THE ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY.
THE idea of instituting an Antiquarian Society in Newcastle upon
Tyne originated with Mr. John Bell, jun. bookseller, Quayside,
who circulated 75 printed letters, dated November 4, 1812, pointing out Northumberland and Durham as a rich and ample field
for antiquarian research, and giving an outline of a plan for such
an establishment. Being promised assistance, Mr. Bell convened
a meeting of the gentlemen to whom his circular letter had been
addressed, and which was held in the chambers of Mr. Adamson, on
January 15, 1813. The gentlemen that attended appointed another meeting to be
holden at the Concert-room on the 23d of the same month. This meeting, which
consisted of seventeen gentlemen, Sir Charles M. L. Monck, Bart. being in the
chair, formed itself into a Society, to be denominated "The Antiquarian Society of
Newcastle upon Tyne," for the purpose of inquiring into antiquities in general, but
more especially into those of the north of England, and of the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Durham. Officers were then appointed, and a committee
chosen, to draw up a code of statutes to govern the Society.
At the next meeting, held on the 6th of February, it was announced that the
Duke of Northumberland, who had been appointed Patron of the Society, and Sir
J. E. Swinburn, Bart. who had been chosen the President, had accepted those offices; (fn. 1)
the statutes were read and sanctioned; and a resolution passed, that the committee of
the Literary and Philosophical Society should be solicited to accommodate the Society
with one of their rooms, until the mayor and corporation signified their acquiescence
to the request made to grant a room in the Castle, in which the Society might hold
its meetings and deposit its property. The Society was accordingly accommodated
with an apartment below the library-room in the Groat Market, until November 3,
this year, when they removed to the old Castle, where they continued until May,
1819. The Society next rented apartments in Messrs. Farrington's yard, Bigg Market, which they occupied until the New Building of the Literary and Philosophical
Society was finished, in which two rooms were appropriated for their use. They
held their 12th anniversary meeting on January 5, 1825, in their new apartments.
This Society consists of ordinary, corresponding, and honorary members. The
number of the last two classes is unlimited; but only 100 members are admissible
into the class of ordinary members. Candidates are admitted by ballot, and threefourths of the members present are required to confirm the elections. Each ordinary
and corresponding member pays an admission fee of two guineas, and each ordinary
member an annual subscription of one guinea. The general meetings are held the
first Wednesday in every month, and the annual meeting on the first Wednesday in
January; when, agreeably to a resolution passed at the anniversary meeting in 1824,
the members who chuse dine together. The Society possess a cabinet of coins, a
museum of fragments of antiquities, and a library of books on antiquities and coins.
They have a seal, designed by Mr. Howard of the Royal Academy, and engraved by
Mr. Wyon of the Royal Mint. A female figure is supposed to be reading the proceedings of the Society: she is seated on the fragment of a column, opposite to an
altar found near Newcastle upon Tyne, and inscribed "Lamiis Tribvs:" beneath is
written "Scripta Manent," and round the seal, "Sigillvm Societatis AntiQvariorvm Pontis Ælii. Mdcccxiii."
The Society has not evinced much zeal in the discovery of the remains of antiquity.
One volume of their transactions has appeared, under the title of "Archæologia
Æliana," which is chiefly valuable on account of some elaborate papers, from the pen
of their learned and industrious senior secretary, the Rev. John Hodgson. Another
volume, and a Catalogue of the Library and Cabinet, is announced to be in the press.
The library-room of this Society is ornamented with a model of their seal above
the fire-place, executed and presented by Mr. Richard Farrington. The chairs and
some other articles of furniture are very old-fashioned. Forty-nine guineas were
subscribed by the members, to assist in furnishing their apartments. The second
room is intended to be appropriated for small articles of antiquity, whose exposure
without doors might be attended with difficulty or danger. The more massive altars,
figures, &c. are to be placed against the walls "around the space of ground" behind
the New Library, where they will be sheltered by the arcade which the committee
of the Literary and Philosophical Society agreed to build for their reception. The
Antiquarian Society complain that the delay in erecting this depository for antiquities
prevents them from receiving donations of inscriptions, &c. which otherwise would
have been presented, In order, therefore, to stimulate the committee of the Literary
and Philosophical Society to a performance of their engagement, the Antiquarian
Society, at their anniversary meeting, held on January 3, 1827, resolved to subscribe
£40 towards the building of the arcade, and recommended that individual subscriptions should also be solicited in furtherance of the work.