Thursday, 23 February 2012

Huddersfield Lion

The Lion of St George's Square may never have taken a stroll but he still appears as a spectacular sight for those entering the town from the station. This crowning glory of Huddersfield's Lion Building, with its history of mixed fortunes, is a well loved local landmark and keeps a watchful eye over the town centre.
Immediately noticeable to those entering St Georges Square is a magnificent eleven foot long and eight foot high lion perched sixty feet above ground level atop the Lion Chambers building.

According to local legend, this well loved Huddersfield landmark will get down from his pedestal and take a walk around the square when the station clock strikes twelve. Both events are unlikely to happen as the station clock is not a striking one.

The Lion Arcade was the third building to be opened in the new part of the town around St Georges Square during the 1850s, following Huddersfield Railway Station and the George Hotel. This prime example of Victorian architecture was built for local textile manufacturer, Samuel Oldfield, of Oldfield, Allan & Company at Lockwood Mills, and designed by J. P.Pritchett who was also the architect for the station building.

Oldfield required a new warehouse and counting house for his company but he also planned for the building to be an elaborate affair filled with elegant features and high class shops.

The day of the opening in 1853 was treated as a gala like occasion and, as planned, the new Arcade had a graceful staircase, a fountain, promenade, conservatories and 6000 square foot of glass in the ceiling. However, within a year of the opening Oldfield had run into financial difficulties and the future of the Arcade was put in jeopardy.

Never living up to its early promise, in 1919 the building was bought by a group of local business people who planned to turn it into a cinema. This project never materialised and instead the interior of the building was converted into offices and shop fronts were added along John William Street.

The lion has continued to keep watch over the town centre but, having been constructed from compounded material and reinforced with steel and copper bars, by 1977 had been badly eroded by the effects of the weather and traffic pollution. For a short time the lion was removed but he was soon replaced by a fibre glass model of the original. This new lion now stands guard over St George's Square.

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