Huddersfield is a large market town and is the largest settlement in the metropolitan borough of Kirklees, West Yorkshire, England. It is the 11th largest town in the United Kingdom with a population of 162,949 (2011 census). Halfway between Leeds and Manchester, it lies north of London, and south of Bradford, the nearest city.
Huddersfield is near the confluence of the River Colne and the River Holme. Located within the historic county boundaries of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is the largest urban area in the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees and the administrative centre of the borough. The town is known for its role in the Industrial Revolution, and for being the birthplaces of rugby league, British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and the international film star James Mason.
Huddersfield is a town of Victorian architecture. Huddersfield railway station is a Grade I listed building described by John Betjeman as 'the most splendid station façade in England' second only to St Pancras, London. The station in St George's Square was renovated at a cost of £4 million and subsequently won the Europa Nostra award for European architecture.
Huddersfield was incorporated as a municipal borough in the ancient West Riding of Yorkshire in 1868. The borough comprised the parishes of Almondbury, Dalton, Huddersfield, Lindley-cum-Quarmby and Lockwood. When the West Riding County Council was formed in 1889, Huddersfield became a county borough, exempt from county council control. Huddersfield expanded in 1937, including parts of the Golcar, Linthwaite, and South Crosland urban districts. The county borough was abolished in 1974 and its former area was combined with that of other districts to form the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees in West Yorkshire.
Attempts by the council to gain support for city status were rejected by the population in an unofficial referendum held by the Huddersfield Daily Examiner. The council did not apply for that status in either the 2000 or 2002 competitions.
There has been a settlement in the area for over 4,000 years. The remains of a Roman fort were unearthed in the mid 18th century at Slack near Outlane, west of the town. Castle Hill, a major landmark, was the site of an Iron Age hill fort. Huddersfield was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Oderesfelt and Odresfeld.
The manor of Huddersfield was owned by the de Lacy family until 1322, at which it reverted to royal ownership. In 1599, William Ramsden bought the manor, and the Ramsden family continued to own the manor, which came to be known as the 'Ramsden Estate', until 1920. During their ownership they supported the development of the town, building the Huddersfield Cloth Hall in 1766 and the Sir John Ramsden’s Canal in 1780, and supporting the arrival of the railway arrived in the 1840s.
Huddersfield was a centre of civil unrest during the Industrial Revolution. In a period where Europe was experiencing frequent wars, where trade had slumped and the crops had failed, many local weavers faced losing their livelihood due to the introduction of machinery in factories, which would have condemned them to poverty or starvation. Luddites began destroying mills and machinery in response; one of the most notorious attacks was on Cartwright — a Huddersfield mill-owner, who had a reputation for cruelty — and his Rawfolds Mill. In his book Rebels Against the Future, Kirkpatrick Sale describes how an army platoon was stationed at Huddersfield to deal with Luddites; at its peak, there were about a thousand soldiers in Huddersfield and ten thousand civilians. In response, Luddites began to focus attacks on nearby towns and villages, which were less well-protected; the largest act of damage that they committed was the destruction of Foster's Mill at Horbury — a village about east of Huddersfield. The government campaign that crushed the movement was provoked by a murder that took place in Huddersfield. William Horsfall, a mill-owner and a passionate prosecutor of Luddites, was killed in 1812. Although the movement faded out, Parliament began to increase welfare provision for those out of work, and introduce regulations to improve conditions in the mills.
The far left is represented by Revolution, the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party of England and Wales active groups involved in campaigns such as Stop the War, Save Huddersfield NHS, Socialist Appeal and the Communist Party of Britain. The town has substantial Conservative Party and UKIP presences, with other centre-right and rightist groups also represented.
Huddersfield has an abundance of Victorian architecture. The most conspicuous landmark is the Victoria Tower on Castle Hill. Overlooking the town, the tower was constructed to mark Queen Victoria's 60th Jubilee Year. A picture of the Victoria Tower features on the New Zealand wine Castle Hill.
The colonnaded Huddersfield railway station in St George's Square was once described as 'a stately home with trains in it', and by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as 'one of the best early railway stations in England'. A bronze statue of Huddersfield-born Sir Harold Wilson, Prime Minister 1964–1970 and 1974–1976 stands in front of its entrance in St George's Square.
The Pack Horse Centre is a covered pedestrianised shopping area constructed over a cobblestone street, Pack Horse Yard, renamed Pack Horse Walk. Pack horses carried merchandise over pack-horse routes across the Pennines before turnpike roads and railways improved transportation. The pedestrian link passes from Kirkgate, across King Street and along Victoria Lane, by the Shambles, to the Piazza and the distinctive Market Hall at Queensgate, which was built to replace the old Shambles Market Hall in the early 1970s. Next to the Piazza is the Victorian Town Hall and the 1930s Public Library.
Beaumont Park about to the south of the town centre was bequeathed to the town in the 1880s, by the Henry Ralph Beaumont ('Beaumont's of Whitley' estate) and was opened on 13 October 1883, by Prince Leopold, fourth son of Queen Victoria, and his wife Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont (The Duke and Duchess of Albany). It is a fine example of a Victorian era public park with water cascades, bandstand and woodland.
Greenhead Park is another large park in Huddersfield, situated around west of the town centre. A multi million pound restoration project, funded by the Heritage Lottery fund was finished in Autumn 2012.