Marsden Mechanics Institute

The Mechanics Institute movement began in Marsden in November, 1841 in a cottage which was previously the Blue Lion public house near to the Old New Inn on Carrs Road. It remained there for four years. The President was James Taylor, ironfounder of Ready Carr. As attendances grew more space was required and the institute moved in 1845 to a room above Dan Ineson's smithy at Inghead which had an external staircase on the eastern gable.

The teachers from 1841 to 1861, all volunteers, were, John Bower Robinson, Joseph Webster, headmaster of the Town School, George Caner, Samuel Horsfall, Enoch Taylor, ironfounder of Ready Carr, Mrs. William Henry Robinson. Daughter-in-law of John Bower and Mrs. Webster, mother of Joseph, who was listed as still teaching aged 84 on the 1851 census.

In order to build permanent premises a public meeting was called and a committee appointed. Land was bought at what was then known as Marsden End for 5 shillings per square yard. At the time the land was an open field partially occupied by a wooden butcher's shop run by James Goodall, son of Richard Goodall, the owner of the land. Building began in 1860 and the Mechanics Institute as we see it now was officially opened on 25st February, 1861 with a grand procession around the village, headed by the brass band. The building costs of 2,500 pounds were raised by public subscription.

Architect and Building Superintendent - Mr. Cocking

Building Contractors - James Shaw of Scout. The 1851 census described him as a building contractor, living at Hard End and employing three sons, James, 32 of Clough Lee, Samuel, 26 stone mason of Back Lane and Joseph, 23 still living with his parents. James Shaw failed to finish the contract and William Wadsworth of Holmfirth was employed to finish.

Joiner - Tom Lawton. The 1851 census describes him as a joiner employing five men and resident at New Road Side.

Plumber - Frank Goodall. The 1851 census names him Francis, plumber and glazier of Green Bower.

Slater - William Godwin of Halifax.

The sculptured head under the 1860 date stone facing Peel Street is of William Shakespeare. Facing Brougham Road is the inscription The Mechanics Institute with another unidentified sculptured head.

The Mechanics clock tower under construction c1910

The Mechanics clock tower under construction c1910
Click to enlarge

William Henry Firth left a legacy for the erection of a stone clock tower, however, the building was not able to support such a structure. A wooden structure designed by James Kirk & Son was, therefore, substituted. The clock and bell were manufactured by William Potts of Leeds.

Trustees in 1903:

John Bower Robinson, woollen manufacturer of Inner Hey.
Ben(jamin) Holroyd, insurance agent of Croft Cottage
Joe Pinder- photographic artist of the Mechanics Hall.
Jonas Bottomley - retired
Mark Firth- retired

When Bottomley and Firth retired as trustees a further 13 trustees were appointed.

John Bower Robinson was the owner of Clough Lee Mill which he purchased in 1860 and sold in 1903. Arthur Robinson, son of John Bower Robinson, purchased land for the improvement of Peel Street, the First World War Memorial and the land for the present park. Anna Doves Robinson, his wife, was a prominent suffragette.

The scope of educational subjects offered was extended and the Hall used for social meetings, public lectures, musical occasions and dances became numerous and popular. The teachers were John Bower Robinson, Rev. T.W.Holmes, congregational minister, John Shaw of The Hill, Lingards Wood, Richard Beaumont, woollen mill manager of Ainsley House and Francis Johnstone of Crow Hill. The main subjects taught were reading, composition, geography, writing, mathematics, grammar, singing and science under the tutorage of George Jarmaine, a lecturer in Chemistry at the Huddersfield Mechanics Institute and the Technical College.

The scale of charges for the hire of rooms in 1897 varied according to use. Concerts, entertainments and bazaars paid 1 pound but, if intoxicating drinks were to be sold an, extra 5.0d was levied. Anniversary sermons if preached in the afternoon only paid 10.0d but twice that amount if the occasion extended into the evening, however gas was included in this charge. The choral society were charged 2.6d for the hire of the hall, gas as consumed. Committee or business meetings paid between 5.0d and 2.6d depending on which room was used with gas included for two hours. Crockery for tea parties was charged at 3d per dozen, half if only plates were hired.

The Town School opened its Infants Department in the Mechanics Hall in 1879 with Miss D. Killin as mistress.

A library was established with provision for a maximum of 2,300 volumes. James Mellor was the first librarian and secretary. Joe Pinder was the second secretary and caretaker. When the library closed in 1905 books were stored in a local mill prior to sale. A dutch auction was held by Francis Goodall. The 827 unsold volumes were retained by the Institute and, for six years, were stored in the vestry of the Wesleyan Sunday School. They were sold by private treaty to a Manchester dealer in 1911. The library was reopened in ?

The Marsden Council held its monthly meetings in the Council Chamber. The building was used to house the nursery class of the adjacent school between 1958 and 1960. The Youth Club met in the hall until 1962 when it moved to premises on Lakeside.

The Mechanics Hall closed in 1969 and was scheduled for demolition but an intensive campaign was waged by local people and the hall was eventually refurbished and reopened.