Newcastle society tracks down missing minutes from 1840

A society marking its 200th anniversary is celebrating after retrieving a lost three-year gap in its history

The Society of Antiquaries has bought the long-missing records
The Society of Antiquaries has bought the long-missing records

A society marking its 200th anniversary is celebrating after retrieving a lost three-year gap in its history.

The Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne is delighted to have been able to recover Volume III of its minutes, covering the years 1840 to 1843, which had been missing for many years.

The volume was created by the society’s first treasurer, Newcastle bookseller John Bell. The missing years’ minutes have now joined other volumes at the Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn.

The rediscovered volume includes handwritten copies of minutes of meetings, lists of donations of books and artefacts, applications for membership and notices of recent archaeological discoveries.

It is believed that the volume may have gone astray when the society evacuated its headquarters at the Black Gate in Newcastle during the Second World War.

Bookplates on the inside cover indicate that the volume has passed through at least two private libraries in the intervening years.

Its rediscovery came about when one of the society’s members who is a collector of antiquarian books, was alerted to the volume being offered for sale by a London bookseller.

The society moved quickly to buy the volume for £400.

John Bell
John Bell

“The discovery of this volume was a wonderful surprise and it is absolutely super to have it back,” said society president Lindsay Allason-Jones.

“It is particularly pleasing that it has come back to us in our bicentenary year.

“It is an important record of the society’s activities in the mid 19th -Century and includes fascinating correspondence between John Bell and some of the foremost antiquaries of the day.”

The volume has now been deposited at Woodhorn with the other five Bell manuscript volumes and the rest of the society’s extensive archive.

Lindsay said: “John Bell collected everything. I get the impression he threw nothing away and that he spent evenings binding it all into books.”

There are notes and drawings of donated objects and archaeological discoveries, who owed subscriptions, envelopes and correspondence with figures like Newcastle town clerk and Northumberland landowner John Clayton, engineer Thomas Sopwith and coin collector John Adamson, who with John Bell was a society founder member.

“It all gives a wonderful insight into life in the region in the 19th Century,” said Lindsay.

The society is the country’s oldest provincial antiquarian organisation. Since being formed in 1813, it has worked to encourage a deeper understanding of the history and archaeology of the North East.

It is currently involved in the lottery-funded Old Newcastle Project, which aims to create a new intpretation centre at its headquarters in the Black Gate.


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