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Visiting Huddersfield, England: with its grand railroad station portico and statue of Prime Minister Harold Wilson

Updated on January 23, 2016
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Huddersfield railroad station
Huddersfield railroad station | Source
Harold Wilson statue, St George's Square, Huddersfield
Harold Wilson statue, St George's Square, Huddersfield | Source
Map location of Huddersfield
Map location of Huddersfield | Source

A striking neo-Classical portico and a brilliantly crafted statue

Huddersfield, in Yorkshire, England, must have one of the grandest railroad stations that I have seen. The residence of a colonial proconsul, or a US state capitol, comes to mind. Indeed, it has been known as a stately home for trains; the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman described the station frontage as the most splendid in England.

Its architect was James Pigott Pritchett (1789-1868). The neo-Classical building was erected between 1846 and 1850, and among its outstanding features is its Corinthian portico, with six columns in width and two in depth. The firm of Joseph Kaye was responsible for the building work.

The recently pedestrianized area which lies in front of the famous portico is known as St George's Square, and here, also, stands a remarkable, historically poignant work of art. There is a bronze statue — unveiled in 1999 — of Harold Wilson (1916-1995), who was born in Huddersfield and served as Prime Minister of Great Britain 1964-1970 and 1974-1976.

For those familiar with the life and times of Harold Wilson, the statue by Ian Walters (1930-2006) may be acknowledged to have been brilliantly executed. Mr Wilson (1) is seemingly turning, indicative of apparent openness and inquiry, while his actual direction of walking is not quite clear. Seemingly moving one way, but actually intending to go another? Do his posture and demeanour show an apparently modest engagement with the people, on whom he impresses a frank and disarming projection of himself, or is it calculated? This is indeed the Harold Wilson who alternatively intrigued, fascinated, amused and sometimes confused so many people for so long. It may be reasonably assumed that for the sculptor to have achieved such a high degree of accuracy he must have laboured, exhausted himself and to some degree empathized with the persona of this most elusive of subjects over a long period. Indeed, Canadians will know what is meant if comparison with the complex and baffling William Lyon Mackenzie King is suggested.

The uncanny elusiveness of the personality which the statue depicts may arguably reflect also something of the real life mental struggles of this most intelligent but puzzling Prime Minister of great personal warmth. His surprise resignation in 1976 was said to have been impelled at the relatively early age of 60 by an increasing, self-professed sense of mental inability to cope with the pressures of office. The question is begged: in personality terms, wherein lay the boundary between his projection of informality and openness and the reality of his inner strivings? In any case, as a work of art this statue of a famous son of Huddersfield is outstanding.


(1) On resignation as British Prime Minister in 1976, Harold Wilson became Sir Harold Wilson and later Lord Wilson of Rievaulx; but he was previously known as Mr. Wilson and this is how I refer to him here.

Also worth seeing

Overlooking Huddersfield itself, the Victoria Tower, on Castle Hill, dates from 1899; this monument is on the site of an Iron Age hill fort.

Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth (distance: 29 kilometres) commemorating novelist sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë

Chatsworth House , Bakewell (distance: 70 kilometres); this historic, stately home, seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, attracts a very large number of visitors; it is situated in the scenic Peak District.


How to get there : United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Manchester Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Manchester Airport to Huddersfield: 69.8 kilometres. Rail services are maintained between Manchester Airport and Huddersfield railroad stations. Travellers should be advised that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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