The Mechanics Institution and public library:
Mechanics' Institutes were educational establishments formed to
provide adult education, particularly in technical subjects, to
working men. As such, they were often funded by local
industrialists on the grounds that they would ultimately benefit
from having more knowledgeable and skilled employees.
Institutes were used as 'libraries' for the adult working class,
and provided them with an alternative pastime to gambling and
drinking in pubs.
The origin of this
form of 'self-improvement' and education in Hanley is found with "The Pottery Philosophical Society"
which was established at the Red Lion Inn,
Shelton, in 1820 with a largely middle-class membership it continued to meet, in members' houses, until 1835.
The Mechanics' Institution
was founded in 1826 for 'the promotion of
useful knowledge among the working classes' at the instigation of
Benjamin Vale, then curate of Stoke and later Rector of Longton, and
with the support of Josiah Wedgwood and other leading local men.
lecture rooms and classrooms, a library, a
laboratory, and a committee room were built in Frederick Street (now
Gitana Street) in 1834–5, and c. 1840 the institution had a library of
nearly 1,500 books, 'excluding polemical divinity and party politics'.
The library in Pall Mall was opened
in 1887........ "The town also boasts a splendid public
free library, which was opened in April 1887, by the late Earl
Granville, K.G. The library contains 8,185 volumes. There are
reference and lending departments, a news room and museum, chiefly
devoted to objects of local interest. Science classes are also held
here, and are well attended by both sexes."
1840 report the the House of Commons recorded:
"A Mechanics' Institution
has existed in the town for 14 years. The number of members
has for some years ranged only at from 200 to 300. It
possesses an excellent library of upwards of 1,500 volumes, a
reading-room, classes for drawing and chemistry, and latterly
elementary classes. The drawing class has always been well
attended - this art being so useful to those engaged in the
manufactures of the neighbourhood. The proportions of the
different classes of persons, members of the institution, will
be seen in the following table:- "
The government school of design, in
Pall Mall, was instituted in 1847.
"The Government School of Art, in Pall
Mall, which was established as long ago as 1847, has had a most
brilliant career, and has turned out pupils who have made their
mark, not only in the artistic employment offered in the various
factories in the neighbourhood, but in all parts of this country and
in the colonies."
The first move towards the establishment of an art school was made by
the Mechanics' Institution in 1845, but the idea was taken up in the
following year by certain master potters. The Potteries
Schools of Design were founded in 1847 under the auspices of the
London School of Design and consisted of schools held in the British
School building in Pall Mall, Hanley, and in Stoke town hall; the
Hanley branch became an independent school in 1860.
Mechanics' Institution continued to hold its own art classes until at
least 1853, to some extent in rivalry with the new schools. The building in Pall Mall was enlarged in 1880 by the addition of a
new story, and, under the head masterships of Samuel Cartlidge
(1882–1900) and his successor George Cartlidge, the Hanley School of
Art reached a high standard of achievement.
Burslem School of Art
With the amalgamation of the art schools
of the various towns after Federation, however, the Hanley school
gradually lost ground to its rival at Burslem and was closed in its
centenary year, 1947.
The library and
school of art are highlighted
former British School and Art School in Pall Mall, now part
of the city library, has an impressive brick front with
neo-Classical stone dressings, retaining its twin doorways flanked
by Doric pilasters and its contemporary cast-iron railings and
gate-piers. Originally the building consisted of two tall stories,
but a third was added in 1880.
The two painted barbotine
portraits over the entrance to the eastern extension were executed
by George Cartlidge, a ceramic craftsman and a teacher of painting
at the Art School from 1897.
adjoining part of the library to the west was built as the
Mechanics' Institution in 1859–61. Its stone front was designed by
Robert Scrivener in the Classical style with a Tuscan order below
and an Ionic order above. The upper story eventually became
unsafe and was taken down after the opening of the new museum in
Broad Street in 1956."
From: A History of the County of
Stafford: Volume 8 (1963)
Pottery Subscription Library at Hanley was founded in 1790 by James
Straphan, the first bookseller in the Potteries.
1840 the library, consisting of some 3,000 volumes, was housed in
the shop of Thomas Allbut, who had succeeded Straphan as librarian
and treasurer c. 1800; the membership was elective with an entrance
fee of 2 guineas and an annual subscription of 1 guinea. The library
was still in existence in 1860.
Shelton Subscription Library was founded in 1814 and was still in
existence in 1830, housed in Bethesda Schoolroom.
Between at least 1851 and
1876 there was a subscription newspaper room at the town hall.
The borough council established a free library in 1887, taking a
lease of the whole building in Pall Mall belonging to the Mechanics'
Institution except for the reading-room.
the 1960's the city library is still housed there and since 1958 has also
occupied the adjoining building which formerly housed the British
School, Hanley, and the Russell Art Gallery.
library was formed as part of the free library in 1893, mainly at
the instigation of the mayor, Edwin Hammersley.
In 1950 the reference library facilities, hitherto dispersed among the
constituent libraries, were centralized in the Hanley Library, and in
1958 a separate reference library, known as the Horace Barks Reference
Library, was opened in the former Russell Art Gallery adjacent to the
main lending library. The latter, in 1954, had been declared unsafe
and was accommodated in Piccadilly Chambers while the Pall Mall
building was being repaired. In 1956 the move back to its former
building took place.