Mechanics' Institute

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Venue Type & Location

Lecture Hall

Site Name: Mechanics' Institute
Location: Nottingham
County: Nottinghamshire
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location


  • Address: Mansfield Road (previously Milton Street), North of Trinity Church, Nottingham. For a current map, Click Here.

  • Capacity: According to A Centenary History of Nottingham, the venue's lecture hall could seat 1000 people (403).

  • Audience Composition: While the Mechanics Institute was established as a venue for working people, John Beckett suggests that the many of its patrons were nevertheless drawn from the "lower middle class" (ibid). "In 1850," he writes, "236 out of the 579 members were described as clerks, warehousemen and shopmen. Most members were interested in recreational rather than educational pursuits, although lectures were well attended" (ibid).

  • Performance Space Description: The Mechanics Institute was a large building that housed "a library, classrooms and a small museum" in addition to its grand lecture hall (Centenary History ibid). It also appears to have been a rather stately, Classically-inspired structure. In A Stranger’s Guide Through Nottingham (2nd ed), for instance, the venue is described as follows (c.1849): “The front consists of a lofty portico in antis [sic], supported by fluted columns of the Corinthian order of architecture, imitated from the temple of the Sybil, at Rivoli; and the parapets are profusely ornamented and enriched with elaborate decorations, offering a bold and imposing front to the spectator’s view. (51, quoted in Kathleen Barker Collection). The author also provides some description of the lecture hall as a performance space, noting that "[t]he large room or hall is eighty feet long by forty-five broad, and thirty in height, lighted by seven large windows at each side… The orchestra will accommodate a vast number of performers, and is accessible by a door in the upper story” (ibid).

  • Typical Fare: The author of A Stranger's Guide Through Nottingham suggests that the Mechanics' Institute was “used for concerts, balls, and public exhibitions” (ibid). Between 1842 and 1852, it was also home to other kinds of entertainment, including lectures and Shakespearean readings.

  • Performance History

  • The Mechanics Institute was built c. 1840, replacing a house on St. James Street as the site of the organization's meetings and events.

  • The venue was constructed using funds (at least partially) raised at a Mechanics Exhibition held by its members. The land for the new building on Mansfield Road was donated by John Smith Wright, then president of the Institute.

  • Further information about the history of the venue has yet to be found.

    Please see the 'Bibliographic Sources' link at right for a complete listing of materials (both primary and secondary) from which the above information was compiled.

    Beth Marquis

    Additional research by Paul Babiak

  • Events at Mechanics' Institute

    Event Date Venue Location Troupe
    Vocal Entertainment 22 April 1846 - 22 April 1846 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Russell, Henry
    Vocal Entertainment 18 May 1846 - 19 May 1846 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Phillips, Henry
    Minstrel Show 13 November 1846 - 14 November 1846 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47)
    Minstrel Show 18 November 1846 - 20 November 1846 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47)
    Minstrel Show 19 July 1847 - 20 July 1847 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48)
    Minstrel Show 9 March 1848 - 11 March 1848 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Female American Serenaders
    Lecture 30 November 1848 - 30 November 1848 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Catlin & Museum/Lecture Troupe
    Lecture 12 December 1848 - 12 December 1848 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Catlin & Museum/Lecture Troupe
    Minstrel Show 22 March 1850 - 23 March 1850 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire American Serenaders (1850)
    Minstrel Show 26 March 1850 - 30 March 1850 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire American Serenaders (1850)
    Lecture 12 November 1851 - 12 November 1851 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Montgomery, Mrs. Washington
    Vocal Entertainment 23 February 1853 - 25 February 1853 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Carpenter, J.E.

    Bibliographic Sources

    • Beckett, John (ed). A Centenary History of Nottingham. Manchester and New York: Manchester UP, 1997.
    • A Stranger's Guide Through Nottingham (2nd ed.) p51. Transcribed in University of Bristol, Kathleen Barker Collection (KB/1)..