01/12/2022

1837, 1838, 1840, 1842-3, 1844-5 Manchester UK – Manchester Mechanics’ Institute

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1837, 1838, 1840, 1842-3, 1844-5, Manchester

Name:Manchester Mechanics’ Institute
Dates:Mar 1837; 1838; 1840; 1842-3; 18 Dec 1844 – 11 Jan 1845
Days:
Venue:1837- Institute building, Cooper St; 1845- The Royal Victoria Gallery;
Theme:to afford the working classes a convenient opportunity of inspecting
the present state of our arts and manufactures and to present them with
a source of rational and agreeable relaxation…
Exhibitors:no data
Awards:
Visitors:Five shows attracted a total of 300,000, includin 45,000 to the last 1844/5 event
Legacy:

Manchester, through its focus on cotton, had boomed to become Britain’s second city. The Lancashire and Cheshire Manchester Mechanics’ Institute was founded in 7 Apr 1824 at the Bridgewater Arms Hotel, High St, Manchester. It opened its own building by 1825. Its purpose was to provide facilities for working men to learn the principles of science through part-time study – the science being offered was mechanics and chemistry.

The founders were an august group of Manchester’s great-and-good. The banker, Sir Benjamin Heywood, became its President from 1824-1841, his son, Oliver Heywood also became President and became the first Freeman of the City. William Fairburn, an engineer, was its first Secretary, he was later knighted. Others at the founding meeting included Robert Hyde Greg, a cotton mill owner and soon-to-be MP; Peter Ewart, millwright and engineer; Richard Roberts, machine tools inventor; David Bellhouse, a builder; William Henry, who pioneered scientific chemical industry and developed his business into fizzy drinks; John Dalton, who became known as the father of Atomic Theory and was the Institute’s Vice President in 1840.

The Institute ran five shows from 1837 to 1845 attracting a total of 300,000 visitors.

Mechanics’ Institute building

Promoted by the Manchester Guardian, the first, Mar 1837, event was described as a POPULAR’ EXHIBITION of Models of Machinery, Philosophical Instruments, Works in Fine and Useful Arts, Objects in Natural History, and Specimens of British Manufacturers, &c. &c.

The goal was to ‘afford the working classes a convenient opportunity of inspecting the present state of our arts and manufactures and to present them with a source of rational and agreeable relaxation…’ (Manchester Guardian, 9Dec1837)

The Institute’s Library today

Some of the exhibits might better be described as curiosities, but on show was Charles Macintosh’s waterproof raincoat, or ‘Mac’. The event also demonstrated thirty-one working steam engines, model locomotives and seventy-nine models of ‘useful machines and ingenious mechanical contrivances’, twelve models of public buildings, 90 philosophical (meaning scientific) instruments, 140 India ink and coloured designs and drawings, 28 specimens of painted and stained glass, and 10,000 insects (Tylecote, 1957, p.306). There were various looms and sewing machines, brickmaking machinery and agricultural equipment.

In 1840 The Royal Victoria Gallery was opened in the Exchange Dining Room, emulating the Adelaide Gallery in London. One key attraction was a weighing machine that allowed ‘ladies and gentlemen’ the opportunity for a one penny charge to receive a ‘proper certificate’ detailing their weight. Other notable exhibits were electromagnets, new ball-and-socket joints and electromagnetic telegraphs from Wheatstone and Cooke.

Its 1842/3 exhibition, the fourth Institution event, was notable for its demonstration of the electric telegraph machine and an electromagnet capable of lifting 1260 kgs.

The 1844/5 event proved to be the last in this series of exhibitions attracted 45,000 visitors between 18Dec 1844 and 11Jan 1845. Subsequently the Institution invited ‘The British Association for the Advancement of Science’ to run an exhibition provided Institution members had free entry.

One of two windows
in the Institute’s stairwell
commemorating 150 years
of the TUC, founded in this building

It was Manchester’s success that prompted other cities to follow suit.

Forward to 1838, Hamburg DE – Hamburg Craft and Industry Production
Back to 1837, Boston US – Exhibition of the Massachussetts Charitable Mechanical Assoc’n
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