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] 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 a Bradford Observer report dated Wednesday 1 June 1870 read:-

A new public clock set in motion on Monday night. It is the Mechanics Institute and has a dial at each end of the building. Beneath the dial on the NW side of the building is a 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 building for the special use of the village'.

The clock was started by the vicar Rev W Ffolliott at 8.00pm. The clock was made by Jonathan Cryer of Bingley and cost about £120 including the shafting to the second dial, which meant running the length of the building.

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

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.

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]

Baildon's second public clock on the Mechanic's Institute was presented to the township by the late Mr Thomas Butterfield JP. It replaced a timepiece bought by public subscription in 1870. 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.

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] This does not fit with the understanding some people have that the Liberal Club had a clock before 1969.

An early photo of the Liberal Club shows a sloping roof to the front. Some time before the clock was installed the roof was changed so that it had a gable end.

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 infil 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 of the building and the back with long shafts connecting to the hands. A large trap door in the ceiling of the Liberal club gives access to the mechanism. The Mechanics Institute clock from the building was moved to the Liberal Club building at that time and the Liberal club upper floor changed to suit.

Images related to the Mechanics Institute


  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 A Edwick notes