A Rich Seam of Mining Culture and Heritage; in the Latest Installment of Our Hidden Tyneside Series, LAURA CAROE Looks at an Elegant Gothic Building, the Core of the Region's Industrial Heritage

Article excerpt

Byline: LAURA CAROE

WITH a rich heritage of books, maps and artifacts, Neville Hall in Newcastle stands tall. Borne out of hundreds of mining accidents and lives lost in the North East, the Victorian building houses the most significant mining library around.

The hall is home to the North of England Mining Institute, yet few people are aware of its fascinating wealth of information on mining and engineering.

Situated next to the Literary and Philosophical Society on Westgate Road, close to Central Station, the Institute is home to the works of Britain's greatest engineers.

Among these are George and Robert Stephenson, Sir William Armstrong, John Buddie and Nicholas Wood himself, a founding member of the Institute who the building's library was named after.

Each corner of the Nicholas Wood Memorial Library holds a treasure, from stained glass windows to an incredible barrel-vaulted ceiling and beautiful wooden panelling.

Visitors' eyes are immediately drawn to the monumental marble sculpture of Wood, which sits presiding over the library.

Lavishly decorated with carvings and paintings, the library is a testament to the region's wealth and houses more than 20,000 volumes of technical literature.

It also includes works on mining, geology, mechanical engineering, mineral chemistry, mining law and many other related topics.

Although the architecture and decoration is astonishing, it is the rich heritage of books, maps, artefacts and plans that brings you to a standstill.

Former miner Bill Bell, a dedicated member of the Institute, said: "The building was built to counter the death and destruction that was happening down the mines during the 19th Century.

"Explosions were regular and the industry was trying to find a safer way to light mines.

"This building encapsulates the last 150 years of knowledge.

"It is a world-class establishment and we are one of the best-kept secrets in the country.

"There are a collection of documents and books from the 18th Century.

"Around 30% of the documents or books we have are not in the British Library and no-one else has them.

"We even had a guy who rang from America who wanted to know if we have any records of blips around the days when there was an explosion at Krakatoa."

The library also holds a catalogue of accidents and death in Government books.

Handwritten and printed documents relate to mining accidents in the hope they will prevent tragedy re-occurring.

Volumes of the Co Guardian Journal stand proucd are filled with job vacan accounts of accidents explosions, and description the collieries.

Before we leave the libra see what other treasures li wait, Bill points out a cai above the door known as their god Tyne.

His head is garlanded tokens of his fortune, salmo above his hair as a symbolic clear waters and his crown fc with Newcastle coal. It is a syi of plenitude and bounty. …