The mechanics' institute movement of the British Isles has been underrated by some historians, who have argued that many of the institutes were attended by the middle and upper classes. In any case, they state that by the 1850s, they were declining in both popularity and usefulness. This paper questions these assumptions, concentrating on the developments at the Huddersfield Mechanics' Institute and comparing with other institutes both locally and nationally its responsiveness to local and national developments with regard to its contribution to education. Like many other institutes, Huddersfield provided a foundation on which twentieth-century further education was firmly established. Britain was not the only country to establish a mechanics' institute movement as similar developments were also taking place in other countries, particularly in Australia.