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Bedlington Colliery Institute Scroll of Honour


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Canny - I waded through that weighty tome etheses.dur.ac.uk/5614 back in 2020;  see below:


Posted by me August 25, 2020

"I've been doing a bit of research on the Mechanics Institute and I'm currently reading a long dissertation some guy did for his Doctorate years ago on the history of Mech Insts.  Ours, the one next to the Sun Inn took over the old courthouse and klink there and it was sponsored by the Bedlington Iron Works.  I've got more details noted in my study but I ain't there at the moment so can't give dates.  I'll try to do a summary and post it so we have some facts listed.  The formation of Mech Insts was interesting national Victorian movement ... but more later."


Posted by me August 26, 2020 (edited)

"I read through that Doctoral Thesis (phew!) and found it very interesting but only a couple of mentions about our Mechanics Institute.  It was founded in 1848 and closed in 1906 when it had 200 members (the last year when member numbers exist);  most Mech Insts in the NE had closed by 1913.  It's economic base and benefactor was the Bedlington Iron Works.  You can read the Thesis here: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/5614/ but you'll need to download the .pdf document shown at the top of the page ... I can recommend the read as it opens the door for us into the Victorian drive for self-improvement for working men (and it was only for men);  all most women had to look forward to was a life of drudgery back then.

It clearly continued as a social club but no longer followed the purpose of it's founders, namely the pursuit of technical education."

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2 hours ago, Symptoms said:

Canny - I waded through that weighty tome etheses.dur.ac.uk/5614 back in 2020; 

Is that where I got it from! It's been filed away on my PC for ages. Looking at the date of the download it's only 2 days after you mentioned it. It is certainly an extremely good and informative account of the movement in the north east. I had no idea that it was anything other than a watering hole.


2 hours ago, Symptoms said:

I can recommend the read as it opens the door for us into the Victorian drive for self-improvement for working men (and it was only for men);  all most women had to look forward to was a life of drudgery back then.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it either but I have to disagree that it was only for men, working or otherwise. (Stockdale outlined nicely a period in the movement's history when there were more white-collar then blue-collar members). I've come across plenty of instances while reading about it that show women were admitted to the MI early on in its history:


”Originally, few Mechanics’ Institutes encouraged or allowed female members, although this changed towards the end of the 19th century. Where women were admitted, they often had restricted access: at Shrewsbury, for example, women paid half the subscription of men but were only allowed to attend lectures and use the library. After 1850, many larger institutions started to offer special classes for women, particularly in English.”


”One thing is certain: the girls and young women who attended the Institute were made of stern stuff. Unlike the mainly middle-class women attending daytime classes at Manchester Mechanics’ Institute for instance, the women of the Bradford Female Educational Institute worked for a living.”


The Institute’s egalitarian ethos even extended to women who could attend lectures from 1825 and were able to become members in 1830.

It's certainly a fascinating history and must have done a lot to improve education and literacy in Bedlington. Worth a mention on our timeline perhaps?



Edited by Canny lass
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  • 2 weeks later...

Canny -

I remain unconvinced that loads of women were able to benefit directly from the facilities offered in the Mechanics Institutes even where there was a half-price subscription.  I suspect that it was only those with some disposable income who could afford the subs;  I’m not sure that the  vast majority of ‘working poor’ women fell into this group.  I can accept that perhaps those women from the ‘trading classes’ – wives and daughters of the butchers, bakers and candle stick makers were the ones who had the time and resources to access these places. The Institutes in the big cities would have had much bigger populations to draw on so the proportion of women wishing, or able, to use the facilities would have been greater.  I can’t see many poor wives and mothers in places like Bedlington, enslaved to the tyranny of the poss tub having the time, energy or resources to join the Institutes.  Of course, there would have been exceptions but I can’t see it being widespread.  My own maternal Grandmother was an exceptional woman who led an incredible life – I’ve posted her story on the Facebook page of her Co.Durham home village … perhaps I might copy it here to illustrate that Victorian/Edwardian working class drive for self-improvement that we’ve been discussing.  What do you think?  

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I can agree that membership was predominantly male - throughout the country as a whole, not just in Bedlington, and for just those reasons you give. I may have misunderstood your statement "and it was only for men" as I thought you were referring to the movement's general regulations. Perhaps women became more involved with the social side of the movement. I have vague recollections of my mother attending beetle drives at the 'mech' during my early childhood and I believe it was something she started doing way back in the 30s when the family lived in the Arcade.

Your gran sounds like my type of woman and having a penchant for all things Victorian, especially those related to the working classes, I'd love to read about her. I don't suppose life was too different in any parts of the north east so there is a certain relevance to her story. Get it posted!


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On 25/04/2022 at 14:33, Alan Edgar (Eggy1948) said:

@Rigger & @Maggie/915 - have either of you herd of the 'Scroll of Honour' for WWI ?

There is a memorial book in the old annex to the church . Names include my grandad who did not die but suffered until death in 1941 .
A generation lost .

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