THE CENTRE OF LIGHT AND KNOWLEDGE

Thornton’s Temperance Hotel 1854-1909

IN OCTOBER 1909 THE HUDDERSFIELD EXAMINER announced the closure of Thornton’s Temperance Hotel, which occupied the upper storey at 21 New Street, a site now occupied by Marks & Spencer’s store.  For over half a century it had provided a forum for local radicals, philosophers, scientists and poets to discuss religious and political subjects, or modern theories, frowned on elsewhere such as the Mechanics Institutes. Such was its influence on local intellectual and political activity that it earned itself the reputation, probably first coined with some sarcasm, as the ‘Centre of Light and Knowledge’.   The names of over 130 local ‘frequenters’ are recorded, most of them self-employed tradesmen and small manufacturers, along with a smattering of farmers and schoolmasters. In 1875 one frequenter claimed that at least half of the councillors and aldermen of the town, and a fair proportion of members of the School Board and Board of Guardians, had been regular visitors to Thornton’s.  At the heart of this homespun intelligentsia was the ‘hotel keeper’ Joseph Thornton and his circle of like-minded friends, veterans of the political campaigns of the 1830’s and forties. 1 (more…)

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