Page revised 21 August 2001
HUDDERSFIELD & DISTRICT HISTORY
THE CHRONICLE OFFICE.
Edward J Law
The Chronicle office is the attractive building situate halfway along Lord Street, Huddersfield, which was, until recent years, occupied as a solicitor's office. It is named from its first tenant, the Huddersfield Chronicle Newspaper. The premises were built by the executors of Thomas Firth of Toothill, though the project may well have been planned by Thomas himself for estimates were being sought less than six months after his death which occurred in March 1869.
The site adjoins the famous Firth freehold which the Ramsden Estate had long coveted; their wish was not to be able to say "we own Huddersfield" but to have unrestricted power to develop the site as they wished. They had not been able to tempt Firth to sell the site, no doubt they offered a price well above the intrinsic value of the site, as they had done in acquiring another small freehold in the town. Though Firth was a wealthy man he would, as a very shrewd businessman, have been happy to realise a good profit; the reason why he chose not to was probably one of sentiment for he had been born there in 1789.
Having failed to purchase the site the Ramsdens came to a compromise arrangement with Firth in 1856 when with an exchange of small plots of land and certain promises of priority to Firth they were able to lay out the new Lord Street. Thus it came about that Firth held a lease of the land to the east of Lord Street.
A local man, William Cocking, was appointed architect for the building and had produced plans and obtained tenders for the different aspects of the work by September 1869. The successful mason out of the nine who quoted was James Brook of Commercial Street.
There was only one tender for the slating, from Goodwin & Sons slate merchants of Huddersfield, a family who are commemorated in the town's cemetery by an unusual group of attractive slate headstones.
The carving which is a feature of the building, and of Cocking's work, is by Emanuel Morton of Greenhead Lane and was undertaken at a contract price of £130. Morton had exhibited at Wakefield Industrial & Fine Arts Exhibition in 1865 gaining first class medals for two of his sculptures. The main features of the carved decoration are the masks on the window arch keystones but the angles of the door arches are also worked and include a delightful early bird getting its worm.
The total of the lowest tenders was just in excess of £5,400 though not all the lowest were successful, there had been a tender of £112 for the carving, and no doubt additions would be made for extras during the course of the building. A 'raising supper' for 100 held at the Wharf Inn in July 1870 cost two shillings per head and marked the completion of the building. On 1st October the Chronicle was able to announce its "removal on 15th inst." to Lord Street to premises specially erected for newspaper and general printing purposes.
Their bill-heads of the period carry an engraving of the building very much as we see it today, except that the sign 'Chronicle Office' extending over half the length of the roof has long since disappeared.
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