There’s an old painting in the boardroom of our Huddersfield home, hanging somewhat inconspicuously beside the window that looks down over Northumberland Street.
Just how long the picture has been on this particular wall is unknown, but the walls themselves have been standing since 1874, originally housing the town’s Post Office. And Dugdale Bros & Co have been lucky enough to call this grand space in the heart of England’s worsted industry ‘home’ since 1914.
Whenever a visitor, customer, client or old friend walks into the building, they are dependably greeted by our heritage alongside our handshakes. There’s the same sense of history folded into the metres of cloth that line our shelves that you might find amongst the leaves of an old, first edition book, and it’s impossible to pass through the door without feeling it.
But back to the painting.
A building within a building, the picture depicts 5 Northumberland Street as it was seen by Norman Culley in 1914. As President of the Huddersfield Art Society and founding Head of the Department of Architecture at Huddersfield Technical College, Culley’s enthusiasm for buildings eventually steered his path away from artistry, and he enjoyed an illustrious career as one of the region’s leading architects.
His talent in both areas is evident in this painting. From a modern perspective, its sepia tones evoke a sense of a time long gone, but its sharp lines and focused clarity deliver a depiction of the building’s impressive architecture that rings true to this day.
And, if you look very closely, you can just make out an impression of an early aeroplane, circling the skies between the iconic towers. It remains a mystery whether this is a depiction of West Yorkshire’s answer to the Wright Brothers, 11 years after their maiden flight, or simply a testament to Culley’s imagination and artistic license, but it certainly lends an element of intrigue to the painting!
Times have changed in Huddersfield, but our home remains. Today, we share it with new generations of academic achievers, with half of the building now used for student accommodation. But the Dugdale Bros & Co name still hangs proudly beside our door.
We wonder if Norman Culley ever guessed that his legacy would live on in his brushstrokes, or his work still be admired well over a hundred years later?
Many thanks to Christopher Marsden of the Huddersfield Civic Society for his help in tracing the history of the painting.