Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
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LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY.
THE idea of establishing a society in Newcastle, for the promotion of natural science and general literature, was first thrown out in conversation, at a weekly meeting of a few friends, during the winter of 1792; at the close of which, the Rev. W. Turner was requested, by Messrs. Page and Sorsbie, to draw out a sketch of the arguments for such an institution. This was produced the following week, under the title of "Speculations on a Literary Society;" and having been afterwards circulated in manuscript, occasioned a meeting at the Assembly Rooms, on Thursday, January 24, 1793. This meeting resolved that the formation of a Literary and Philosophical Society was highly expedient, and appointed William Cramlington, Esq. Robert Hopper Williamson, Esq. the Rev. Edward Moises, the Rev. William Turner, Dr. Pemberton, Dr. Ramsay, Dr. Wood, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Murray, Mr. Newton, Mr. David Stephenson, Mr. Thomas Gibson, Mr. Doubleday, Mr. Malin Sorsbie, and Mr. Nicholas Story, to be a committee for drawing up a plan to be submitted to the next general meeting.
This general meeting was held at the Dispensary, on Thursday, February 7, 1793, the Rev. Edward Moises in the chair; when a plan for the formation and government of the proposed society was presented by the committee, and adopted by the meeting, which formed itself into a society, by the name of "The Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne."The Society to consist of ordinary and honorary members; the former class to be persons resident in Newcastle and its vicinity, who should each contribute one guinea annually. The meetings of the Society to be held on the evening of the first Thursday in every month; at which religion, the practical branches of law and physic, British politics, and indeed all politics of the day, were deemed prohibited subjects of conversation. The officers now chosen were, President, John Widdrington, Esq. Vice-Presidents, Stephen Pemberton, M. D.; R. H. Williamson, Esq.; John Clark, M. D.— F. R. C. M. Ed.; W. Cramlington, Esq. Secretaries, Rev. W. Turner; Mr. Robert Doubleday. Committee, John Ramsay, M. D.; Mr. Walter Hall; Mr. D. Stephenson; James Wood, M. D. There were 73 ordinary members at the end of the first year.
It appears from the fifth resolution, passed at the first general meeting, that one of the leading objects of the institution was to provide a library for the use of its members, upon all the allowed subjects of discussion at its stated monthly meetings. For this purpose, the committee were empowered to purchase books, under the direction of the general meetings; or, when they should see it to be proper, in compliance with the recommendations of individual members. But it also appears, from the eleventh resolution, to have been the intention of the Society, at some future period, to adopt further measures for the establishment of a general library. In the spirit of this resolution, Mr. Moises, at a meeting of the Society, held Tuesday, December 10, 1793, requested, by a letter addressed to the Rev. W. Turner, the acting secretary, that a committee might be formed for taking into consideration the propriety of immediately attempting such an establishment. The committee, appointed in consequence of this request, held repeated meetings, and, after maturely considering different plans, resolved, that, as the members had agreed to pay their annual subscription of one guinea without any prospect of receiving in lieu of it any personal transferable property, it was most agreeable to the original principles of the association, as well as most simple and free from difficulties, that the library, &c. should always continue to be considered as the undivided property of the general body for the time being; and that every member should be understood to receive a sufficient compensation for his subscription, in the information derived from the stated meetings of the Society, and in the use of the books and the other property so long as he continues a member. The report of this committee was read at the meeting held January 14, 1794, when it was resolved that the same committee should draw up a plan for the management of the proposed library; and that, until the 11th of March next, members might be admitted upon the recommendation in writing of not less than three of the present ordinary members.
At the meeting held February 11, 1794, the committee reported that they had engaged the Billiard-room in St. Nicholas' Church-yard, as a permanent situation for the meetings of the Society, and to be a repository for its books, papers, &c. Towards the latter end of this year, the library became an object of regular resort to the members; and Messrs. Charnley and Bell attended alternately two hours each day, for the delivery and receipt of books.
In 1795, it was proposed by Mr. Kentish to establish a "Repository for Subjects of Natural History;" and circumstances being then peculiarly favourable, considerable progress was made in the collection: but the great expense that would be incurred in pursuing the design induced the society to abandon it. An abortive attempt was made this year to induce a committee of members to undertake the enumeration of the inhabitants of Newcastle and Gateshead, so as to produce an useful document for the medical, as well as the political calculator.
At the anniversary meeting held on March 14, 1797, it was ordered, agreeably to the advice of Councillor Williamson, for securing the property of the Society, that it be vested in trust in the gentlemen of the committee for the time being, during the time of their continuance as a committee. It was also resolved to create a third class of honorary members (not to exceed four in number), with the privileges of ordinary ones. This was for the accommodation of persons having a taste for knowledge, but whose circumstances might not admit their incurring the necessary expenses. During this year, the Society removed into the old Assembly-rooms in the Groat Market, which had been occupied as a linen-warehouse by Mr. George Brown, and next by Mr. Kinloch, dancing-master. The library was now opened on the afternoons of Tuesday and Thursday, from four to six o'clock. Mr. Spence was chosen librarian.
It was resolved, at the anniversary meeting, March 13, 1799, that a new class of members be instituted under the denomination of Reading Members, who should voluntarily relinquish the privilege of attending the general meetings, and voting in the choice of members. Ladies were made eligible into this class. On the death of the librarian this year, Mr. John Marshall, printer, was chosen his successor. In 1801, Dr. Townson, author of Travels in Hungary, &c. assisted in arranging the Society's collection of minerals; and a repository was fitted up for a complete Herbarium of British plants, which Messrs. Winch, Thornhill, and Waugh, engaged to prepare. At the general meeting of the Society held June 2, 1802, it was resolved to establish a permanent lectureship; and that the Rev. W. Turner, the senior secretary, be lecturer to the New Institution. At the subsequent anniversary meeting, a resolution was passed, authorizing any three of the committee, on application from an ordinary member, to grant strangers monthly tickets to the use of the library in the room. At the twelfth anniversary meeting, held March 5, 1805, it was resolved, in the same spirit of liberality, "that subscribers to similar institutions, which should afford an equal accommodation to the members of this institution, be admitted to the rooms without introduction, on producing to the librarian a certificate of their being members of such institutions."
In 1808, an unpleasant and acrimonious dispute took place respecting the connexion that subsisted between the Literary and Philosophical Society and the New Institution. One party contended that this connexion was irregular in its commencement, injurious to the Society in its progress, and that the rights and interests of the members generally required its dissolution. At the following anniversary meeting, March 7, 1809, most of the objections against the lectureship were obviated by resolutions expressly sanctioning the establishment, and limiting the sum to be given towards its support to £50 per annum, which sum was "to be applied to the purchasing and repairing of the philosophical apparatus, and defraying the incidental expenses of the Institution." It was also ordered, that "the library should be no longer used as the lecture-room of the New Institution." Preparations were made, this year, for a depository of the valuable papers that had been read at the monthly meetings of the Society. Mr. Sadler had been previously engaged to arrange the minerals in a scientific manner.
In 1813, the committee made arrangements whereby the library, from the 1st of May in that year, has been kept open from ten in the morning till ten o'clock at night. At the monthly meeting held January 4, 1814, a paper was read, announcing that a few of the members had entered into an engagement to furnish a paper in regular rotation for the monthly meetings, so that the society might never want subjects of enquiry and discussion. At the same time, it was distinctly stated that no discouragement would be offered to the occasional supply of papers from any other quarter.
On February 4, 1817, a special meeting of the committee was hastily convened, when the following minute was entered upon their book:— "The committee having referred to the 7th law of the Literary and Philosophical Society, in which religion and British politics are declared prohibited subjects of discussion,—Resolved, That Mr. Marshall, having printed and published a pamphlet, entitled a 'Political Litany,' in which both the above subjects have been introduced in a manner calculated to injure the reputation and interests of the Society, is no longer librarian to the Society."This strange, but dexterous application of the rule was instantly acted upon; and ten days after, the office of librarian was conferred on Mr. John Hudson, whose punctuality, diligence, and attention, have given great satisfaction to the members.
At the January monthly meeting of the Society, in 1820, the Rev. C. Benson moved that Don Juan, "a profane and licentious poem,"be withdrawn from the library; which, after a long discussion, was carried by 61 to 38 votes. The subject was again disputed at the February monthly meeting, when it was resolved that Don Juan should not be replaced in the library. Several ingenious and argumentative papers were published by members belonging to the contending parties. At the subsequent anniversary meeting, it was enacted, "that in future the control of the Society over the acts of the committee, as far as relates to the removal of books by them ordered into the library, shall only be exercised at the anniversary meeting."
In 1824, the Society, through the exertions of C. Ellison, Esq. M. P. assisted by Sir M. W. Ridley, Bart. M. P. and Sir. J. E. Swinburne, acquired the Public Records of the Kingdom, amounting to 50 folio volumes; the continuations to be received as published. And in the following year, William Ord, Esq. M. P. made arrangements for the regular transmission of the Parliamentary Proceedings.
The rapid accumulation of the property of the Society, both real and personal, rendered it imperiously necessary to provide for the security of the object originally intended, and always kept in view by its original founders, viz. "the accommodation of the perpetually changing body of its members, without the risk of the interference of individuals, and its transmission, in an undilapidated, but rather continually improving, state, to the latest posterity. Various attempts had before been made to secure this object, by regular transference from committee to committee, by a charter, and by parliamentary enactment; but insuperable difficulties presented themselves without incurring great expense, and the risk of cramping the future powers of the Society; while every desirable object appeared capable of being accomplished, at a trifling expense, by a simple trust-deed." Accordingly, the committee reported to the anniversary meeting, in 1825, that they had laid a case, embracing the terms of the proposed deed, before that eminent conveyancer, Charles Butler, Esq. who had recommended, that all the real estate should be properly vested in trustees for a term of 1000 years; that the equity of redemption should be vested in the trustees; that new trustees be appointed at a meeting of the company; that all the members (except the trustees) should covenant with the trustees, and the trustees should covenant with five or six of the principal members; that every new member should sign and seal the proposed deed; and that, in case the parties should wish to sell or exchange part of the property, or the institution should fail, regulations should be made to enable the members, or a majority of them, to sell the property. At the anniversary meeting in 1826, it was resolved, "that the draft of a deed of trust be laid before Mr. Williamson for his approbation; and that, if the general principle of it be approved by him, it be brought, with his corrections, before the next general monthly meeting, which shall be duly authorised to fill up the deed with the proper number of trustees."
This rapid historical sketch exhibits the rise of the institution from small beginnings into extensive usefulness and celebrity. At all times, it has numbered amongst its ordinary associates many very highly distinguished characters, whose scientific or literary communications have augmented the public stock of important information; whilst others, whose avocations prevented them from leading the discussions at general meetings, have yet reflected honour upon the Society by their judgement, integrity, and benevolence in active life. (fn. 1) The list of the Society's honorary members presents such an assemblage of talented and eminent men as would impart honour to any body. The great and progressive enlargement of a well-selected library, consisting of above 8000 volumes, has put the Society in possession of a permanent source of information and improvement, and a bond of union among its numerous members; while the easy access given to this valuable collection, both to persons occasionally and permanently resident, has greatly contributed to extend the benefits derived from it. The Society has also had the honour to give rise to the establishment of other useful and kindred institutions, and has frequently excited the laudable and benevolent exertions of the public at large. Let us indulge the hope that a Society, productive of so many invaluable advantages, "will continue to increase and prosper, and, in the same proportion, to diffuse a spirit favourable to knowledge and virtue through many succeeding generations."
The New Institution
The plan of this Institution was first projected by the late Thomas Bigge, Esq. whose ideas were ably stated in a paper, "On the Expediency of establishing, in Newcastle upon Tyne, a Lectureship on Subjects of Natural and Experimental Philosophy." After conferring with the Rev. W. Turner on the subject, this paper was read at the monthly meeting of the Literary and Philosophical Society, held May 4, 1802; and a committee was appointed for the purpose of considering the most probable means of carrying into effect the proposed establishment. At the next general meeting, in June, the report of this committee was presented, and the plan proposed in it adopted. The meeting then unanimously elected the Rev. W. Turner, the senior secretary to the Society, to be the lecturer to the New Institution; and an address to the public, drawn up by Mr. Bigge, was read and ordered to be printed and circulated. On application, His Grace the Duke of Northumberland accepted the patronage of the New Institution, made a donation of £200, and became an annual subscriber. The Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Durham also gave a donation of £100; and many gentlemen belonging to the Society subscribed liberally. The lecturer's pupils, as a mark of esteem and gratitude, presented him with a large achromatic telescope by Dolland, and Atwood's machine for elucidating the laws of accelerated and retarded motion. He previously possessed Dr. Rotheram's apparatus, which cost £140. The Society, shortly after, purchased the valuable apparatus of the late Dr. Garnett, which, with the other articles that belonged to the Society, or were afterwards purchased, has rendered the collection of apparatus extensive and valuable.
The New Institution was opened November 16, 1802, by the lecturer reading "A general introductory Discourse on the Objects, Advantages, and intended Plan of the New Institution for public Lectures on Natural Philosophy in Newcastle upon Tyne." This was afterwards printed, by order of the committee of the Literary and Philosophical Society. The lecturer has studied variety in the plan of the courses he has delivered, and also to combine amusement with scientific information. Each course has consisted of from ten to thirty-two lectures, according to the extent and importance of the subjects treated of. The first course, on Mechanics, Hydrostatics, and Pneumatics, was delivered in the library-room in the spring of 1803; which was followed, in the succeeding season, by a course on Electricity and Galvanism, and the Philosophy of Chemistry. The third was a long and interesting course on Chemistry, and its application to the arts; and was followed by a course on Optics and Astronomy, and another on Hydrostatics and Pneumatics, with their application to useful machinery. The seasons in 1812, 1813, and 1814, were occupied by lectures in the Joiners' Hall, on the Adyantages of Natural History, in the three departments of Zology, Botany, and Mineralogy. Several other interesting courses of lectures were delivered in the succeeding seasons; and on October 18. 1824, a series of lectures on Chemistry was commenced in the New Lecture-room in Westgate Street. During this course, the lecturer was ably assisted by Mr. Hugh Pattison.
At the anniversary meeting in 1809, the extent of the Society's patronage of the New Institution was defined, as before mentioned; but the order then made was rescinded at the anniversary meeting in 1824, and the following resolutions passed:— "That the treasurer do continue to appropriate the sum of £50, out of the funds of the Society, to the support of the New Institution; the money so appropriated to be applied as a salary to the lecturer; and that, upon opening the Lecture-room in the New Building, the members of this Society be admitted free to the annual course of lectures. That the subscription for persons, not members, to the course of lectures, be a guinea; that ladies, and all young persons under the age of twenty-one, be admitted at 10s. 6d. a ticket; and that the ticket for a single lecture be 2s. 6d. That the expenses of the lectures be defrayed out of the receipts arising from the admission tickets, and that the balance be paid to the lecturer. That the lectures shall commence in the first week of October in each year, and that the subject of the course be announced at the annual meeting preceding, and inserted in the report,"
During the third year of the Society, as mentioned before, some progress was made in forming an Ornithological collection; but the project was then very prudently abandoned, as tending to retard the extension of the library—an object of much higher importance. The Society, however, continued to accept of mineral specimens, illustrative of the stratification of the coal and lead districts, and of curious fossil phenomena and other interesting mineral substances. At length, their mineralogical cabinet contained several hundred specimens, though very imperfect in every department. The Herbarium, or Hortus Siccus of British plants, was formed by the public-spirited exertions of Messrs. Winch, Waugh, and Thornhill, (fn. 2) who, in 1803, presented to the Society nearly 700 dried specimens, arranged according to the system of Linnæus, as given by Dr, Smith in Flora Britannica. Since then, many foreign specimens have been obtained. particularly a valuable collection of plants from New South Wales, presented in 1811 by Mr. Charles Cockerill, jun. and arranged by Mr. Winch. The latter gentleman has recently presented numerous plants, collected in the north of England and the Highlands of Scotland: and Mr. Adamson has given a large Herbarium of British plants, collected by the late Mr. John Thornhill. In 1820, Major Anderson presented a curious collection of insects from Demarara; and, in 1821, Dr. Clanny, of Sunderland, sent a similar and complete collection of those found at the Cape of Good Hope. In September this year, the Society received from Thomas Coates, Esq. of Haydon Bridge, the munificent present of a Mummy, in high preservation and of great beauty, purchased by himself of an old Arab, at Gournou, the celebrated burial-place of the ancient Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt. On the lid of the coffin is carved a beautiful female face, the inner case is curiously painted with a great variety of symbolical figures, and there is a scroll of hieroglyphics reaching from below the middle to near the foot of the body. (fn. 3) Mr. Ramsay, the artist, made an accurate drawing of the beautiful external case. It was afterwards placed for security in a glass-case. During eight days, the secretaries attended to shew this curious relic of Egyptian antiquity to the public, when the anxiety to procure tickets of admission from the members exceeded all previous conception. It is computed that ten thousand persons visited the room wherein it was exhibited. It is said that none of the Museums in Paris, London, Edinburgh, or Glasgow, possess a more beautiful or better preserved Mummy, as far as relates to the outer cases.
The museum of natural curiosities collected by the late Marmaduke Tunstall, Esq. of Wycliff, being offered for sale by public auction, by the trustees of Mr. Allan, of Grange, G. T. Fox. Esq. of Westoe, thought it would be creditable to the Literary and Philosophical Society to rescue this celebrated collection from the hammer, and preserve it in its original integrity. As an inducement, he offered to assist in accomplishing this purchase, by lending the money (£500) for two years without interest, but subject to interest after that period: the principal to be repaid at the convenience of the Society. At the general meeting held on August 6, 1822, this liberal offer was accepted: and a subscription was commenced for the purpose of aiding the funds of the Society in the enlargement of the Museum.
For want of proper superintendance, many rare and valuable articles had been purloined, particularly from the cabinet of minerals; but when it became probable that the Museum would be carefully protected, many presentations were made; amongst which was a valuable collection of about 2000 insects, collected and beautifully preserved by the Rev. Dr. Macculloch, Principal of Pictou College, Nova Scotia. When the Museum was opened on November 21, 1825, it contained 27 Mammalia, and 751 birds. These included about 150 species of foreign birds, and 200 of British, making 350 species of birds. There were also about 60 species of Amphibia, a few fishes, about 100 species of the larger insects, shells about 156 species, a few minerals, several Roman antiquities, and various implements and weapons from the South Sea Islands. Since that time, 316 species of fossil shells, and a great variety of other shells, minerals, birds, and natural curiosities, have been presented by different gentlemen, whose names will be recorded in the Catalogue raisonné of the Museum, which is now in the press, under the superintendance of Mr. Fox. But Mr. William Hutton deserves distinguished notice, both on account of the valuable geological collection he has presented to the Museum, and of his eminent skill and ability as a mineralogist.
At the Society's monthly meeting in November, 1825, the hints of the committee on the management of the Museum were read, and, after some modifications, adopted. At the following anniversary meeting, they were reconsidered, and occasioned much discussion. The meeting appeared wishful to open the Museum to strangers, in the same liberal manner as access is given to the library; but the financial embarrassments of the Society formed an insuperable objection to this generous measure, and rendered the following resolution necessary:—"That the Museum be open for inspection from twelve to three o'clock every day; that every member have free admission at all times when the Museum is open; that such members as may choose voluntarily to subscribe half a guinea annually, shall have two transferable tickets, each of which may admit one person once a day; and that persons not members may be admitted at one shilling each, accompanied by a member."
The New Library.
The committee of the Literary and Philosophical Society reported to the annual meeting in 1814, that the intended sale of the premises then occupied by the Society, and their inadequacy to afford much longer any tolerable accommodation for the increasing library and other valuable property, had induced them to look out for more eligible apartments, or for a proper scite for building; but all their efforts to obtain either had been unsuccessful. The report of the following year urged various objections to the suggestion of obtaining either the Concert-room, or the Circus near the Forth, for the use of the Society; and, after mentioning different building-scites that had received a due share of attention, announced that the corporation had liberally granted the ground immediately north of the Girls' School, and adjoining to New Bridge Street, on lease for 21 years, at the nominal rent of 40s. per annum. After the reading of this report, it was resolved, "That an advance of half a guinea be made upon the usual annual subscription, for the term of four years; the whole of the funds arising from this advance to be applied to the exclusive object of providing for the expense of the proposed new building." This advance in the annual subscriptions was limited to four years, because it seemed expedient to allow a certain proportion of the sum to be expended to remain on the building, in the form of a permanent mortgage, it not being reasonable "that the present members of the Society, who have only a life-interest in its concerns, should provide accommodations, free of all burden, for their successors." Considerable assistance was also expected from the donations of opulent and spirited individuals. Two special adjourned meetings of the Society were held this year, for the purpose of adopting measures for forwarding the intended building.
At a special adjourned meeting, held on Tuesday, May 2, 1815, it was resolved, that the committee be instructed to purchase a freehold scite, for a sum not exceeding £1000. But this resolution was rescinded at another special meeting, on September 22d following. As no rapid progress was made in the building scheme, the rooms then occupied were, in 1817, put into a comfortable state; the reading-room was divided from the place of meeting by a permanent screen, containing shelves for books; and gas-lights were introduced.
At the November meeting in 1821, the subject of a New Building was revived, and many arguments were urged against retaining the corporation scite. The difficulty of raising a mortgage on leasehold property—the payment of one year's improved rent, and other charges that might be demanded on renewing the lease—the possibility that the corporation might, at a future period, on political grounds, absolutely refuse to renew the lease on any terms—and, above all, the uncertainty whether the corporation possessed any title to the "King's Dykes," of which the scite in question formed a part—were objections not easily answered. However, in order to lessen their force, a deputation waited upon the corporation, to solicit an enlargement of the term of the lease, provided the Society accepted it: but the request was refused. Amongst the freehold scites that had been in contemplation were,—1st, A scite in Pilgrim Street, a little above the High Bridge, offered by Major Anderson for £1300, but which was intersected by premises belonging to Mr. Clayton, rented at £45, offered at a fair valuation. 2d, Mrs. Chambers' premises in Newgate Street, near the White Cross, price £1400, the materials on which were valued at £250. 3d, The Cross House in Westgate Street, offered for £3000. 4th, A piece of ground above the Cross House, valued at £840. 5th, The premises of the late Joseph Forster, Esq. which might perhaps be procured for £2500. 6th, Mr. Stephen Reed's house in Clavering Place, value £2000. 7th, Mr. Angus' premises in Westgate Street, offered for £3500. The latter scite was generally considered eligible; but as the committee could not venture to make such a purchase, Dr. Headlam and a few other gentlemen purchased the property at their own risk, in order that the Society might have for £1000 a piece of ground 80 feet by 46, with a front looking into Collingwood Street, and to be insulated, This liberal offer was accepted at the monthly meeting held November 6, 1821; and the lease granted to the Society by the mayor and corporation was directed to be returned with thanks.
Immediately after this meeting, the committee advertised for plans, with estimates, of a building calculated to accommodate the Society; to "have a stone front, and a handsome entrance and stair-case at the end fronting the street; on the basementstory, a Lecture Room, with Rooms for the Apparatus and Museum of Natural History, and also apartments (not less than two) to be let to the Antiquarian Society; above, a Library, 80 feet by 40 inside, with a Gallery round. The whole not to exceed £3600." Twelve plans were received and laid upon the table. At the anniversary meeting, March 5, 1822, it was resolved, "That the expense of the building of the New Library shall not exceed the sum of £4000, including the purchase of the old materials of the houses to be pulled down;" and that the erection be conducted by a committee, consisting of Isaac Cookson, Esq. C. W. Bigge, Esq. James Losh, Esq. Dr. Headlam, the treasurer, and four members of the ordinary committee, who afterwards appointed from their own body Messrs. Thomas Hodgson, George Burnett, J. T. Brockett, and William Armstrong.
The building committee, under the influence of the most economical motives, recommended Mr. John Green to be the architect, which election was confirmed by the general meeting in April. (fn. 4) Being restricted to the sum of £4000, all the plans and arrangements were ordered with reference to this sum. As soon as the contracts were concluded, the premises standing upon the scite were taken down, and preparations made for laying the foundation-stone. This ceremony was performed on Monday, September 2, 1822, by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of England, assisted by Sir M. W. Ridley, Bart. M. P. (acting for Sir J. E. Swinburne, Bart. Provincial Grand Master for Northumberland, and President of the Society) and J. G. Lambton, Esq. M. P. Provincial Grand Master of Durham. His Royal Highness was accompanied to the scite of the intended building by a grand Masonic procession, when the usual ceremonies were duly performed. There were deposited in a cavity of the stone an elegant glass vase and a brass plate. This vessel, 13 inches long by 3 inches diameter, richly cut with pointed diamonds, and strawberry diamonds, rings, and twist, bore the following inscription, under the arms of the Duke of Sussex, which was exquisitely engraved:—" Deposited by his Royal Highness Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, 2d Sept. 1822." The stopper with which it was closed was cut with pointed diamonds, starred, and highly polished: on the bottom of it was engraved, "Presented by' Joseph Price, Proprietor of the Durham and British Glass Works, Gateshead, 1822." The whole was completed with a cap, also richly cut, to correspond with the opposite end. One object of Mr. Price in bestowing such high finishing upon this elegant present, was to afford to posterity a specimen of the height to which the arts of glass-making and cutting had arrived at the time of its deposit; and it must be confessed that the vase was highly calculated to attain his object. In the vase were deposited one of each of the coins of the present reign: it also contained the last report of the Society, a list of the members, and plans and elevations of the intended building. The vase itself was placed in a neat box. On one side of the brass plate was inscribed the titles of the Duke of Sussex, and on the other side the names of the officers of the Society. A spacious scaffolding in the form of an amphitheatre, which was erected on speculation by Mr. Hall, house-carpenter, was filled with spectators, and presented a grand and shewy effect. In the evening, about 300 gentlemen, consisting of Free Masons and members of the Literary and Philosophical Society, dined with his Royal Highness in the large Assembly Room. After this, the erection of the building proceeded pretty regularly.
The building scite being considered too small in extent, Dr. Headlam and his liberal associates offered to accommodate the Society gratuitously with an addition of 45 feet in depth (the addition amounting to 320 square yards), on the condition of paying for the materials of the premises that occupied the ground, and which were valued by Messrs. Burnett and Mackford at £550. The committee accepted this offer, and a subscription was immediately opened to assist in the purchase of the ground. The late Mr. John Ions had contracted to complete the mason-work for £1977; but the building committee soon made many important alterations. The rustic channelling was continued along the east and south fronts, the blocking-course kind of walling was abandoned, and about five feet was added to the elevation of the principal room. These and other deviations from the original plan made a corresponding alteration in the contract of Mr. C. Burnup for the carpentry-work, which he at first engaged to finish for £1129. It was therefore announced, to the anniversary meeting in 1823, that the building would cost "somewhere about £5000;" and a resolution was passed, "That the building committee be allowed to expend an additional £1000 upon the building," The committee next discovered that it would be desirable to possess an additional piece of ground on the south of the building, for which they paid £480. At the end of this ground were premises, which were altered and enlarged, so as to fit them for the residence of one of the servants belonging to the Society. The committee, conceiving that oil-gas might be produced for the use of the Society on moderate terms, also fitted up a capacious gas-house, and purchased expensive apparatus; but, on trial, the scheme failed. In July, 1825, the principal building was reported fit for the reception of the Society's library and other property, which were immediately removed. On Tuesday, September 6, the Society held its first meeting in its new apartments, James Losh, Esq. vice-president, in the chair; when the senior secretary read an Address to the Society, on its Origin, Progress, and Present State, including a Vindication of Public Libraries from the Objections of Dr. Whitaker, by the Rev. J. G. Robberds, which was unanimously ordered to be printed.
At the Society's annual meeting in 1819, it was resolved to continue the contribution of the additional half-guinea, voted in 1815, for four years longer, when it should cease "with regard at least to all those who had been members for eight years;" this being considered "as far as a Society should go, from which posterity is likely to derive so many important advantages, as a compulsory measure upon its members for the time being." But, in 1823, the committee informed the members that it was impossible the Society could be suitably carried on unless the additional half-guinea was made permanent, to which proposition the annual meeting agreed. This addition and the donations constitute the building fund.
At the anniversary meeting, March 7, 1826, the building committee were unable to ascertain, with any degree of precision, the cost of the building, from a strange backwardness in the tradesmen employed to present their accounts. However, the annexed account will be found an approximation to the sum required.
Thus it appears that the donations, (fn. 5) and the additional contribution of half-a-guinea annually, amounted, at the last anniversary meeting, to £4721, 4s. 6d.; and that to finish the building as contemplated (including the purchase of the Museum) will require at least £13,154, leaving a balance of £8433 to be provided for. Of this sum £5500 is already borrowed, and £3000 more must be raised in a similar manner. Now the interest and insurance on a debt of £8500 will require above £85 a year more than the highest sum ever raised in one year by the contribution of the additional halfguinea. But in examining the other accounts of the Society, it will appear evident that affairs cannot be suitably carried on without the income of the institution being considerably augmented.
It was intended that the New Library should be a credit and ornament to the town; but much of the effect desired is destroyed by the situation in which it is placed. Nor is the architecture faultless; though the architect is not to be blamed, as he acted under the varying directions of a committee. The masonry is excellent, and the style of the south front is tolerably chaste and elegant; but the chief front offends against good taste. In architecture, it is a fundamental rule that no ornament be introduced without it has some apparent use: according to this axiom, the pillars at the entrance have no business there, unless it be admitted that the arch above the door requires support. But this is too ungracious a subject to dwell upon. The west side of the basement story contains rooms for the Society's apparatus, &c. and on the east side are a commodious committee-room, and two apartments which are occupied by the Antiquarian Society. A door at the termination of the passage opens into the lecture-room: it is also used for the general meetings of the Society. This room, which will hold about 280 persons, is very badly planned. Persons find it difficult and unpleasant to pass or repass each other; and the apparatus room cannot be approached from the lecturer's table without pressing through the audience. The staircase, which is on the right hand side of the entrance, is ornamented with a fine, but expensive railing. Two Townley vases decorate the first landing: and above the next are five compartments in the wall, that contain casts of the Elgin marbles. (fn. 6) On first entering the large room, its ample dimensions, the noble chimney-pieces, the gallery with its tasteful and elegant railing, and the exquisite plaster-work that surmounts the whole, combine in giving it a grand and sumptuous appearance. But this impression is considerably weakened on a closer examination. The room is imperfectly lighted, though there are fifteen windows above the gallery, whose numerous cross shadows have an unpleasing effect; and the large window below the gallery is partly darkened by two square pillars. Without noticing the form of the roof, which conveys the idea of a dangerous lateral pressure, no person can avoid observing that the deep heavy plaster cornice seems to be supported only by the slender book-comes between the windows; while the cornice below the gallery is exposed to actual injury from moving the books in the top shelf. The marble bust of the late Dr. Charles Hutton, by Chantry, stands at present on one chimney-piece; the bust of Mr. Thomas Bewick, by Bailey, on the other; and an excellent cast from the bust of the late James Watt, presented by his son, is placed upon the table in the middle of the room. The gallery is entered at both sides of the north end by a narrow awkward staircase. Adjoining this end is the Museum, which is 40 feet long and 20 feet broad. It is well lighted by skylights, but is quite insufficient for the purposes to which it is appropriated. The reading room is ornamented by a portrait of the learned Hutton, presented to the Society by Mr. Morton, the able artist by whom it was executed; and a picture presented by Mrs. West. On the whole, this building is certainly inferior to what might have been expected, considering the vast expense of its erection and interior decorations. (fn. 7)
The Library of this Society contains near 9000 volumes, which have been selected with great care and judgment; and the number of books on various subjects are, with few exceptions, pretty fairly proportioned, according to their intrinsic and relative value. Such an excellent collection of standard books is an honour and a benefit to the town and neighbourhood; and the committee, in 1823, boasted that "this is the cheapest literary institution in Great Britain." But private societies, as well as national governments, have their periods of folly and extravagance; and from the following statements will appear the impossibility "of ministering upon (the former) moderate terms to that desire for information which pervades so numerous and inquisitive a body. (fn. 8)
It is evident that the extent and arrangements of the new building must entail considerable additional expenses on the Society, beyond those of its mere erection; and, on viewing the subject closely, it must be further confessed, that the incidental and necessary payments will exceed the receipts, without leaving any thing to purchase new books, or to pay off any part of the enormous debt contracted and to be contracted as mortgages upon the building. The following is, perhaps, a pretty near approximation to the permanent annual charge upon the Society:—
Nothing has been set down for librarian's expenses and gratuities, which may probably be paid with cash received for fines. The committee guarantees the curator's salary; but no certain conclusion can yet be formed of the receipts of the Museum, and how far that establishment may be further burdensome. The furniture, repairs, painting, &c. are stated very low; as it is expected the managers will soon begin to practise economy. The £25 allowed for binding will be required to keep the books in repair, and to bind Encyclopædias, Transactions, Reviews, Magazines, Philosophical Journals, and Parliamentary Proceedings. Printing and advertising are stated at £30 only, for the Reports and Catalogues, being now sold, reduces this charge, which will soon be felt as unprecedentedly heavy, a large and very expensive Catalogue of the Library, and another of the Museum, being now in the press. (fn. 9) The deficiency in the building account (see page 479) will probably increase, for one of the mortgagers has already demanded five per cent. for the money lent. Making every reasonable allowance, the permanent charges upon the Society cannot be less than £664 per annum; and as the average annual income, during the last three years, amounted only to £593, there will remain (after adding £20, the rent paid by the Antiquarian Society) an actual deficiency of above £50! It therefore becomes absolutely necessary to raise the annual subscription to two guineas; and, even then, the committee will find its power to purchase new books more than ordinarily curtailed. It may, indeed, happen that an increase of the subscription will not increase the total receipts; in which case, the annual payments would have to be again increased, and consequently the library would lose its former usefulness, and become merely a fashionable lounging place for the opulent classes of society.
In the subscriptions of the last two years are included £7, 12s. for syllabus'. The total sum in the fourth column of payments consists of £462, 3s. for rent; £87, 13s. 10½d. for librarian, taxes, &c.; £124, 9s. 8½d. for cleaning; £6, 6s. for joiner-work; and £47, 17s. 6d. paid to Mr. Hutchinson for repairing the instruments.
The purchase of the Wycliff Museum appears, under existing circumstances, to have been an imprudent act. Stuffed birds are certainly very expensive and perishable articles. Those collected by Marmaduke Tunstall, Esq. cost £5000, and were sold to Mr. Allen, in 1790, for less than £700. At the death of the latter gentleman in 1800, the whole, including considerable additions, was valued at only £300,* which facts shew the rapid depreciation of the value of this species of property. After the purchase of this old collection by the Society, some of the birds fell to pieces in the removal; several recline against the cases, the wires being decayed and broken by rust; and others are losing the natural freshness and brilliancy of their plumage. Two or three specimens are said to be extremely rare and valuable. But this collection cannot be supported and extended without considerable expense. A new building must also be erected for its reception, for the apartment in which it is now kept is already crowded to excess. However, this circumstance was too obvious to have escaped the notice of the projectors of the establishment. At any rate, no blame can be attached to Mr. Fox, who, in this business, was evidently actuated by the most disinterested and public-spirited motives. The sum of £13, 8s. has been received in donations for the Museum; and £19, 3s. 7d. has been paid for insurance and other expenses, to the 1st of March, 1826. At present, there are 76 annual subscribers, of half-a-guinea each, for its support.