History of the Northumberland & Newcastle Society
Under the letterhead of the City Road Preserving Works, Colonel J.D. Mitchell wrote to Councillor D. Adams on the 20th March 1924 inviting him to luncheon at the Newcastle Rotary Club ‘to discuss my proposals for the formation of a Newcastle Society which would have for its objects the artistic and practical development of the City...by the united efforts of its citizens’.
How often must the seed of such an enterprise have been sown at a good luncheon. What a fair wind did the Rotary Club and then later the Chamber of commerce blow into the sails of the small group of well-connected enthusiasts who formed the Society so long ago. For the Society seems instantly to have sprung up with leading citizens at its helm; Sir Theodore Morrison as its first Chairman, Colonel Mitchell its first Secretary and, after its inaugural meeting, joined by Sir Joseph Reed, Sir Charles Parson, Sir William Nobel and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor, later Sir Stephen Easton.
Early meetings in 1924 were much pre-occupied with constitutional matters, the membership and structure of committees, the means of securing new members and whether to set up a junior membership, but the agenda of issues to be tackled becomes quickly urgent as the various committees considered the protection of historic monuments, the control of advertising and litter, the abatement of smoke pollution, how to manage the motor car and where to site the new Town Hall.
It is clear that the Society’s style of operation was never one of polarised single issue politics, or angry protest, but always one of the rational debates with those who had the power or influence to get things done. Indeed at a meeting of the Council of the society in December 1924 The Lord Mayor taking the Chair, declared, apparently without irony that “the Society was not out to dictate but to co-operate with the Corporation”. No wonder, since most of the early active members were established figures lending their weight to “improving the facilities for trade and industry” as well as decently trying t ensure an improvement in health through smoke abatement, and the visual appearance of the City through control of advertising and the planting of trees.
There was a leavening of professional people, lawyers, architects, antiquarians of some distinction.
More information can be found in an article from The Northumbrian magazine from 2014 - click below.