It was a real red letter day – tinged with memories of war.
History was recreated when the Mayor and Mayoress of Kirklees, Clr Ken Smith and Mrs Christine Smith, marked the centenary of Huddersfield’s Northumberland Street post office.
The town’s new post office was officially opened on October 31, 1914, with the Mayor of Huddersfield, Alderman J Blamires, posting the first letter. Plans for an elaborate ceremony had been scrapped as the First World War had broken out just weeks before.
The letter itself seems coldly business-like – a receipt sent to Sir William Raynor for money he had given to the mayor’s War Relief Fund set up to support the wives and families of servicemen.
A century on, Clr Smith posted another letter – this time to the Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey, which for more than 90 years has been making poppies, crosses and wreaths for the Royal Family and the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.
In the letter to the charity’s president, Sara Jones, Clr Smith writes: “It seemed very fitting to me to send this centenary letter to yourselves in recognition of the continuing need, 100 years later, for the great efforts you continue to make on behalf of service personnel of the past, present and future.
“It is sent with the continuing good wishes of the people of Kirklees.”
Also mirroring events 100 years ago, the mayoress sent a postcard to former Test cricket umpire Dickie Bird, who is a personal friend – just as Alderman Blamires’ daughter had sent a postcard at the opening of the post office in 1914. Sadly, the recipient of that postcard was not recorded in contemporary reports.
Clr Smith said: “I was very keen to mark such a significant event. I also thought that the Poppy Factory would be the most appropriate organisation to receive my letter. I expect that by that stage in 1914 most people were not really aware of what was going on in France. I don’t think reality had set in.”
Attending the event were David Griffiths from Huddersfield Local History Society; Chris Marsden, chairman of Huddersfield Civic Society; and David Holmes, acting delivery manager at Northumberland Street.
Sir William Raynor was a local worthy who became grand master of the West Yorkshire Provincial Lodge of Freemasons in 1919 and author of a book in 1922 marking the lodge’s centenary. He was also among officials at the opening of the war memorial at Greenhead Park after the First World War.
Northumberland Street post office was designed in a generally ‘classical’ style by architect C P Wilkinson, from the Office of Works. It was his first major post office scheme and he went on to design more than 30 post office buildings across northern England and North Wales.