Associated Groups: Lincolnshire

Alford Mechanics’ Institute, Market Place: Founded in April 1854, there was lecture room together with a reference library containing “many very valuable standard works” (Post Office 1861; Kelly 1889, 20 ,628, 1919) and a circulating library, which contained many “scientific and useful books”; the growth of the circulating library was reported as follows: 1 000 volumes in 1861 (Post Office 1861); 1 500 volumes in 1889 (Kelly 1889); 1 775 volumes in 1905 (Kelly 1905, 26, 628) and 1919 (Kelly 1919, 28-30). Membership was over 110 in 1861 (Post Office 1861) and 1889 (Kelly 1889)] and about 500 [sic] in 1905 (Kelly 1905) but only about 70 in 1919 (Kelly 1919).

Boston Athenaeum: Established 1851 following the merger of the Public Library (founded 1830) and the Mechanics’ Institution (founded 1837), membership in 1851 was 270 and by 1856 it was nearly 500. The principal object was the “diffusion of knowledge among the mass of the people by means of a reading room, a library, lectures on popular subjects and classes for the pursuit of distinct branches of knowledge.” The Athenaeum building was in front of the Corn Exchange on the eastern side of the Market Place and comprised a reading room, library and lecture room with apparatus and instruments (Thompson, 1856, 220-1).  The premises were described as a ‘…commodius suit [sic] of rooms over shops in front of the corn exchange…’ (White 1856, 288). However, there was no mention of the Boston Athenaeum in directories published in 1861 (Post Office 1861); (White 1872), nor in a list of literary and scientific institutions in 1889 in Lincolnshire (Kelly 1919). It would seem that this Boston Athenaeum was short-lived unlike the famous Boston Athenaeum in the United States.

Boston Literary Society: Similar to the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society (see below), founded by Maurice Johnson (see below) in 1750, the Boston Society is referred to in a letter from Mr Johnson to Mr Neve of 30th March 1750. Nothing more is known of it and like similar societies in Stamford and Peterborough it may have been relatively short-lived (Thompson 1856, 298-9).

Bourn Mechanics’ Institution: Reported to possess a good library (White 1856, 710, White 1872, 576), there is no mention of the Bourn[e] Mechanics’ Institution in a list of literary and scientific institutions in 1889 (Kelly 1889).

Brazen Nose Society: A literary society, which William Stukeley founded in Stamford in 1745, it was similar to the Stamford Society (see below) and took its name from the former “university” of that name in Stamford (Thompson 1856, 439). In fact, there was no university in Stamford in the strict sense of the word. During the C13th a group of students from Oxford attempted to establish a centre of learning in Stamford, occupying Brasenose Hall. By 1335 differences with the Oxford University authorities had been settled and the students returned to Oxford (Mee, 1970, 359).

Burgh-in-the-Marsh Mechanics’ Institute and Reading Rooms: Listed in directories in 1861 (Post Office 1861) and (White 1872, 277), by 1889, there is no mention of this institute in a list of literary and scientific institutions (Kelly 1889).

Caistor Mechanics’ Institution: Established in 1850, by 1872 it had 50 members with a library of 740 volumes (White, 1856, 669). However, by 1889, there is no mention of the Caistor Mechanics’ Institution in a list of literary and scientific institutions (Kelly 1889).

Epworth Mechanics’ Institute: Founded in 1837, it survived until recently (Alston), making it one of the oldest and certainly longest-lived mechanics’ institutes in Lincolnshire It was located in the Court House (White 1856, 627), although another source reports that the Mechanics’ Institute was erected in 1854 (Post Office 1861). By 1872, it had moved to a Temperance Hall in the High Street, which had been built in 1868. Epworth Mechanics’ Institute is listed in all the directories surveyed (Slater, 1850; White 1856, Post Office 1861; White 1872, 448); Kelly 1889; Kelly 1896 Kelly 1905; Kelly 1909; Kelly 1913; Kelly 1919), but very little detail is given.

Gainsborough Literary, Scientific and Mechanics’ Institute: Year of foundation is variously given as 1832 (Alston) or 1849 (White 1856, 169). Based on the earlier date, it would have been the oldest mechanics’ institute in Lincolnshire. In 1850, it was reported that there was a well-attended Mechanics’ Institution (or library) and news-room (Slater). By 1856, the Literary, Scientific and Mechanics’ Institution occupied part of the Gainsborough Old Hall (see museums below) and had a good library and newsroom with occasional lectures (White, 1856). According to one source it survived until 1872 (Alston), but it is listed in a directory well after that date (Kelly 1889). However, it does not appear in the subsequent directory consulted (Kelly 1896).
Sites associated with the Gainsborough Literary, Scientific and Mechanics’ Institute: Among the ‘best-preserved medieval manor houses in England’ (English Heritage), part of the Gainsborough Old Hall building was formerly used by the Gainsborough Literary, Scientific and Mechanics’ Institute.

Grantham Philosophical Institution, Finkin Street: Listed in a directory of 1861, it was reported that it had been established in 1836 and included a library of over 1 200 volumes of standard works and a museum, principally in ornithology, geology and mineralogy (Post Office 1861). Other than this account, there appear to be no other references to this organization. This institution may have been a predecessor of the Grantham Museum, though the latter seems to refer to a later organization, the Grantham Philosophical Society.

Grantham Scientific Society, Guildhall: Founded in the 1880s, it is listed in directories for 1896, 1905 and 1909 (Kelly 1896; 1905; 1909) By 1913, it had become the Grantham Scientific and Photographic Society (Kelly 1913), but there is no mention of it in 1919 (Kelly 1919). This society is reported to have played a part in the origin of the Grantham Museum.

Grimsby/Great Grimsby Mechanics’ Institution, Victoria Street South: Founded in 1834 (White 1856) or 1835 (Alston), (Slater), in 1850 the Mechanics’ Institution was in Flotter Gate. In 1856 it occupied premises in Victoria Street built for its use (White 1856, 582). The building included a large lecture hall, news-room and library as well as reading and lecture rooms (White 1872,205 & 218); Kelly 1889). It survived until 1899 (Alston) .  Following the adoption of the Public Libraries Act in 1899, the building was extensively altered in 1900 and by 1905 it was occupied by the Public Library (Kelly 1905). The records of the Grimsby Mechanics’ Institution are in the Grimsby Public Library (Alston).

Horncastle Mechanics’ Institute: Founded in 1834 (Alston), in 1850 the address was Union Street (Slater) and by 1856, it occupied part of the Corn Exchange and had a library and news-room and held occasional lectures (White 1856, 760). In 1872 the membership was 254 (White 1872) but by 1889 this had dropped to 172 (Kelly 1889). It survived until 1890 (Alston) and it does not appear in a list of literary and scientific institutions in 1896 (Kelly 1896).

Lincoln Mechanics’ Institution: Founded in 1833 (Alston), by 1835, the Lincoln Mechanics’ Institution was located in the Sheep market (Pigot 1835, 214 & 219). George Boole’s father, a cobbler by trade who, as a hobby studied mathematics and made optical instruments, became curator of the library at the Lincoln Mechanics’ Institute in 1834 . It was at the Lincoln and Lincolnshire Mechanics Institution that George Boole presented an address on the genius and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, delivered on … 5 February 1835 (English, 1977, 8-10). By 1850, the institution was located on St Swithin’s Market (Slater). It occupied the basement of the Grey Friary, a building that it shared with the Grammar School. The New Permanent Library was annexed to the Lincoln Mechanics’ Institution and in 1856 the institution library consisted of some 5 000 volumes. The membership in the same year was about 380 members (White 1856, 85 & 93). In 1862, the Lincoln Mechanics’ Institution moved to the City Assembly Rooms on Silver Street, which the Corporation had converted for use by the institution. By 1872, the institution possessed a small museum and the library now contained some 7 000 volumes. During the winter session, a course of scientific lectures was delivered. The membership numbered about 700. A residence for the librarian was also attached to the building (White 1872)and in 1881 Francis William Sparke, who had been librarian in 1872, was resident at the Mechanics’ Institute [sic] with his wife, 3 sons, 1 daughter and a domestic servant (1881 Census RG11/3241/59/16). A new school was also built in connection with the institution (White 1872). By 1896, the address had again changed and was at Guild Court, Danes Terrace (off Steep Hill/Strait) and the library now contained some 20 000 volumes (Kelly 1896). The Lincoln Mechanics’ Institution survived until 1900 (Alston); in 1905 it was reported that the Lincoln Mechanics’ Institution had ceased its separate existence and become part of the Church House and Institute, on Steep Hill (Kelly, 1905).

Louth Antiquarian and Naturalist Society: In 1896, 1905 and 1909 the address was given as New Street (Kelly 1896; Kelly 1905; Kelly 1909). In 1896 and again in 1905, the joint honorary secretaries were Benjamin Crow, who was also very active in the Louth Mechanics’ Institute (see below) and R W Goulding. In 1909, the joint honorary secretaries were J Larder and R W Goulding. It would appear that the name was changed to Louth Naturalists’ Antiquarian and Literary Society sometime between 1909 and 1913. In 1913, the latter society had an address in Enginegate, the honorary secretaries were the same as the Louth Antiquarian and Naturalist Society in 1909. In 1913, Benjamin Crow was president of the Louth Naturalists’ Antiquarian and Literary Society (Kelly 1913). The society also appears in a directory in 1919 (Kelly 1919).

Louth Mechanics’ Institute: Founded in 1833 (Alston), in 1850 it had between 200 and 300 members and its address was given as Corn Market (Slater). In 1853 the old Mansion House, in Upgate, was purchased for its use. By 1856, it had a good library of more than 2 500 volumes and an interesting museum. It held occasional lectures in the winter season and some 400 members attended its classes (White, 1856, 251). In 1872, the library contained more than 4 000 volumes and the membership was reported to be 469 (White, 1872); the reading room had 33 periodicals and 27 newspapers (Kelly 1889). Over the following years, membership held steady at about 439 in 1889 (Kelly 1889), about 450 in 1896 (Kelly 1896), but by 1905 there was a marked decline in the membership, which was about 330 (Kelly 1905). A particular stalwart of the institute appears to have been Benjamin Crow, who was listed as an honorary secretary over several years (White 1856; White 1872; Kelly 1889; Kelly 1905; Kelly 1909; Kelly 1913; Kelly 1919). The Louth Mechanics’ Institute survived until 1945 (Alston).

Market Rasen Mechanics’ Institute and Library: Year of foundation was variously reported as 1836 (White, 1856, 1872) and 1842 (Alston). Its address was variously given as Queen Street (Slater; Kelly 1889) and Union Street (White, 1872). In 1856, it was reported to have a library of 600 volumes, a reading room and occasional lectures (White, 1856). According to one source it possibly survived until 1882 (Alston). It is listed in a directory for 1889, but the fact that what may have been an older address is given may have been significant (Kelly 1889). It does not appear in a list of literary and scientific institutions in 1896 (Kelly 1896).

Spalding Gentlemen’s Society: Founded in 1710, formally established in 1712, it is one of the oldest Antiquarian Societies in the UK. Notable members during the 18th Century included the astronomer George Lynn Snr, Dr William Stukeley and Sir Isaac Newton and during the 19th Century Sir Joseph Banks, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Pishey Thompson. According to its founder, Maurice Johnson (see below), “we deal in all arts and sciences, and exclude nothing from our conversation but politics, which would throw all into confusion and disorder.” In 1746 it was recognized as the oldest society of its kind outside London and the Universities (Thompson, 1856, 298-9). However, following the death of Maurice Johnson in 1755, the society declined and, by 1850 it was stated, “… for some years past it has lost particular claim to notice” (Slater). It was around this time that its fortunes again changed and by 1856 it was reported to have “…latterly revived…”with an increased membership who met at the meeting room and library, which was at that time in Bridge Street (White, 1856). With the exception of the Ashmolean in Oxford, the Gentlemen’s Society museum is the oldest in the UK. The present building in Broad Street was opened in 1911 and the building features a sundial dated 1702 originally from the Crane Inn (Leveritt & Elsden 1986, 174-8). The museum is not open to the public, but it may be possible for visitors to view the historical exhibits by appointment The society is still currently very active with a regular programme of public lectures on a wide range of subjects, which includes occasional astronomical topics (See also Green; Leveritt & Elsden 1986, 174-8,; University of Waterloo Scholarly Societies Project).
Address: Spalding Gentlemen’s Society Museum Broad Street, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE11 1TB; Email:; Website:

Spalding Mechanics’ Institute: Founded 1845 by R Barlow, Enoch Canwell, Jno T Pepper and Samuel Kingston as the Spalding Juvenile Literary Institute, there was a succession of name changes, first to Spalding Literary and Scientific Institute, then to Spalding Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society. In 1853 it became the Spalding Mechanics’ Institute. By 1856, it had over 200 members and a good library (White 1856, 846) In 1872, it was reported to be meeting at a hired building in New Road, but that work was about to start on the construction of its own building (White 1872, 798,), located in Red Lion Street (Kelly 1889). In 1927 it disbanded and all “real and personal property of the Institute” was passed to the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society (Leveritt and Elsden 1989, 64-9 & 106) The records of the Spalding Mechanics’ Institute are held by the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society (see above) (Alston).

Stamford Institution/Stamford Literary and Scientific Institution: Year of foundation was variously reported as 1838 (White 1856, 889, 1872, 706) and 1842 (Slater), though the date of 1842 might actually refer to the construction of the Stamford Institution building on St Peter’s Hill (Kelly 1889, 12 & 420). The object of the Stamford Institution was the “…dissemination of literary, philosophical, scientific, mechanical and other useful knowledge” (White 1856, 889). In April 1844, E Henderson presented a series of lectures on astronomy and popular geometry at the Stamford Institution. By 1856, it possessed an extensive and valuable museum (White 1856); this museum was of particular interest with respect to the geology of Lincolnshire (Kelly 1889). In 1862, Stamford Library was moved to the institution (White, 1872); by 1889, the library contained 8 000 volumes (Kelly 1889) and 10 000 volumes in 1905 (Kelly 1905, 540). The institution building also included a residence for the curator and in 1881 George Hatchman and his wife were resident at the Stamford Institution (1881 Census RG11/3191/24/41). At the top of the institution building was a camera obscura (Kelly 1889).

Stamford Mechanics’ Institute: Listed in a directory for 1850 (Slater), no further information has so far been found and it is possible that it merged with the Stamford Institution.

Stamford Society: A literary and antiquarian society, founded by Maurice Johnson  and John Cecil, Earl of Exeter in about 1721, the society lasted a few years only and in 1745, William Stukeley attempted to establish a similar society in Stamford, the Brazen Nose .

Winterton Mechanics’ Institute and Reading Room: Listed in a directory for 1861 (Post Office 1861), no further information has so far been found.