Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield


Built in the 1870s, Imperial Arcade is the oldest arcade in Huddersfield, beating its more glamorous and illustrious neighbour, Byram Arcade by half a dozen years.

It has a classic glass ceiling, with ironwork to give structure and decoration above eye level.

It’s only a short arcade these days, with signage in Market Street indicating where to head, but the covered section only starting halfway towards New Street at the other end of the block.

Above the entrances at both ends is a painted sign bearing the name of the arcade and the Huddersfield coat of arms, with its three sheep and three castle towers, and a ram’s head on top, to depict how this town was once in the middle of Yorkshire’s wool trade. But don’t forget also to look down at the decorative tiling which lines the walls by one of the entrances.

Some of the best original features are actually inside the wonderful complementary therapy centre in the arcade. Step inside here not only for healings and readings but also just to admire the original staircase. I was also lucky enough to be taken under the arcade to the basement level, which is still used for storage by one shop, but used to be a busy passageway in its own right for deliveries and access between the different shops in the arcade.

Imperial Arcade has its own tenants’ association, creating a small community around the arcade, which has led to the building of the flower bed (in the roofless section), making this more than a simple passage to and from different parts of the town centre.

My pick of the arcade’s past

Imperial Arcade was quite the hub of Huddersfield society in the 1880s: the local Law Society rented premises in the arcade, and held regular property auctions on the ground floor, as well as meetings of the Huddersfield Law Students’ Society and a library upstairs; a money lender also had rooms upstairs, and the stationer downstairs became a seller of his own short story publications.

In 1888 the draper in the arcade got himself into trouble, and was eventually fined a guinea for assaulting a customer and refusing to let him leave the shop without buying something. The draper argued that the man had come into this shop to spy on behalf of other businesses, and had no intention of purchasing anything, but just wanted to check the prices of various items and materials. A dispute broke out, in which the ‘customer’ knocked over piles of towels when found to be locked in the shop, and the shopkeeper grabbed him by the wrists and threatened further violence. The judge found in favour of the customer, who claimed he was a victim of ‘false imprisonment’.

In 1889, Siddle’s bicycle shop moved from Byram Arcade in Huddersfield to the Imperial Arcade. Four years later, it took 19 year old Charlie Dyson, whose father ran the shop, 18 hours and 42 minutes to cycle from Huddersfield to London, thus breaking the previous record time by about a quarter of an hour, in spite of several punctures along the way and the sending of telegrams from various points en route to mark his progress.

When war broke out in 1939, the even numbered shop units in Imperial Arcade from 6-20 were designated as official public shelters in the event if air raids on the town.

Sources for the stories here all from : 1) Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer, 14 February 1888, British Library Board); 2) Huddersfield Chronicle, 5 May 1893.

This arcade in films or books

I have yet to find Imperial Arcade in Huddersfield in any film or book. Can anyone help with a mention or sighting?

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

My favourite shop in the arcade

Handmade in Huddersfield, the florist’s branch of this excellent small business which sells not only flowers but also arts and crafts products which focus on the local history of Huddersfield or use materials produced locally. They are also the inspiration behind the beautiful flower bed which has been planted up for a bit of summer colour, and the other shops pulled together to provide the cushions for passers-by to sit on when it’s nice weather.

Is there a website for this arcade?

Imperial Arcade is on Facebook and Instagram, as are some of the businesses operating in the arcade. But there is no website as such for the arcade

2 responses to “Imperial Arcade, Huddersfield”

  1. Anthony says:

    Thanks for this write up, I am the owner of Handmade in Huddersfield so I’m extremely grateful for you picking us as your favourite shop.
    Next time you visit, please introduce yourself, I’d love to show you around, maybe even some behind the scenes places.
    I’d also love to talk to you about what we are doing to improve the arcade including monthly craft markets and planting thousands of bulbs and plants in the long neglected garden.

    We do also have a social media presence for the arcade. It’s @imperialarcadehuddersfield on Instagram and Imperial Arcade Huddersfield on Facebook. This is all being done by the tenants in the arcade rather than the landlords.

    • Simon Duffin says:

      That sounds a great idea. I’d love to see some behind the scenes places! I need to come back to Huddersfield once the repair work is finished on Byram Arcade. I’ll get those social media mentions changed. Thanks for the comment

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