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  1. continued: Having read Stockdale's work I now think I, and possibly we, may be confusing the number of Mechanics’ Institutes with the number of Institute buildings because there seems to have only ever been ONE Mechanics Institute in Bedlington. Briefly (by my standards) those points of interest, gleaned from Stockdale. and relating to our discussion, are the following. 1824 Ten Mechanics’ Institutes in England of which eight were in the North East and Durham. Among these, only Alnwick and Newcastle were in Northumberland. 1825 Twelve MIs in the north east, Hexham, Morpeth and Tynemouth Institutes established. 1827, 1829, 1830, 1831 With the exception of one institute 1828, NO MIs were established in the entire North East. This was due to the effects of the depression. This places a large question mark on Evan Martin’s claim of the Ironworks MI being established 1829. 1834 – 1846 Crisis years in the movement. Only 13 new institutes established. 1847 – 1851 Revival of the movement 1847 The location and economic base of MIs was established between 1847 and 1851 1848 Bedlington Mechanics Institute established. Its economic base was Bedlington Iron Works. 1852 – 1873 Government interventions in education are introduced and public libraries opened. This heralds the demise of the movement as its traditional services now have strong competition. 1855 -1862 The North East movement reaches its peak of activity 1874 to 1902 The MI is still facing strong competition for its traditional services of education and libraries, added to which the institutes are now amalgamating with the Working Mens’ Institutes as the social and drinking side of the movement has gained ground, being almost the only function they have left. 1878 Delegates reports on their Institutes to the Northern Union Annual Meeting were said to be of a ”satisfactory nature”. There was no cause for concern for the movement. 1881 Delegates reports, including from Bedlington, were giving more details on membership, activity and finances and concern is expressed that MIs are still extremely dependent on financial support from the upper classes. This dependency continued throughout the remainder of the century. The death of MIs in the North East: The financial support of the upper classes facilitated a lot of rebuilding and refurbishing within the north east movement during the latter years of the nineteenth century, something Stockdale describes as a possible ”mission of responsibility toward educational and social improvement of the working-classes”. (Netherton got a reading room!). However, it didn’t seem to help other than allowing the movement to go out with a whimper rather than a bang. Bedlington Mechanics’ Institute, which had 200 members in 1906 hade NONE in 1907. Like Monty Python’s Norwegian Blue parrot it had ceased to be. It was extinct. It was dead. The movement ended in the north east in 1913. Several establishments retained the name Mechanics’ Institute, or something similar, but they are basically social clubs. Source: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/5614/1/5614 3030.PDF In light of that I suggest that Bedlington Mechanics’ Institute, established 1848 at Bedlington Ironworks, may have had its origins in the Society for Mutual Improvement at the same place. I don’t know when that was established, possibly 1829, but i’ts well documented that BIW had students from all over Europe. I’d further suggest that the institutes located at Bedlington Station Colliery and Market Place Bedlington were all part of the same ’Bedlington Mechanics’ Institute’ created to provide easier access for people on the Bedlington side of the river.
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