Great North Museum - Hancock
Museum Newcastle City Centre Tyne And Wear

Great North Museum: Hancock

Museum In Newcastle City Centre, Tyne And Wear

A museum of natural history and ancient civilisations in the heart of Newcastle city centre.

The Great North Museum: Hancock, or The Hancock Museum as most of us know it as from numerous school trips, is Newcastle's main museum of natural history and ancient civilisations. Originally established on this site in 1884 by the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne, now known as the Natural History Society of Northumbria, after their collection outgrew its small museum on Westgate Road.

The collection was started in around 1780 when Marmaduke Tunstall started to accumulate material in London of an ethnographic and natural history nature from around the world. Tunstall brought this collection to North Yorkshire and when he died in 1790 it was purchased by George Allan of Darlington, and then subsequently by the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1823. In 1829 the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne was formed as the scientific offshoot of the Literary and Philosophical Society.

One of the main benefactors was our old friend William Armstrong who donated the huge sum of £11,500.00 to the museum. The museum was renamed after the local naturalists Albany and John Hancock (who were among the founders of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne) in the 1890s.

A later merger in 2006 with Newcastle University's Museum of Antiquities and Shefton Museum saw The Hancock Museum become the Great North Museum, and the subsequently after its 2009 extension and refurbishment, the Great North Museum: Hancock (GNM:H). The museum is now managed by Tyne and Wear Archives on behalf of Newcastle University although the collection and building is owned by the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

The 2009 extension and refurbishment saw a further link with the great and the good of Tyneside with the Architect on the job being Sir Terry Farrell, who as a young lad, moved to Newcastle and was a student at St Cuthbert's Grammar School before getting his degree at Newcastle University.

The GNM:H houses a huge number of collections and artifacts and has displays on natural history, geology, ancient Egypt and Greece, the Romans and Hadrian's Wall as well as having an interactive study zone, an under 5s area and a digital planetarium!

Some of its most famous residents may well be fondly recalled by many of us who came on school trips, such as Bakt-en-Hor the Egyptian Mummy, a full sized T-Rex which was one of the first items placed in the museum, a full sized life cast of an African Elephant, a Wombat which is considered to be the first complete Wombat specimen to reach Europe and last but not least, Sparkie, Newcastle's famous talking Budgie who was stuffed in 1962 (after his death!) and is now the subject of an opera by Michael Nyman!

Another interesting thing about the GNM:H is that one of the Second World War air raid shelter openings into the Victoria Tunnel is beneath the grounds of the museum, the entrance can be seen on Claremont Road. On the second floor of the Great North Museum: Hancock is a Library which is open to the public and houses three collections - the Library and Archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, the Library of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and Newcastle University's Cowen Library. The nineteenth century botanical paintings by Margaret Rebecca Dickinson of plants from the Newcastle and Scottish Borders region can also be found in the museum archives.

There is a lovely café for the all-important teas and wees and numerous events and exhibitions throughout the year which you can find more information about on the GNM:H website.

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Parking can be found nearby at Claremont Road car park.

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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Andrew Gardner

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Great North Museum - Hancock was listed in Museum // Tyne And Wear // Newcastle City Centre