Huddersfield

Birthplace of rugby league, the West Yorkshire market town of Huddersfield is represented by European contenders in the oval-ball game and long-term underachievers in football. Super League side Huddersfield Giants have shared the John Smith’s Stadium with Huddersfield Town FC since it was opened in 1994.

Decades of lower-tier scrapping were cast aside when German-born centre-back Christopher Schindler converted the last penalty kick of a shoot-out to beat Reading and claim a Premier League place for the Terriers in May 2017.

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George Hotel/Tony Dawber

It had been 45 years since Huddersfield Town last graced the top flight. In between, rugby league remained the focus for many.

The first meeting of northern rugby clubs who broke away from a game dominated by the southern privately educated elite took place in 1895 at the George Hotel in Huddersfield’s town centre. Later to house a heritage centre for the sport and mooted by local MP Barry Sheerman to be the world’s first rugby league hotel owned by fans, this historic landmark is currently being converted into a boutique lodging with rooftop bar and basement spa.

The building stands opposite a statue of Beatles-era prime minister, Harold Wilson, a football man who grew up through the only time in history when his home-town team were the best in the land. Then based at Leeds Road, just the other side of the narrow River Colne from today’s John Smith’s Stadium, north-east of the city centre, Huddersfield FC famously won three league titles in a row in the mid-1920s.

For a textile hub close to the Lancashire mill towns where professional football boomed in the 1880s, rugby-dominated Huddersfield had come late to the round-ball game.

A soccer club wasn’t formed until 1908, when a pitch was found at Leeds Road and the great stadium architect of the day, Archibald Leitch, hired at today’s equivalent of nearly half a million pounds. Leitch duly built a ground alongside the river, the pitch suffered and the new club went bust in two years.

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Welcome to Huddersfield/Tony Dawber

In the economic chaos after World War I, another club, Huddersfield Town, was formed. But attracting crowds away from the all-conquering local rugby league side, based in Fartown, further north of town, still proved tricky.

Soon saddled with debt, Huddersfield Town even considered a move to nearby Leeds, whose own local football club had folded in 1919.

By chance, the last manager of Leeds City was a Yorkshireman, Herbert Chapman. Having left the game to work at a factory in Selby, he took little persuasion to come over to Huddersfield – particularly as the club had just won through to their first FA Cup final, losing after extra-time to Aston Villa.

Chapman poached Villa’s Clem Stephenson, made him captain and lynchpin of his new Huddersfield side, won the FA Cup in 1922 then, in 1924, the first of three consecutive league titles.

It was a historic achievement for a club that had nearly gone out of business only five years before, and one that saw the Leeds Road ground expanded to 60,000. Before the third of Huddersfield’s titles, Chapman had gone to make history with Arsenal, but his groundbreaking modern managership was established at Leeds Road. A plaque now stands in the B&Q car park where the centre-spot once lay.

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Welcome to Huddersfield/Tony Dawber

Seventy years after Huddersfield’s first title, the ground staged its last league game in 1994. For two years, Town had shared it with the Huddersfield’s rugby league club, the two moving together to the new stadium over the Colne.

Given Huddersfield’s high rugby profile, it’s no surprise that the John Smith’s Stadium has staged World Cup and international matches in both oval-ball codes. As for football, then lowly Huddersfield Town were saved from collapse by Giants chairman Ken Davy in 2003. Greetings card millionaire and lifelong fan Dean Hoyle then took majority shares in the club in 2009, prompting tension between the two entrepreneurs and groundshare clubs, resolved with a £2 million deal in 2013.

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Huddersfield

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Huddersfield train station: 53.648414, -1.784524
Huddersfield bus station: 53.646512, -1.786187
Huddersfield Town/John Smith\'s Stadium: 53.653108, -1.770301
Huddersfield Travelodge : 53.655502, -1.776604
Huddersfield Central Premier Inn : 53.644696, -1.773891
Huddersfield Central Lodge Hotel : 53.647538, -1.779506
Huddersfield Hotel : 53.647188, -1.779356
Cedar Court Hotel: 53.670425, -1.828854
Woodman Inn : 53.636101, -1.786410
The Sportsman : 53.650338, -1.784242
Northern Taps : 53.645691, -1.779727
The Cherry Tree : 53.647374, -1.782364
The Vulcan: 53.648327, -1.780109
Head of Steam : 53.647950, -1.784785
The Aspley: 53.644836, -1.774302
The Bulls Head : 53.614455, -1.852698

Bearings

The nearest airport to Huddersfield is Leeds-Bradford, 35km (22 miles) north. There’s no direct service by public transport – you have to get a Flying Tiger bus to either Leeds (every 20-30min) or Bradford Interchange (every 1hr – each £3.60 single, £6 month return, £6 MetroDay ticket for all buses in West Yorkshire).

From Bradford Interchange, bus No.X63 runs every 10-20min to Huddersfield bus station (40min journey time).

From Leeds station, a frequent train to Huddersfield (online from £5.50) takes 20min. From Manchester a regular train to Huddersfield (online from £12.50) takes 30-45min – any train from London (3hrs) requires a change, usually at Leeds or Manchester.

Huddersfield’s impressive train station is by St George’s Square on the edge of the town centre. The bus station is nearby, just the other side of Westgate.

West Yorkshire Metro oversees all local and regional buses.

A1 Taxis (01484 541 111) are Huddersfield-based and quote £35 to town from Leeds-Bradford airport.

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Huddersfield Hotel/Tony Dawber

Bed

Kirklees Council has a database of accommodation in and around Huddersfield.

The nearest lodging to the ground, 400 yards away, is the Huddersfield Travelodge, a modern building set back from the road, close to the Yorkshire Rose pub/eaterie. On the same side of town, a pleasant 10min walk from the John Smith’s Stadium via a canal towpath, is another affordable chain choice, the Huddersfield Central Premier Inn has a lovely waterside location.

In the town centre, the family-run Huddersfield Central Lodge Hotel is comfortable, friendly and convenient, a full English breakfast included in the reasonable rates. Also central, the Huddersfield Hotel (41 Kirkgate, 01484 512 111) is as cheap as it can possibly get – but you get what you pay for. It’s a 10min walk from the stadium, turning left, left again then right onto Leeds Road and right onto Gasworks Street.

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Cedar Court/Tony Dawber

For a relaxing stay out by the golf club, the Cedar Court is the only local four-star, at the junction of the M62, taking full advantage of its lofty setting on Ainley Top overlooking Huddersfield. A grill restaurant and in-house health club encourage weekend stays. Bus No.503 from outside the hotel takes you to Fitzwilliam Street, less than 10min from the stadium.

For a real upmarket getaway, the Woodman Inn in Thunderbridge, in a rural hamlet three miles south-east of town, has been transformed from an 18th-century drinking inn to a superb contemporary hotel and restaurant. Nearby, bus Nos.82, 83 and 84 run into town.

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The Sportsman/Tony Dawber

Beer

Giving a contemporary touch to a traditional hostelry, award-winning The Sportsman goes big on craft beers, particularly Huddersfield-based Mallinson’s, as well as all-day food from mainly local suppliers and occasional live music. Equally popular and slap in town, the Northern Taps is a ‘kitchen, ale & cider house’, with a quality take on all three. Nearby, The Cherry Tree is a large Wetherspoon in Pearl Assurance House, with the usual drinks deals and afternoon sports on TV.

At the edge of the town centre, The Vulcan is a cosy pub for Premier League action on two big-screen televisions, meal deals and themed party nights. Pool and jukebox too.

Within the railway station buildings (direct access from platform 1), the Head of Steam is another ale lovers’ haunt with TV sport, one of several branches in major northern cities.

For a drink with a view, The Aspley, part of the Table Table group, set beside the boating marina and the Premier Inn hotel.

Just outside Huddersfield, accessible by the half-hourly No.393 bus, The Bull’s Head in tranquil Linthwaite is a superb country pub and restaurant with a rotating selection of guest ales.


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