100 Items About the Museum and Huddersfield – 1 to 10

1. Key to the door.

On 22nd May 1922 Legh Tolson was presented with a gold ‘key to the door’ of the Tolson Museum. You can see this on the first floor landing.

2. Fire Balls, a very local product? Or is it?

They are not cannon balls. They are balls made of hardened clay and definitely don’t explode. They were used to cut down on the cost of keeping you warm in your home. When lighting a fire in a hearth a fireball was placed in the grate and then covered with coal. This helped to reduce the amount of coal needed for a warm fire.

Shallow coal mining was prevalent in this area with as many as 50 mines in the Huddersfield area. Coal from these mines fired the many successful local industries.

3. Castle Hill.

This map of Castle Hill is part of the 1834 map of the Township of Almondbury. It is the ‘scite of the town’ with the warning beacon.

The history of the occupation of this hill , with models, fills a room in Tolson Museum. Castle Hill with Victoria Tower dominates the skyline above Huddersfield and if you are local you know you are near home when you can see it.

It is really worth the effort to walk up to the top of this landmark. The views are wonderful and you feel on top of the world. There are also information boards situated adjacent to the footpaths.

4. Programme from a concert given by the Huddersfield Choral Society 1838.

The Huddersfield Choral Society was founded in 1836 at the ‘Plough Inn’ and is famous throughout the UK.

It’s 200 singers give four concerts a year in the wonderful Huddersfield Town Hall. They also perform in other prestigious halls nationally and internationally. The singing of Handel’s Messiah is an annual event and performed twice to full houses. It is the start of Christmas in Huddersfield.

Music is very important to the people of Huddersfield. Besides the annual international Modern Music Festival there are choirs, brass bands and orchestras throughout the town and surrounding villages.

5. Model of a Carthorse, possibly called Charlie, by Jack Moon.


Photo: Cameron Beecher

Shaws of Huddersfield still make fizzy drinks such as the popular dandelion and burdock. They had a fleet of carts and once kept four horses to pull them. This model was made in about 1900. My husband had a holiday job working there in the 1950s. This item was chosen and photographed by 14 year old Cameron Beecher who thinks this is a lovely model. Transport Gallery.

6. Fancy Hand Woven Fabric.

One of many examples of the complex design fabric made in Huddersfield. This was designed by William Etchells about 1850 and was produced by George Senior & Sons, Lower Mill Dalton.

The ‘fancy’ trade used a variety of fibres such as silk, to create fabric. Fancy cloth was made into waistcoats, dress materials, soft furnishings of all kinds, shawls and table covers. A variety of beautiful designs can be found in the Textile Galery in Tolson.

In Huddersfield practically every family has or had someone working in the textile industry or related industries. My father in law was a textile designer at a mill in Holmfirth.

7. The Pig.

Surely the most famous pig in town! It takes pride of place for all to see in the café in the Museum. He is one of the collection of half animals bought from Gerrards taxidermists. Each animal is divided into half to show the complete body on one side and the skeleton on the other.

The museum collection also includes a horse, which is in the Transport Gallery, a cow, sheep, goat and a cat. According to his twitter account the pig is ‘a charming half pig who has been residing in Tolson Museum since 1924. He loves history and meeting people and is not all all creepy!’

Sadly, though much loved and remembered, he hasn’t aquired a name! Any suggestions?

8. David Brown Valveless Car.


Transport Gallery. Photo: Cameron Beecher

The ‘Valveless’ car was manufactured between 1908 and 1915 by David Browns Gears of Lockwood, Huddersfield. In many ways it was typical of pre-WW1 cars; large and expensive, with the emphasis on individual craftsmanship of a high standard.

Valveless cars were comfortable, quiet and smooth running. Their ruggedness and hill climbing qualities made them especially popular amonst pioneer colonial motorists in Africa and Australia. There solidarity is demonstrated by the result of a collision between a valveless and a Bradford tram. The car escaped with a scatched wheel, but the tram had to be towed away with a broken axle-box.

Any one for a spin? A ride in this on a lovely sunny day would surely be a wonderful experience!

9. Balcony Tolson Museum.

Ravensknowle Hall, designed by Richard Tress and Chambers, was built between 1859 and 1861. An unusual feature to the building is this Italian style ‘loggia’ above the main entrance. It is rare in this area, possibly because the climate in this part of the world does not often lend itself to enjoy sitting outside!

Ravensknowle Hall became Tolson Memorial Museum when the house was given to Huddersfield Corporation on 31st December 1919. We will be celebrating in December 2019!

10. Ceiling.

This is a fascinating and detailed design created in 1740s by James Paine. It was originally in the dining room or small drawing room in the house known at Whitley Beaumont, Grange Moor. This ceiling was removed when the house was demolished and subsequently installed in Tolson Memorial Museum. Huddersfield Council paid £12.50 for this ceiling and the ‘stag and leaf’ ceiling were also bought by the Council.