The Huddersfield buildings with special protected status

Today, Huddersfield’s John William Street is known for its selection of takeaways, restaurants, and the Cherry Tree pub but many of its buildings have been given special protected status due to their historical importance.

In fact, almost all of the town centre inside the ring road is part of the Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area, which is described as “at risk” by Historic England. On top of this, the organisation has put the streets around St George’s Square at the heart of a Heritage Action Zone, which aims to revamp the area and bring vacant buildings back into use.

Looking up from the street level, visitors can see fine examples of Victorian architecture throughout this part of town. While almost all of the buildings in this area are at least Grade II listed, Historic England has described many of them as “empty or unused”, with some “falling into disrepair”.

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Here are a few buildings that deserve your attention next time you take a stroll through Huddersfield town centre. Much of the following has been informed by Historic England’s website.

Estate buildings

The town centre base of the powerful Ramsden family. A large part of Huddersfield’s history can be attributed to the family who owned much of the land in and around the town from the 18th Century onwards.

The Ramsdens retained control over what was built, and they rapidly expanded the small market town into an industrial powerhouse, with canals, railways and mills popping up throughout the Victorian era.

The estate buildings are of ornate Gothic construction and were built throughout the 1860s and ‘70s by Huddersfield-born architect, William Henry Crossland. According to Lucy Jessop, PhD, on the Historic England site, the imposing Gothic style was a break from the gentler classical style which defined the mid-19th century buildings in the area.

The buildings are located on Railway Street and the shields of the Ramsden family over the entrances let you know you’re there. Inside, an entrance hall with grand arches, a chequerboard floor, and stained glass welcomes visitors.

The family sold much of its Huddersfield property to the Corporation, which preceded the modern council, in 1920, and the Estate Buildings were used as Kirklees Council offices until recently.

Britannia Buildings

The Britannia buildings take up a prominent position in Huddersfield, sitting across from the George Hotel in St George’s Square.

Built around 1858, the Britannia is a prime example of the town’s expansion in the mid-19th Century. At the time of its construction, the buildings were used as warehouses, showrooms, and offices, before being repurposed by the Huddersfield Building Society.

George Hotel

Much has been written about the George Hotel, and it has become one of Huddersfield’s most iconic buildings. Together with the railway station just across St George’s Square, it stands as a reminder of the town’s golden era.

The part of the hotel that remains today was built in 1850, in an Italianate style which became the preferred architectural style of the area. During the building of the George, John William Street was also built - named after John William Ramsden, 5th Baronet.

Estate Buildings, Westgate, Huddersfield.
Estate Buildings, Westgate, Huddersfield.

Famously, Rugby League was founded at a meeting at the George. In 1895, 22 clubs met at the George and decided to break away from the Rugby Football Union.

The George is currently being revamped under the Radisson brand, and is expected to open at some point in 2025.

The future

Kirklees Council is working to improve these historic parts of town through its Heritage-Led Regeneration Scheme (HLRS) which provides some cash for restoration. As of December 2023, a total of £1.2m has been committed to successful schemes and four buildings improved.

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Another project funded by the HLRS is a £610,000 refurbishment of some buildings on John William Street, with the modern metal frontages to be replaced with traditional timber ones.

David Shepherd, Strategic Director for Growth & Regeneration at Kirklees Council, said: “Huddersfield’s history and heritage is very important to us, and protecting this heritage already has a prominent place in all our regeneration plans for the town centre.

“We’re currently working closely with Historic England to conduct a conservation area appraisal and management plan, along with new guidance on shop fronts in the town centre, all of which will provide us with really useful planning tools to help us protect and maintain more of our beautiful heritage buildings.

“We expect to hold a public consultation on this work with Historic England later this year, so that we can hopefully adopt new guidance around conservation in Huddersfield in early 2025.”