Mechanics Institute

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The Mechanics Institute was an imposing building in Towngate, the market square of Baildon at the top right of Browgate/bottom left corner of Church Hill. (Hallcliffe)

It was built in 1862, enlarged in 1870[1] (the same year the clock was installed) and demolished in June 1969[2] as part of the redevelopment of the centre and the building of the Ian Clough Hall and Library. The work in Towngate in the 1960s was spread over several years and getting dates for various things is proving tricky but Harold Ellis took photos of the area at the time allowing us to date some of the progress.

Note that John La Page, on page 48 of The Story of Baildon says that the Mechanics Institute was built in 1869. Yet in the chapter THE TOWNGATE AREA IN THE 19th CENTURY (page 135) he says Considerable alteration is noticeable in the Towngate area for the Mechanics’ Institute was not erected until 1862. Again on page 161, when relating a story about Bill Gudgeon from 1869, he says The Mechanics’ Institute was in process of building at that time and bicycle and rider were thrown straight through the window of the corner shop. It seems reasonable to say that the the Mechanics Institute was built in 1862 but was enlarged in 1869/70 and the clock fitted.

Baildon Local Board of Guardians moved their meetings there from rooms at 25 Westgate to the Mechanics Institute.

During World War II there was Red Cross Message Bureau No. 369 in The Mechanics Institute as evidenced by a message from Joyce Coutu, an evacuee from Guernsey. You can read extracts from her diary and other notes here.[3]

Mechanics Institute Clock

First Clock

A clock (the first of two) was fitted to the building in 1870 and several newspaper articles were printed about it:-

Bradford Observer - Wednesday 01 June 1870
The Village of Baildon has of late made considerable advances in the shape public improvements. The old church has undergone some repairs outside, and it is intended to erect, at no distant date, a new tower, and have a peal of bells. A new Moravian chapel has been erected and furnished with a splendid organ; a new Primitive Methodist chapel is being erected; and a Mechanics’ Institute has been built near to the handsome drinking fountain - which latter is unfortunately now dry. The new public clock was set in motion on Monday night at eight p.m. It is in the Mechanics Institute, and has a dial at each end of the building. Beneath the dial, at the north-west end the building is square stone which bears the following inscription:-
This clock was raised by public subscription through the energy of the Baildon Glee and Madrigal Society and placed in this institute for the special use of the village.
On the 20th of March, 1969, the members of the society gave an entertainment for the benefit of some special object connected with the institute, then in course of erection, and it was subsequently decided that the special object should a public clock. A committee was at once formed, Mr. J Hird being appointed chairman, Mr. J. F. Holmes, treasurer, and Mr. W. Field, secretary. Encouraged by the success which had attended the entertainment they at once set about canvassing the village and neighbourhood and finally left the making of the clock to Mr. Jonathan Cryer, of Bingley, who has constructed many of the public clocks in the neighbourhood.
On Monday night a public meeting was held, to inaugurate the clock, in the hall of the institute, which was decorated with evergreens and festoons of roses.
The chair was occupied the vicar (the Rev. W. Ffolliott, B.A.), who in opening the proceedings made some appropriate remarks.
Mr. Field, the secretary, read the report, which stated that a bell was yet required for the clock, and to provide this they must still appeal appeal to the public. The committee at the first estimated for a good clock, which was to cost about £70 or £80 (already almost collected), but owing to the many different expenses connected with it, such as an additional dial down Browgate, with shafting along the entire length of the building, mason work, &c., they found that it would require a further sum of, say £30 or £40 making £120; and so they have now to ask for additional subscriptions. For the confidence which the public had reposed in the committee they return thanks, and promise to revere it as a sacred trust to the end of their labours.
Mr. W. Holmes next addressed the meeting, observing that they owed their thanks to the Clock Committee for the work they had done. He afterwards, amidst loud cheers, set the clock in motion, and said that he hoped that the committee would never be wanting funds to keep it in proper order.
Mr. Thos. Holmes gave a description of the manner in which time was formerly kept, and then speaking of Baildon, said he was glad to be a native of a village that was making such advancement, and he trusted that they would be able to keep time and pace with other places.
Mr. Midgley was glad that the inhabitants of Baildon had so comfortable a place to resort to as the Mechanics Institute, where they could go and enjoy thenselves; and where their youth could taught good behaviour and useful knowledge.
Mr. James Fyfe, of Shipley, delivered an address, in the course of which he said that be hoped the clock that had been set in motion would teach the young people of Baildon to keep good hours. He hoped that they would all learn to know the value of time and improve upon it, and be prepared to enter, when they had done with all earthly things, into that rest where clocks would not be required.
The meeting was also addressed by Mr. W. Denby and other friends.
During the evening the Saltaire glee party rendered great service by giving with great taste several glees, part songs, &c. Miss Hudson in "Home Sweet Home," was much at home, and she received a well-merited encore. Mr. T. W. Holmes ably presided at the pianoforte. The proceedings were concluded (after giving a vote of thanks to the glee party who had kindly given their services, and to the Chairman and other friends) with the National Anthem.

Half of the carved stone that was under the clock was recovered from the Barnsley Beck sink hole that appeared in Sept 2017.

Recovered carved stone
Shipley Times and Express - Saturday 22 December 1877
At the meeting of this Board on Tuesday, it was ordered that the clock placed in the Mechanics' Institute should be held in the care of the Local Board on behalf of the ratepayers for ever.
Shipley Times and Express - Saturday 06 August 1887
The ordinary meeting of this Board was held on Tuesday evening, when there were present Messrs Charles Denby (chairman), W. Nutt, G. Copley, Jos. Taylor, W. Hardaker, J. Clegg, and Chas. Thompson, with the Clerk (Mr J. H. Ward).
The Public Clock.
The Clerk reported that had had some correspondence in regard to putting the clock at the Mechanics’ Institute into proper order. He had an offer from Mr William Carter, of Bradford, to fix the dial for £4. This, with the £6 10s., the cost of the dial, would make a total cost of £10 10s.
—Mr Clegg: Well, it wants doing. It looks very shabby at present. I move that the tenders be accepted.
—Mr Taylor: Have we had no one else tendering?
—Clerk: Yes, but the cost in other cases would be £13.
Mr Clegg's motion was then agreed to.
Shipley Times and Express - Friday 24 November 1922
Mr. W. E. Rhodes (chairman) presided at the monthly meeting of the Baildon District Council held on Tuesday evening, when there were also present Messrs. F. Whittaker, A. Greenwood, T. Hewitt, P. L. Carroll, A. Copley, T. Cordingley, F. Holmes, N. Sowden, J. Denby, W. Holmes and S. Robinson. The Clerk (Mr. R. Howard Moore) and the Surveyor (Mr. Bean) were also present.
Prior to the business of the evening, the chairman congratulated Mr. and Mrs. W. Holmes, who have recently celebrated their golden wedding. He (the chairman) was sure that all the members wished Mr. and Mrs. Holmes very much joy in the years they hoped would yet be spared them, and trusted that that companionship which had lasted long would continue.
Mr. F. Holmes said that Mr. W. Holmes had long been a prominent man. He had been a man who had led an active life, and was a fine specimen of the true Yorkshireman. Mr. W. Holmes was still active man, and he (the speaker) wished he and his wife every happiness for some time to come.
The Clerk stated that the Council staff wished to endorse and associate themselves with those remarks. It was the desire of the staff that Mr. and Mrs. Holmes would enjoy happiness for many more years to come.
In reply, Mr. W. Holmes said the words had been .very welcome. He was much obliged to them, and thankful for the good spirit which prevailed amongst the members of the Council. He hoped that spirit would long continue.
The Chairman remarked that the Clerk was now the proud father of a daughter. They all hoped she would be healthy, joy to her father, and would bring happiness to the home.
Dealing with a resolution by the Finance Committee that no action be taken at present in regard to the public clock on the Mechanics’ Institute, the Chairman stated that it was recognised by the committee that the clock was very much worn and nearing the end of its days. Tenders had been received both for the repairing and the replacement of the clock, and it was discovered that it would cost £1OO to repair the clock, while £168 would required for a new one. The committee did not favour that amount of money being spent out of the public funds, but they would not object if some good person would do the town good turn by replacing the clock. It had been suggested that the Parish Church had scheme for a church tower and clock, and, if that scheme was proceeded with, Baildon would not without town clock.
Mr. F. Holmes said he had heard that the bell on the Mechanics’ Institute was in danger of falling the ground, and asked if something could not be done to prevent that happening. The matter was left with the surveyor.

Local Board Minutes

Entries in the Baildon Local Board of Guardians minutes have several mentions of the clock

19 Dec 1871

The illumination of the Public Clock was agreed. This was to be Saturday night and it had to be extinguished at 11 o'clock. The Guardians agreed to accept the Public Clock from the Committee.

21 Aug 1877

The Guardians agreed to accept the Public Clock from the Committee if a signed document was given.

18 Dec 1877

The Public Clock was to be placed in the Mechanics Institute to the care of the Local Board for the Benefit of the ratepayers for ever.

7 Feb 1882

Agreed purchase of new wire rope for the clock in the Mechanic's Institute.

7 June 1887

The alm (?) dwelling was condemned.

Messrs. Shaw & Sons were to be asked to furnish estimates for a new dial in glass and enamel for the Public Clock.

Plans were passed for farm buildings for Mr R Hardaker.

2 Aug 1887

Mr Clegg of Baildon Hall was to be charged for water used in the house and not by meter.

William Carter's tender to fix the clock dial for £4 was accepted. Mr Shaw to paint the clock dial black and figures in gilt and to ensure the clock was left in going order.

10 Aug 1887

The Board agreed that water supplies be cut off 6pm-7am in order to conserve supplies. The Bell-man was to be instructed to inform the consumers of the arrangement and warn against waste.

The Board agreed to accept Mr Shaw's tender for supplying cast iron dial for public clock 5ft 9in in diameter painted black & gilt for £7.

16 Oct 1888

The Clerk informed members that Baildon's share of the cost of the new bridge at Buck Mill would be £389. The Board agreed that two plaques be fixed stating details of the date, purpose and conditions which the bridge had been erected.

The purchase of a Wet Gas Meter for the Clock was agreed.

The Board discussed the proposals to merger Baildon with Windhill on an Electoral Division for election of County Councillors.

Death of Clock Custodian

Shipley Times and Express - Saturday 21 December 1929
The sudden death of Mr. Sam Wood, 51, Northgate, Baildon, which occurred on Monday morning, marks the passing of one of the best-known characters of the moorland village.
He had been the custodian of the village clock in the Mechanics’ Institute for upwards of 60 years, and legend had it that the clock would never go without his attention. Apparently there was a great deal of truth in that, for when, owing to the state of his health, he was compelled to relinquish his care of the clock to other hands about 12 months ago, it has never functioned properly.
The clock was condemned as worn out several years ago, and the Council obtained tenders a for new one, but Mr. Wood said it had years of life, and he proved this was so, for, by his own methods, he kept the clock going.
His methods of tending and repairing the timepiece were decidedly not those of a conventional character, for many a time he has packed the worn-out bearings with lead and tinfoil, whilst he has lengthened the clock’s lease of life by the cunning introduction into its works of wire and pieces of string of all descriptions. Nevertheless, the clock kept fairly good time, and only last Saturday Mr. Wood intended to set the whole clock going again, as it has been standing for some time. Owing, however, to a new lock having been fitted, he was unable to obtain access to the clock tower.
Mr. Wood has survived four wives, and a leaves widow.
His death was sudden, but tranquil. On the morning of his last day he had been out into the village, when he made his usual call at the cartwright’s shop, returning home and chopping some firewood. He came into the house, sat down in his chair in an ordinary manner, and in a few minutes had passed away.

Second Clock

Mr Thomas Butterfield paid for a new clock in 1930 but the original stone commemorating the first clock remained in the front wall underneath the clock. The mason employed in fixing the new clock into the stonework was Harry Robinson of East Parade.[4]

In 1930 Baildon's second public clock on the Mechanic's Institute was paid for, and presented to the township, by the late Mr Thomas Butterfield JP. It replaced the timepiece bought by public subscription in 1870. The original stone commemorating the first clock remained in the front wall underneath the clock. The mason employed in fixing the new clock into the stonework was Harry Robinson of East Parade.[4]

When the Mechanics Institute was demolished the clock was moved to the Towngate Rooms/Liberal Club and was fixed in place by Jack Robinson, cousin to Harry Robinson.[4]

A large bell hung above the clock. It was broken at the Armistice Day of the First World War due to almost continuous ringing in celebration of the news.[4]

The commemorative stone on the Mechanics Institute, the tiled front of Jowett's butcher's shop, along with lots of material from the demolition in the 1960s was used as infill and part of the two signs were unearthed when a sink hole appeared on Browgate in September 2017 - see more here.

One feature of the clock is that it has clock faces at the front and back of the building with long shafts connecting to the hands. A large trap door in the ceiling of the Towngate Rooms gives access to the mechanism.

Shipley Times and Express - Saturday 22 March 1930
At last the village square of Baildon is to have new clock in the little tower surmounting the Mechanics’ Institute. Tenders had been received by the Baildon Urban Council for the installation of a new timepiece, but these have been passed over to Mr. Thomas Butterfield, J.P., of Charfield, Station Road, Baildon, a well- known philanthropist, whose latest gift to Baildon is to be a new clock. Mr. Butterfield was the donor of the six beautiful almshouses which stand in The Grove, Baildon, and which were opened last month. The organ in the Wesleyan Church of Baildon was installed at his expense, both this and the almshouses being in memory of his late wife, and he is well-known for his work in connection with the Bradford Royal Infirmary.
The installation of this new clock will recall to the minds of many people the death of the old clock’s best friend, when Mr. Sam Wood died last December. "Sam,” as he had been well known, had been the custodian of the old clock for upwards of 60 years, and legend had it that the clock would never go without his attention. Apparently there was great deal truth in that for when, owing to the state of his health, he was compelled, some 12 months before his death, to relinquish his care of the clock to other hands, it never functioned properly again.
The clock was condemned as worn out several years ago, and the Council obtained tenders for a new one, but Mr. Wood said his old friend had years of life, and he proved this was so, for by his own methods he kept the clock going.
His methods of attending and repairing the timepiece were hardly those of a clockmaker. Many a time he packed the worn out bearings with lead and tinfoil, whilst he lengthened the clock's life by the cunning introduction into its works of wire and pieces of string. Only two days before his death Mr. Wood went to the tower in order to set the whole clock working again, but was unable to gain access owing to a new lock having been fitted during his illness.
Shipley Times and Express. 22 March 1930. 2nd Clock

Related Images


  1. Baildon and and The Baildons. Paley Baildon.
  2. Dated photo by Harold Ellis - photo
  3. Joyce Coutu WWII diary.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 A Edwick notes