What do you know about ‘the curse of Castle Hill’?
Referred to in one history book as a ‘strange jinx’, the so-called curse centres on officials who were involved in the construction of the tower, also known as Jubilee Tower, which had been proposed to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.
The first death took place in 1897. Just two weeks after his idea for a commemorative tower was announced, tower committee chairman George William Tomlinson suddenly died.
His death, at the age of 60, was attributed to malaria which he had apparently contracted in Venice.
Mr Tomlinson was held in such high regard locally that his death prompted donations to a tower subscription fund.
A second shock was to hit the town and all those associated with the tower project the following year, 1898.
Only a month after the corner stone was laid in a special ceremony another tower trust committee chairman was found dead.
Clr Edward Brooke committed suicide by walking into the River Clyde near Renfrew Ferry.
Brooke had presided at the foundation stone ceremony on June 25 1898.
According to the book Huddersfield - A History & Celebration, “there was no real explanation for his death and it was presumed he must have jumped although no motive for suicide was ever suggested.”
The tower was finally opened on June 24 1899.
Architect John Haigh, who had been supervising construction, was seriously injured about six weeks after the tower was opened.
He had been overseeing work on a warehouse in Huddersfield town centre when he fell from scaffolding.
Not long after the opening of Victoria Tower, it was the scene of its first tragedy when Mr Edward North fell over 100ft from the top.
North had called at the nearby Castle Hill Hotel on the afternoon of November 14 1899 where he enjoyed two beers and three whiskies before deciding to ascend the tower.
Although there was no evidence to suggest he had committed suicide, North had spoken to a stonemason about what it might feel like to fall from a height, the coroner was told.
A farm labourer said he had seen North climb over railings at the top of the tower to get onto the turret.
North’s last words, prophetically, were: “I shan’t be two minutes before I’m down again.”
Evidence at his inquest pointed to an accident rather than suicide which prompted the coroner to recommend that the north-west turret be fenced to prevent any further tragedies.
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