Huddersfield Mission is the successor organisation to Huddersfield Methodist Mission. There has been a Methodist church in the town centre of Huddersfield since 1775 and in 1798 land was leased by the Wesleyan Methodists for chapel in Queen Street. This building still remains and is now the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
In December 1905 the Queen Street Methodist Church applied to be recognised as a ‘Mission’ and this was agreed in 1906. As a Methodist Mission there was a clear emphasis on social work and campaigning – which we still reflect today.
There was a wide array of clubs and groups associated with the Mission: - the Wesley Guild, Band of Hope, Men’s Reading Room, A Boys Brigade and Girls Club. In 1913 the Sunday School had 573 scholars!
1n 1907 a Guild for Crippled Children was established, supporting children with disabilities to grow up at home rather than in institutions. This work was then taken over by the Local Authority so the focus of the Guild became supporting adult with disabilities and their families. This eventually become the Huddersfield Guild for the Disabled which closed in 2010.
The Mission also open the Women’s Home, which supported unmarried mothers during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as providing training to assist women to find employment. At its height in 1937 the Home gave accommodation to 106 young women, supported 245 with gifts of food and clothing and help 68 to find employment.
The years between the wars saw the greatest concentration of work for the Mission. After WWII, the introduction of the Welfare State and demographic changes affecting town centre populations the need for the Mission work declined as did the congregation of the Mission.
In the 1970s the Mission moved to a new building in King Street, with the original Mission being converted to become the Lawrence Batley Theatre, the original theatre in Huddersfield having been lost in development during the 1960s.
The Women Home closed in 1972, and the Mission opened a Coffee Bar which soon became an informal support service for people who were vulnerable for one reason nor another. Many were offered the chance to learn new skills as volunteers in the Coffee Bar.
During the 1990s negotiation began with the local authority and with developers to build a new shopping centre in Huddersfield. After long negotiations the King Street building was compulsorily purchased and the Mission was temporarily located to 15 Lord Street, whilst the Kingate Centre was built. During the temporary use of 15 Lord Street, it was agreed that the replacement building to be provider by the developers should include 15 Lord Street.
The Lord Street Mission building opened in 2000, with The Methodist Annual Conference being one of the first users of the building.
The Coffee bar morphed into the Mission Café and slowly over the years developed skills and experience in providing support to vulnerable people, including those with multiple and complex needs. The Café is now run by a mix of paid staff and volunteers, and advice and support is given by a team of paid staff. More recently has seen the development of a broad range of activities to boost people’s skills, confidence and self-esteem as well as just providing some fun.
Since the original Mission in 1906 much has changed – the location twice, the legal framework and the language we use to describe things. What hasn’t changed is the commitment to both provide support but also to give voice to those in need.