Literary Institutions : Literary, Scientific and Mechanical Institution

Pages 488-490

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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Associations for imparting scientific knowledge to persons engaged in mechanical pursuits were, a few years ago, formed in England, Scotland, Ireland, America, and France. The great utility of such institutions being obvious, a few persons agreed to convene, by advertisement, a public meeting, to be held in Fletcher's Long Room, on February 26, 1824, in order to consider the expediency of attempting the formation of such an establishment in Newcastle upon Tyne. At this meeting, Mr. George Stephenson, engineer, presided, the plan was approved of, resolutions were passed for carrying it into effect, and a committee was appointed to draw up the necessary rules. Another public meeting was held in the Joiners' Hall on the 16th of March following, Mr. Robert Robson, mason, in the chair, when the present rules were adopted, a general committee chosen, and the Institution was finally organized. As it was not designed for mechanics alone, but for the benefit of all the industrious classes of Society, and especially of ingenious young men whose limited income precluded their admission into more expensive establishments, it very properly was designated, "The Literary, Scientific, and Mechanical Institution, of Newcastle upon Tyne."

Persons at the age of 20 years are eligible to become members of this society; but young men between 14 and 20 may be admitted as reading members, and to attend the classes. Members are chosen by ballot, and each subscribes twelve shillings annually. The general meetings of the society are held on the first Monday in every month. The officers and committee are chosen at the anniversary meeting in March. (fn. 1) All books or discussions on party politics and controversial divinity are strictly prohibited.

By great exertion, the nucleus of a library was formed, and a large school-room in Pilgrim Street was opened for the use of the members on the 27th of April after the institution of the society; and, shortly after, Mr. Charles Purvis was appointed librarian. On May 11, the first regular monthly meeting was held; when an appropriate Introductory Address was read by the Rev. W. Turner, one of the vice-presidents, and which was ordered to be printed. On November 8, the library was removed to another school-room in St. Nicholas' Church-yard, from whence it was removed, in July, 1825, to the Masonic Hall, Newgate Street, which was fitted up in an economical, convenient, and comfortable manner. The apartments below the library-room are appropriated to the use of the classes and the meetings of the committee. After the society had entered upon these commodious premises, the Rev. W. Turner, assisted by Mr. John Daglish, chemist, and Mr. Henry Smith, gratuitously delivered to the members an instructive course of lectures on Chemistry. In the spring of this year, Mr. J. Jackson had delivered to the Institution a course of lectures on popular subjects of Natural Philosophy, in Fletcher's Long Room, agreeably to a plan suggested by the committee, and by which the members were gratified without encroaching on the funds. The general meetings have been rendered interesting by papers from Mr. John Dobson, Mr. Eneas Mackenzie, Mr. Henry Atkinson, &c. and latterly by a series of scientific lectures, communicated through Henry Brougham, Esq. M. P. Lectures on the steam-engine have also been delivered by Mr. E. Galloway, jun. engineer.

The accounts of the first two years of this Institution, on the 1st March, 1826, stand thus:—

RECEIPTS. £. s. d. PAYMENTS. £. s. d.
Donations (fn. 2) 271 1 0 Books and binding 419 6
Annual benefactions 31 10 0 Advertising, printing, & stationary 43 19 2
Subscriptions 312 0 0 Librarian 26 16 6
Fines 6 7 6 Furniture 51 12 6
Interest 1 16 2 Rent, taxes, coals, candles, cleaning, &c. 52 10 0
Classes 18 0 0
612 4
Bal. due from W. Holmes, treasurer 10 10
622 14 8 622 14 8

This society equals, if not surpasses, in practical utility, most similar ones. There are above 400 payable members; and the library already contains about 3000 volumes, several of which are both scarce and expensive. Many of the books were presented by the late Bishop of Durham, the Rev. T. H. Scott, the Rev. W. Turner, W. C. Trevelyan, Esq. James Losh, Esq. Messrs. Charnley, Mackenzie, Clarke, Murray, Galloway, and many others. Every encouragement has been given to the formation of classes, for studying the practical sciences, and those arts and acquirements most useful in life. Classes for studying Chemistry, the Mathematics, Geography and the Use of the Globes, Architectural Drawing, Figure and Landscape Drawing, and the French Language, have been organized. Most of these continue their studies with great perseverance. The Language Class and Figure Drawing Class are attended by masters, whom the students pay by a small weekly subscription. The other classes have hitherto been taught gratuitously by some of the members. Thus the Institution may very properly be styled an extensively useful "school of instruction."—"Nothing," it is observed in the first year's annual report, "can present to the philanthropist such a pleasing picture as the orderly, respectful, and attentive behaviour of the young men who every evening attend the library, to study the pages of illustrious philosophers, moralists, historians, travellers, and mechanics; thus qualifying themselves to become intelligent and respectable members of society, instead of spending their time in the streets, in ale-houses, or in loose company, to the injury of their health, their character, and their happiness. Were masters and fathers of families to visit the Institution, we might calculate on the zealous support of every one who regards the welfare of the rising generation."


  • 1. The following list is copied from the First Annual Report of the Institution:—Patrons, Sir M. W. Ridley, Bart. M. P.; Cuthbert Ellison, Esq. M. P; J. G. Lambton, Esq. M. P.; T. W. Beaumont, Esq. M. P.; William Ord, Esq. M. P.; Hon. W. Powlett, M. P. President, Charles W. Bigge, Esq. Vice-presidents, R. W. Brandling, Esq.; John Buddle, Esq.; W. Chapman, Esq. banker; Anthony Clapham, Esq.; William Losh, Esq.; James Potts, Esq.; Benjamin Thompson, Esq.; Rev. William Turner. Secretaries, Mr. William Cail; Rev. W. B. Smith, A. M. Treasurer, Mr. William Holmes. Committee, First Class, Mr. John Dobson, architect; Mr. J. Burnett, millwright; Mr. J. Burrell, founder; Mr. R. Wallace, builder; Mr. G. Stephenson, engineer; Mr. J. Baker, military surveyor. Second Class, Mr. T. Tate, house-carpenter; Mr. W. Mather, bricklayer; Mr. M. Reed, house-carpenter; Mr. M. J. Burn, engine-builder; Mr. J. Tindale, chain-maker; Mr. J. Gibson, painter. Third Class, Mr. E. Mackenzie, printer; Mr. W. Clarke, teacher; Mr. H. Atkinson teacher; Mr. S. Armstrong, clerk; Mr. J. Richardson, grocer; Mr. G. Berkley, shopkeeper. Matthew Bell, Esq. M. P. became a Patron of the Institution in 1826. The committee, it will be observed, consists of three classes. Six are chosen from amongst architects, engineers, surveyors, artists, builders, and practical chemists; six from amongst master and journeymen mechanics; and six from the other members of the Institution. The two persons in each of the classes who have the fewest votes, are not eligible for election the following year. This arrangement, which prevents the committee from always returning themselves, was highly approved of by Mr. Brougham, on a recent visit to the Institution.
  • 2. J. G. Lambton, Esq. M. P. gave a donation of £50; T. W. Beaumont, Esq. M. P. £21; Sir M. W. Ridley, Bart. M. P. £10, 10s.; C. Ellison, Esq. M. P. £10, 10s.; W. Ord, Esq. M. P. £10, 10s.; Hon. W. Powlett, Esq. M. P. £5; C. W. Bigge, Esq. £10, 10s.; J. Buddle, Esq. £21; Sir T. Burdon, Knt. £10; T. Gibson, Esq. £10; Messrs. Losh, Wilson, and Bell, £10, 10s.; A. J. Cresswell Baker, Esq. £5, 5s.; S. Craster, Esq. £5; W. Clayton, Esq. £5; and several other gentlemen gave £2, 2s. or £1, 1s. Some of the incorporated companies gave donations, and also became annual subscribers.—See Reports of the Institution.