celebrating the history of St. George's Square, Huddersfield

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We’ve been searching in the newspapers, and other sources, to bring you stories in which St George’s Square has played its part and we will be adding to these stories from time to time. Some of these tales may surprise you…

From the Classifieds

THE COBDEN TEMPERANCE HOME AND HOTEL and Boarding House, near Station; 25 bedrooms, clean, new, light, lofty, and spacious. LARGE ROOMS for parties of friends, Public Teas, etc. Sitting Rooms for visitors and boarders. APARTMENTS TO LET.
Front Entrance, St. George’s Square, Huddersfield

Huddersfield Daily examiner, 19 July 1888

The Skelmanthorpe Flag

On the 11th October the same year, I again led the Skelmnthorpe Reformers to Huddersfield to a great franchise demonstration. The first meeting was held in St. George’s Square. About 40,000 people were present. The speakers were W H Leatham, M.P., E A Leatham, M.P. and Charles Bradlaugh, M.P. They had put some large letters on my head which said I was a relic of the past. I was looked at with great interest as we marched through the crowded streets. My vanity was satisfied and I came home well pleased. 

The year is 1884 and the story is being told by none other than the Flag itself.

The Skelmanthorpe Flag is now at the Tolson Museum (image courtesy of Kirklees Museums and Galleries)

My dear old master wishes me to write the story of my life, he thinks no one can do it so well as I can, and, as I lay neatly folded in my cosy drawer I let my mind go back to the day of my birth, a day in October, 1819. So I am 107 years old. 

These quotes come from an article written by Fred Lawton, weaver and historian, for the 1926 edition of Hirst Buckley’s Annual. The Flag was made in Skelmanthorpe in 1819 in the wake of the Peterloo Massacre and Fred’s article is written entirely from the Flag’s perspective.

Fred’s article was reproduced in Huddersfield Local History Society’s Journal (Vol. 2, Spring 1991)

And there is more information about the Flag on Skelmanthorpe Historical Society‘s website

‘Improvements Needed’

Writing to the Huddersfield Chronicle in December 1886, J.W. Scholes listed 17 suggestions which he thought could benefit the town. His was an ambitious list which included a free library, a public art gallery as well as a museum and comfortable waiting rooms with toilets in different places. However, two of his ‘improvements’ related to the railway station and one to the Square itself.

10.- Lavatories at the railway station for both ladies and gentlemen.

11.- A booking-office at both ends of the railway station for Tuesdays, Saturdays and busy days.


17.-Fountains and trees in St George’s Square, with a statue of the Queen, in commemoration of the jubilee.

Huddersfield Chronicle, 16 December 1886

Mr Scholes was referring to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria due to take place in the following year.

In the same week S. R. from Calton Street wrote to the Huddersfield Daily Examiner with his suggestion relating to the ‘clock at the station’.

SIR,- Will you kindly allow me a little space in your valuable paper, just to say when passing through St George’s Square, yesterday, and looking to where the clock should be, I could not help hoping that the next time it showed its face it would be accompanied by some fire (gas), not only to keep it warm, but at dark to light up its face, so that railway travellers might see the exact time, and it would also be a boon to the public.

The station clock lit up during the Festival of Light 2006, image courtesy Christine Verguson

‘He looks as well as anything that decorates the town’

Sticky Post

The stone lion on top of the Lion Building in St Georges Square features in the following ‘letter in verse’ which appeared in the Children’s Column of The Dewsbury Reporter Supplement of the 29th March 1884.

Poetical Epistle by C.W.Pogson

Christmas toys

At the Children’s Christmas Fairy and Electric Palace, which Messrs. H. B. Crawford and Co, (Limited), 28 Queen-street, have opened in St George’s-square, a veritable world in miniature is presented. Such a magnificent display of toys has never been seen in the town before. There are no less than 200,000 separate articles, and you can purchase anything from a half-penny doll to the more costly armoured train, made to wind up and go. Toy soldiers, including both Britons and Boers, guns, swords, drums, trumpets, &c., are much in evidence – in fact, a whole army of boys could easily be equipped at this establishment. The show is so vast and varied that it almost defies description, and must be seen in order to be fully comprehended

Huddersfield daily chronicle, 15 December 1900

At Lion Arcade, 1857

From the Post Office Directory 1857

Of the four businesses listed as being in Lion Arcade around 1856, two were owned by women. Mary Lombardini was recently widowed and seems to have carried on the family business for a short time. Her husband Jean Baptiste Lombardini had been born in Switzerland while Mary was from Holbeck in Leeds. Jean Baptiste was not only a carver and gilder but a print seller and ‘Geneva dealer’ and, while in Huddersfield, his business had moved from the Market Place to Westgate and then to Lion Arcade. At the time of the 1851 census Jean, Mary and their three daughters were living at 37 Trinity Street and Jean is described as a carver and gilder employing one man.

Ellen or Helen Ratcliffe had a draper’s shop in the Arcade but she obviously thought the most important thing about her business was that she was an agent to the Ladies’ Industrial Society of Ireland. Set up in 1847 as a response to the Great Irish Famine, this was one of a number of organisations set up to encourage the Irish ‘peasantry’ to turn to cottage industries such as lace making. Before she moved to Lion Arcade Helen had run her agency from premises in Northgate. She regularly advertised in the local press:

MISS HELEN RATCLIFFE begs to announce to the LADIES of Huddersfield and its Vicinity, that she has been appointed AGENT to the LADIES’ INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY FOR IRELAND, and has OPENED a DEPOSITORY at No. 103 NORTHGATE for the SALE of their Goods, which consist of 7-8, 4-4, 5-4 Linens; 6-4, 8-4, 9-4, 10-4, 12-4 Sheeting; 4-4, 5-4, Cloths, Towelling, Huckaback, Hollands, Rubbering, Ginghams, hands-on. Knitted and Netted Goods, Men’s Cotton Socks, fancy ribbed and plain; Ladies’ Mitts, Fancy Stockings, Balbriggan ditto, Knitted and Crochet Edgings, Crochet Caps and Collars, Babies’ Embroidered Robes and Caps, some beautiful Limerick Lace; Jacket Sleeves, Lappets, &c.; Embroidered-Cambric Handkerchiefs; some beautiful Irish Poplins.

Open from ten in the morning until six in the evening

Huddersfield and holmfirth examiner, 3 april1852

By December 1853 she was informing her customers that she would shortly be moving her business to Lion Arcade. In an advert in the same newspaper in August 1855 she describes her business as a ‘Baby Linen Warehouse’ now at Lion Arcade but again calls attention to the Goods of the Ladies’ Industrial Society of Ireland, reminding her customers that she is the Society’s Sole Agent in the district but adding that her stock is ‘remarkably cheap’.

The Lion’s Servants

Sticky Post

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

The birth of Rugby League at the George Hotel, 1895



A meeting of the representatives of 20 important Rugby Union Football Clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire was held at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, on Thursday evening, for the purpose of formally establishing the Northern Rugby Football Union. There were present Messrs. H. H. Waller (Brighouse), J. Platt (Oldham), J. Nicholl (Halifax), H. Sewell (Leeds), F. Lister (Bradford), C. A. Brewer (Hull), J. Clifford (Huddersfield), J. L. Whittaker (Hunslet), J. H. Fallas (Wakefield), T. Wright (Widnes), E. Gresty (Broughton Rangers), J. Goodall (Batley), F. Dunnett (St Helen’s), J. Quirk (Leigh), J. E. Warren (Warrington), George Taylor (Tyldesley), E. Wardle (Wigan), A. Fattorini (Manningham), W. Brewer (Rochdale Hornets), J. A. Hampshire (Liversedge), and C. Holdsworth (Dewsbury). Mr H. H. Waller was voted to the chair, and Mr J. Platt was elected secretary pro tem. After full discussion, which took place in private, it was decided to form a Northern Rugby Football Union on the principle of payment for bona fide broken time only. Stockport were admitted members of the union. The resignation from the English Rugby Union was handed in from 20 clubs, Dewsbury being the exception. It was resolved that each club represented at the meeting should sign a membership list, with the exception of Dewsbury, who were given till Tuesday to decide. A sub-committee of 10 were appointed to consider the bye-laws and rules of the union, consisting of Messrs. Wardle, Platt, Smith (Widnes), Gresty, Quirk, Waller, Nicholl, Sewell, Fattorini, and Clifford. The same committee were appointed to act as an emergency committee. It was decided that the meetings of the committee should be held alternately in Huddersfield and Manchester. It was further resolved that there should be a Yorkshire Senior Competition, a Lancashire Senior Competition, and a Northern Rugby League consisting of the 22 clubs, providing that Dewsbury agrees to join. A meeting of secretaries was fixed to be held at the Spread Eagle Hotel, Manchester, at five o’clock at Tuesday next for the purpose of arranging matches.


A ‘hospital train’ exhibited in Huddersfield, 1917


When the war broke out and arrangements had to be made for the transport of the wounded to hospitals in the country, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway was one of the first companies to provide an ambulance train to the order of the War Office.

The company have just completed another one for use on the Continent, and bearing in mind the interest taken by the public when a previous train was exhibited in January, 1916, they have decided to place it on view at Huddersfield on Sunday next, Nov 18, from 11am to 6pm.

The train has all the latest devices for the expeditious and easy movement of wounded soldiers from the firing line, and is in every way splendidly equipped for the purpose. Nearly 4,000 visitors saw the train at Barnsley on Sunday, and over 4,000 at Manchester on Monday.

Admission tickets at 1s. will be sold, and all the money collected will be utilised for the purpose of providing extra comforts for wounded British and American soldiers and sailors.

Booklets containing numerous photographs and interesting particulars of the train, will be on sale at 6d.

The previous exhibition was a huge success – a record was made at Huddersfield – and thousands of pounds were handed over to the various charitable organisations.


The Leeds Mercury reported that once again a record number of visitors, 7032, came to see the ambulance train while it was on display in Huddersfield, exceeding all other towns. A photo of people queuing in St George’s Square to see the exhibition is currently on display at the National Railway Museum in York.

Letting off fireworks, 1864


Fourteen young men and boys were brought up [before the Magistrates], charged with letting off fireworks in the public streets, on the night of the 5th of November. Superintendent Hannan stated that during the two years he had been in the town the 5th of November had passed off very peaceably. This year, however, one of the most disgraceful scenes occurred in St George’s-square, John William-street and Westgate that he had ever witnessed. He sent out the force, with instructions that they were to use the greatest forbearance towards the people. Mr Jackson went down to the office, and made use of some remarks which made him (Mr. Hannan) very angry, and he proceeded to his shop, which was one mass of fire. The windows of the George Hotel and Shaw’s warehouse were smashed, and great destruction of property appeared inevitable. Fireworks were sent in the policemen’s faces, and if the rioters had not desisted from the course they were pursuing, he thought they would have had a different tale to tell. He had seen many occurrences like the one on Saturday, but never saw it carried to such an extent. He was, however, willing to withdraw the whole of the charges on payments of expenses. To this the Bench agreed, and eleven of the defendants were ordered to pay the expenses, which amounted to 5s. and 5s. 6d. each. Three were discharged…

Huddersfield Chronicle, 12 november 1864

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