University names buildings after famous historic figures

Richard Oastler The University's new £27.5 million building and celebrated reformer Richard Oastler

Tue, 22 Sep 2015 13:48:00 BST

The new home for the University’s Law School and the School of Music, Humanities and Media will be named the Oastler Building

Oastler flag A NEW £27.5 million building under construction at the University of Huddersfield will be named after one of the most inspirational figures in the town’s history.  This will be the start of a project that sees many of the University’s key buildings renamed to commemorate famous people with connections to the University and its locality.

The new home for the University’s Law School and the School of Music, Humanities and Media is scheduled for completion by the start of 2017 and will be dubbed the Oastler Building in tribute to Richard Oastler (1789–1861). 

While Oastler was the resident steward for the estate of a wealthy family at Fixby, Huddersfield, he began a famous campaign to curb child labour and improve conditions for all workers in the new factories of the Industrial Revolution.  He embarked on a ten-year struggle that saw Oastler dubbed “The Factory King” by his legion of supporters.

The University of Huddersfield already has one of its principal buildings – incorporating its main reception – named after locally-born-and-raised former Prime Minister Harold Wilson.  It also has the historic Ramsden Building (pictured below), which takes its name from the prominent local family which played a role in its construction in the 1880s.

Ramsden Building Now it has been decided to rebrand principal buildings on the campus.  Most of them currently have names that simply describe their location or function – such as West Building, Canalside or Creative Arts.

University chiefs will now begin to draw up a list of prominent local figures with great historic reputations so that they have a pool of names to draw from. Candidates could include early-20th-Century Prime Minister Herbert Asquith (1852-1928), who lived in Mirfield and was schooled in Huddersfield or global film star James Mason (1909-1984), son of a Huddersfield textile merchant.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Tim Thornton, said that the aim was to link the University’s buildings with famous historic figures who had strong connections with Huddersfield and its surrounding area.

“They will have a reputation in the areas that are important to us – to be inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs, innovative thinkers and inventors and people with international connections and impact,” he said, adding that where possible the famous figures would have a connection with the subjects studied in the buildings that carry their name.

“But there are cases of people – including Oastler – whose reputations and prestige are all-embracing so their name carries a lot more weight than just in relation to a specific subject.”

Harold Wilson The choice of Oastler for the new law and humanities building had been made after a consultation process and now suggestions are being sought for other inspirational figures so that the campus can gradually be rebranded.  Professor Thornton believes that the exercise has educational value.

“It will help us to project Huddersfield as a place to study, by strengthening the sense that this is a place with a strong tradition of excellence in a whole range of subjects.  This is a part of the world that has a lot to be proud of and that is one of the reasons why people should come and study and develop their research here.  We will celebrate this through the renamed buildings.”

In addition to the new names, the buildings will also be provided with informative plaques and panels that describe and interpret the lives and contribution of the historic figures.  For example, there will be a special display in the Harold Wilson Building, timed to coincide with the 2016 centenary of the former Prime Minister’s birth in Huddersfield.

► Huddersfield’s Prime Minister Harold Wilson pictured outside 10 Downing Street.

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