HUDDERSFIELD has a glorious textile heritage.

The reputation of the woollens and worsteds produced across the town spread to every corner of the globe.

But a little over 100 years ago, the wealthy millowners in Huddersfield's bustling valleys jealously guarded the secrets of their success.

So much so that attempts to found a Huddersfield Textile Society foundered - because of fears of industrial espionage.

When a group of businessmen got together in the Huddersfield Technical School in May, 1892, they were determined to get together as a new society.

But after agreeing on a programme of guest lectures, debates and discussions, there was a bone of contention.

The idea of a question box, to disseminate information, was regarded with suspicion by many of the members and the fledgling society died almost before it breathed.

But nine years later more enlightened millowners and industrialists agreed to get together once more and formed the Huddersfield Textile Society, which is now celebrating its centenary.

The suspicions which ruined the initial launch still persisted.

Edward Armitage, head of the textiles department of Huddersfield Technical College, said as much in his notes to a society journal.

"The object of the Textile Society is to provide a common meeting ground for the young men who are to be the future leaders in our textile industries, and for those who are at present occupying those positions, so that the one may by their advice and encouragement inspire the other to equip themselves more thoroughly for their work in the future.

"But it must be distinctly stated that the society will not countenance for one moment the discussion or imparting of information which may be regarded in the nature of trade secrets."

Mr Frederick Eastwood JP was elected first president of the society. He was chairman of Folly Hall-based fancy worsted makers Eastwood and Co and was also honorary secretary of the Huddersfield Infirmary.

Mr Eastwood was president until 1909, when he was succeeded by Clr J Blamires, one of the original vice-presidents.

The president now is Mr Gerald Stead, formerly of Smith and Calverley, who was appointed in 2002. He had served as secretary for 10 years.

Over the years, society members have heard numerous debates and lectures on every aspect of their trade.

Mr Stead said: "Products and companies have come and, alas, many have gone. The trade has changed and overseas competition almost engulfed us.

"But there are still exciting niches of profitable business in and around Huddersfield, meeting the world's demand for the highest quality in design, materials and production.

"The society's lectures continue to address important issues and current knowledge for today's industry."

* To contact the society ring secretary John A Shaw on 01484 653153 or log on to