclub. On Christmas Day in 1977, the club hosted the Sex Pistols’ last ever UK gig.
18. At the side of the Lidl store find the pillar with a plaque to Sir Walter Parratt
Note the plaque to Sir Walter Parratt a distinguished organist and Master of the Queen’s Musick (sic) to Queen Victoria. He became one of the foremost organ teachers of his day and was president of the Royal College of Organists. Parratt was also a distinguished chess player, and was able to simultaneously play chess and a complex organ piece—at first sight. We consider this to be unique, but not necessarily superlative.
19. Continue along the ring road and take the second left, Outcote Bank, and then first right into Prospect St. Pass the Sikh Temple on the left and at the end of prospect St cut through the housing estate to find Spring Grove Junior and Infant School on Water Street
This remarkable primary school was claimed, in a book written by its head teacher, Trevor Burgin, to be the first school in England in which immigrants made up more than half the total pupils. Today the school has an Ofsted “Outstanding” classification.
20. Continue up Water St. and cross Springwood Avenue to find Springwood Mill, the former site of Conacher Organ Works, now converted into flats.
Conacher and Co. started trading in 1854, building and maintaining organs. When the new Springwood Organ Works was in 1873, it was said to be “the largest and best equipped in England”. The firm continues to trade, concentrating on the conservation and restoration of pipe organs, harmoniums and reed organs. Note the two giant ventilation shafts for the railway that runs underneath this area. They were built as an outlet for the smoke from steam trains from the early days of rail.
21. Continue up Water Street, noting the former Water Works on the left to its junction with Spring Street and turn right. Follow Spring St to the Punjab Stores on the corner with Old St.
This is the first Asian to be open in Huddersfield. In 1963, Abdul Rashid Chowdry, a recent immigrant opened the shop, which still trades, and is run by descendants of the founder.