Huddersfield is a large town in West Yorkshire, located between Leeds and Manchester. It is much smaller than Leeds, Sheffield or even Hull, but its 160,000 inhabitants nonetheless make it one of the largest towns in Yorkshire. Huddersfield has its own university.
Huddersfield is built on the foot of the Pennines, on river Colne. As with many towns in this part of Yorkshire, Huddersfield is a daughter of the Industrial Revolution. Most of the town centre dates from the Victorian era, although it also has some Georgian buildings.
Huddersfield town centre is quite large and there are several wide pedestrian streets, which makes it a nice place to wander around. The town belonged to the Ramsden family until 1920 and most of the public buildings were commissioned by them, which makes Huddersfield a uniform and homogenous place.
There is not a huge variety of sights, but the train station is worth a look for its Neoclassical front. It was built in 1850 and it is probably Huddersfield’s most famous landmark. It has a gracious corinthian portico and it is located on a large square, bordered by other buildings of note – the George Hotel where rugby league was created in 1895 and Lion Arcade, a building built in 1853 crowned by the statue of a lion.
Byram Arcade, a shopping arcade built in 1881, is probably the best example of Victorian architecture in Huddersfield. Unlike most arcades of the time, it has several storeys. It is dedicated to independent shops, with cafés, hobby shops and home decoration shops. The Blue Room café on the ground floor is a lovely place with an indoor terrace.
Well outside of the centre stands Victoria Tower, a rather odd building reminiscent of a medieval keep. It was built on the top of a hill to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It is 2.5mi from the centre, and the tower is 106ft high, with its top at 1000ft above sea level. The hill, called Castle Hill, as a very ancient history as it was the site of Bronze Age fort, a castle and a medieval village. The tower can be reached with bus 341; Berry Brow train station is 1.2mi away. The tower is open to the public on weekends from Easter to November and daily during the summer holidays, full-price admission £2.00, see the website for details.
Huddersfield has two small museums. There is a local Art Gallery in the library, which has some interesting works by Francis Bacon and Henry Moore. Free entry, website.
In the outskirts, Tolson Museum is dedicated to the local history, with antique cars, exhibits about industry, workers’ struggles and ancient history. It is housed in a nice Victorian villa. Free entry, website.
Outside of Huddersfield, in the village of Golcar, there is the Colne Valley Museum. It is run by volunteers and it was set up in three weavers’ cottages. The interiors were preserved and there are exhibits about the local textile industry. Open on weekends and bank holidays, full-price admission £2.50, see website.
While most of the other boroughs in West Yorkshire are named after their main town or city (Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford), the borough around Huddersfield is named ‘Kirklees’. This rather curious name refers to a former priory which closed in the 16th century. Although it was very small – with around seven nuns at its height – it has remained in collective memory for legends tell that Robin Hood died there. He would have succumbed to a bloodletting provided by the prioress, who was his aunt. The fact that the borough was named after this priory is even more curious when you consider that it is not located within the borough limits, but in Calderdale (borough of Halifax).
Nowadays, there is nothing left from the priory. There is a 16th-century building called ‘Gatehouse’, but it was not part of the priory. It was merely named as such because it stands near the location of the original gatehouse to the priory. There is also Kirklees Hall, a manor which is not open to the public. A monument commemorating Robin Hood’s grave is in a field nearby, but the land is private. Other legends state that he was buried in Pontefract. Kirkless is located near the village of Clifton, on the other side of the M62.