From its early days St George’s Square has given new arrivals to the town their first impression of Huddersfield. In Victorian and Edwardian times young women arrived from all over the country to take up jobs as servants in the homes of well-to-do Huddersfield residents. Many arrived by train, their fare having been paid by their future employer. Each had with them a tin box containing a few belongings, such as work clothes, a few personal items to keep themselves tidy, and perhaps a recipe book if taking employment as a cook. After arriving at the station they emerged onto the Square and, as instructed, looked around for a building with a lion on the roof.  

Lion Buildings, St George’s Square

We can imagine that once detected, they fixed upon this point and whilst watching out for horse drawn traffic, made their way across the square to arrive at the imposing entrance to the Lion Chambers.  With a mixture of excitement and probable fear they would enter the building and climb the stairs to the servants’ registry office, where they hoped they were expected.

Entrance to Lion Chambers

The idea of coming to Huddersfield to take a position as a servant is likely to have first taken shape on seeing a newspaper advertisement in either the Boston Guardian, Runcorn Examiner, South Yorkshire Times, or any of the other papers with which the registry placed an advert. By this method the registry hoped to reach a readership in any part of England where there were women in need of employment.

WANTED, immediately, SERVANTS of all classes, for town and country; good Situations. The HEAD REGISTRY, Lion Arcade, Huddersfield.

St. Helens Examiner, 31 March 1894

SERVANTS (good) wanted for Yorkshire. Good wages. Comfortable homes. Miss Hellawell, Head Registry, Lion Arcade, Huddersfield.

Stamford Mercury, 26 June 1896

WANTED, Cooks, Cook-Generals, Housemaids, and Girls as Nurses; also Between Maids. Mrs Bailey, Head Registry, Lion Arcade, Huddersfield. Established 50 years.

Barnsley Chronicle, 13 July 1901

Those who ran the registry, Miss Hellawell, Mrs Bailey, or their predecessor Mrs Mary Haigh, would have placed such adverts to obtain servants for their clients. The women and girls of Huddersfield were more likely to take employment in textile manufacture than become live-in servants. The registry would probably have arranged with the employer for their new cook, maid, or nurse to be collected from St George’s Square, perhaps in a private coach, or by an arrangement for a lift with a local tradesman carrying wares from the town. For most this final leg of their journey would provide memorable views of Huddersfield, whilst for better or worse, they headed towards their new life.

Beverley Norris