The University of Huddersfield’s archives are based at Heritage Quay. They hold records that tell the story of the university’s history. In 1841 a group of five young working men approached their employer, a German born manufacturer called Frederick Schwann. They asked him to to support them in giving them money to help them get a better education. They formed a group called the Young Men’s Mental Improvement Society and this was the beginning of the university.
Many of the town’s significant people taught classes, including Frederick Schwann and they had their own library. They also met socially for outings on the new railway and Christmas entertainments. The idea became so popular that by 1844 there were over 400 students, all men, who were attending classes in subjects like Chemistry, Maths, Engineering and French.
The Society’s name was changed to the Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institute and they moved to bigger premises several times as numbers increased.
This mug and bowl commemorated the opening of the Ramsden Building in 1884. A bell was specially cast to hang in this building. It called the students to their classes.
Women could not attend classes at the Mechanics’ Institute, but in 1846, the Huddersfield Female Educational Institute was founded. It was one of the first Female Educational Institutes in the UK.
In 1883, the two organisations merged and moved to a brand new building named after the family from which the university bought the land, Sir John William Ramsden. In tribute, part of the family crest was incorporated into the building’s decoration.
This notice from the Huddersfield Female Educational Institute shows the subjects and timetable taught in 1882. Many of the subjects were considered suitable for girls, such as needlework or cookery, but girls also had the chance to learn geography and science.
Some people thought that men and women should not be taught the same subjects; others believed women should not be educated at all. Even when women were allowed to go to university, they were not always able to take their final exams.
- The Ramsden family played an important role in the history of Huddersfield. Can you find their coat of arms in other buildings in the town?
The Ramsden building is still part of the university today. The University was 175 years old in 2016 and now teaches subjects such as architecture, politics and forensic science. Men and women can study for a degree in any subject they choose.
- What would you like to study at university?
When you visit Heritage Quay, you can find out more about the university’s history and go on a campus tour, led by one of our students.