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LONGWOOD

Name: Longwood Mechanics’ Institute
Address: Longwood Gate, Longwood, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire HD3 4UU
Institute established: 1844
Date of present building: 1858
Building Succession Number:  1. 1858; front porch 2008
Current use: Community
Land status: Freehold
Municipality: Kirklees

Social history

Longwood is located in West Yorkshire about 4km from Huddersfield. The Longwood Young Men’s Improvement Society was formed in the 1830s and met in the Huddersfield Temperance Coffee House. This group was renamed as the Longwood Mechanics’ Institute in 1844 and continued with meetings and educational activities in the Longwood Baptist Schoolroom. Following a meeting held in the Baptist Meeting House on 13 June 1857 chaired by the Rev. Charles Packer, the gathering, which comprised both members of the Institute and Longwood News Room, was informed that upwards of fifty scholars were being accommodated of an evening, but there were 65 males and 15 females on the list. It was then resolved that both the Institute and News Room jointly build a Mechanics’ Hall.

The sum of £160.10s was subscribed on the night and collectors were dispatched through the district to raise more. A further meeting on 26 June resolved to construct a building on land leased from Sir Joseph Radcliffe. A subscription list was drawn up and the two storey building of ‘coursed, squared rubble with ashlar dressings and a stone slate roof’ was to be constructed and the foundation stone was laid on 30 September 1857. The Institute ‘of plain and substantial character’ likened to a ‘non-conformist chapel’ was officially opened by benefactor Lieutenant Colonel Edward Akroyd MP on 6 October 1858 at a cost of around £750. As well as classrooms, a school room, a concert hall and reading room, the building incorporated two cottages for the use of the caretaker and schoolmaster respectively.

Each year industrial chemist David Dawson (1808-84), the Milnsbridge Poet, delivered ‘a rhyming description of the past and present history of [nearby] Milnbridge’ at the annual soiree of the Longwood Mechanics’ Institute. In 1876 the school was transferred to the Longwood School Board, which in 1883-84 built the Goitfield Board School to serve as a boy’s school and Institute school use ceased in 1884 when students were transferred to that campus.

However educational and community use continued, supplemented by a lending library and a small saving bank. The Hall was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence during World War II and because of the Prisoner of War Camp at nearby Salendine Nook, the name was removed from the front of the building to prevent the area’s identification.

In the 1990s the community nearly lost their Hall but with a determined plan restoration has been ongoing. In 2008 a disabled ramp and porch were added to the front of the building as a 150th anniversary project. A highlight of the year was the opening of the foundation stone to reveal the time capsule placed there in 1858. Longwood’s Home Page at longwoodmechanicshall.org.uk tells us much and is an exemplar of what a home page could be.

‘A true community building set in the Colne Valley of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire  HD3 4UU United Kingdom. The Victorian Building is held in trust by the Longwood Village Group for the residents of Longwood.

Main Hall has a large stage with capacity of 80 for dancing and 100 for Shows. Library and information centre. Meeting rooms: Old School Room/dance studio for meetings of up to 30 people; Art Room for meetings of up to 12 people; Philip Taylor Room capacity 8.’ Indeed it is now a busy place with table tennis, art clubs, Zumba, ballet, martial arts and creative kids as well as hosting the Longwood Art and Craft and Village Shows.

The Institute conducts the Longwood Village Coffee Shop from 10am to 2.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Fairtrade coffee and tea is available, along with homemade cakes and sandwiches. A hot 1, 2 or 3 course dinner is served at 12 noon. Booking is advisable. Longwood is also home of the annual Longwood Sing established in 1873 and conducted even during the Wars. Known as the ‘Mother of all Sings’, the Longwood Sing attracts choirs from the region to the specially constructed amphitheatre.

References: The Institute’s records are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service as KC580 and KX248.

Contact: Derek and Alison Fairbank, 23 Hadrians Close, Salendine Nook, Huddersfied HD3 3XZ. Email: longwoodmechanics@ntlworld.com