175 years on and still going strong

University then and now

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 13:17:00 GMT

Celebrations underway to mark the 175th anniversary

Portrait of Frederic Schwann (l-r) the Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan CBE, and the Mayor of Kirklees, Cllr Paul Kane â–ºPictured with the portrait of Frederic Schwann are (l-r) the Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan CBE, and the Mayor of Kirklees, Cllr Paul Kane.

‌IT began in the 1840s, when a small group of ambitious young men met in Huddersfield, aiming to broaden their minds.  Their project has developed into an award-winning university with an international profile.

The University of Huddersfield is directly descended from an educational initiative of 1841 and now it is inviting its students, staff, alumni and the wider public to celebrate 175 years of excellence in teaching and research.  There will be a concert, a series of special lectures and an interactive website featuring a timeline – http://www.hud.ac.uk/175.

Frederic Schwann The month of May 1841 saw the foundation of a Young Men’s Mental Improvement Society in Huddersfield.  Its main founder was the philanthropic German-born industrialist Frederic Schwann (pictured left), who had relocated to Huddersfield to take over a family business.  There were just 30 students to begin with.

‌‌‌In 1844, it was renamed the Mechanics’ Institution.  Occupying a number of increasingly large and well-equipped buildings in Huddersfield, it was one of the most successful examples of a Victorian movement that aimed to give the working classes access to education and qualifications in a range of scientific and cultural subjects.  Also, local industries such as textiles and dyeing would benefit from a stream of skilled employees.  There followed a pioneering Female Educational Institute, in 1846, and the two soon merged.

In 1884, the Huddersfield Technical School & Mechanics’ Institution, as it had become known, moved into the large and ornate Ramsden Building – still used for teaching – that was fitted out with laboratories and workshops for classes in all aspects of cloth manufacture, dyeing and chemistry.  There were also classrooms for the teaching of science art, languages and commerce.  As today, the institution had a national and international reputation for the quality of its research and teaching, with a professional focus.

Mechanics Institute By 1896, the institution was renamed Huddersfield Technical College and its reputation and scope grew over the following decades.  In 1992, it assumed the title University of Huddersfield.

‌Now, after a special launch on 18 March at the University’s Heritage Quay archive centre, the 175-year journey is being celebrated in a wide variety of ways.

‌On 13 April, there will be a concert that includes the sounds of 1841 and the very different music of today.  And, Ramsden Building during May, a series of free public lectures by members of the University’s research staff will explore the significance of the Mechanics’ Institute movement in fields such as science and literature and why it attracted the support of figures including Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë.

The University has created a special anniversary website, which includes a timeline that traces the story of the institution from 1841 to the present day.  It is heavily-illustrated and includes mini-essays on important developments and key people in the story.

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