Building In Newcastle City Centre, Tyne And Wear
The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers or as it is more commonly known, “The Mining Institute” is one of the finest buildings in Newcastle. It is a Victorian building built at the time when high-Gothic architecture was coming into fashion.
The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, commonly known as The Mining Institute, is a British Royal Chartered learned society and membership organisation, and as its name suggests, it is dedicated to advancing science and technology in the North and promoting the research and preservation of knowledge relating to mining and mechanical engineering. Though it was almost known by another name; "The North of England Society for the Prevention of Accidents and for other purposes connected with mining", with Nicholas Wood as its Chairman. The name it began with was “North of England Institute of Mining Engineers”, and this was then changed, in 1870, to the name we know today.
The Institute was founded in 1852 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, and was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1876. Given the strength of the mining and engineering industries in the north east, it is little wonder that the Institute developed one of the largest collections of mining information in the world. Its library, named after Nicholas Wood, the first Chairman, contains more than twenty thousand volumes of technical literature.
On the 3rd of September 1852, the inaugural meeting was held at which Wood delivered an address in the lecture theatre of The Literary and Philosophical Society where he set out the aims of the Institute;
“First, - By a union or concentration of professional experience, to endeavour if possible, to devise measures which may avert or alleviate those dreadful calamities, which have so frequently produced such destruction to life and property, and which are always attended with such misery and distress to the mining population of the district; and Secondly, - to establish a Literary Institution, more particularly applicable to the theory, art, and practice of Mining, than the Institutions in the locality present, or which are within the reach of the profession in this locality.”
Nicholas Wood - Inaugural Address, printed in the Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers
The Institute initially held its meetings at The Lit and Phil and other local addresses but it soon felt the need for its own building, and thanks to a generous donation from Robert Stephenson on his death of £2000.00, a fund was started to build a permanent home. In 1867 plans were made and the building constructed between 1869-72 in Grainger's new town on the site of the medical school on land traditionally held by the Dukes of Westmorland, the Neville's. It comprises the Wood Memorial Hall containing the Library, lecture theatre and other small rooms and Neville Hall which was primarily office space that from the beginning until recently was let to various mining and other organisations, such as the Coal Trade Association, Blyth and Tyne Railway, Freemasons and the Law Society.
The Architect was Archibald Matthias Dunn, whose father was a mining engineer and mines inspector and present at the Institute's inaugural meeting, so it pays to have good connections! The building is in the English Gothic Revival style with “Tyneside Classical” themes, and the library has a spectacular barrel vaulted, sky lit ceiling, that rises to 39ft above the floor, with stained glass windows by Cooke of London. Other features of the room are a statue of Nicholas Wood mounted on a throne, marble busts of other Institute Presidents and an amazing carving above the entrance door of the River Tyne God, featuring the Institute Motto: Moneo et Munio (I advise and I protect).
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The original lecture theatre was replaced by the current one in 1902 designed by local architects Cackett and Burns Dick (who went on to build the Tyne Bridge Towers), and modelled on the Royal Institution in London. It features a steep rake of seating constructed from Cuban mahogany and the walls display portraits of all the Institute's Presidents since 1852.
In 2019 the assets of the Institute - building, library and archive collections and staff - were transferred to a new charity, The Common Room of the Great North, established to "celebrate the region's engineering history through education and engagement, with a vision to inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers". Neville Hall, the Institute building, was closed for refurbishment in 2019 and recently re-opened for access by the public. There is even a lovely cafe / bar to relax in.
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Head out of the multi story and head down onto Neville Street by the Centre for Life. Pass the portico of Newcastle Central Station and the Station Hotel and The Mining Institute building can be found just by the junction between Orchard Street, Westgate Road and Neville Street.
Place contributed by Andrew Gardner
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