North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers

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Neville Hall and Wood Memorial Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne

The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers (NEIMME) is a British organisation dedicated to the research and preservation of knowledge relating to mining and mechanical engineering. Founded in 1852, the Institute, based in Newcastle upon Tyne, possesses one of the largest collections of such mining knowledge in the world,[1] named the Nicholas Wood Memorial Library after its founding member, housing over twenty thousand volumes – primarily technical literature,[2] in the fields of mining, geology, mechanical engineering, government blue books, mine rescue, mineralogy, mineral chemistry, mining statistics, mining law, seismology and other related topics.


The heritage of the Institute stems from William Turner, minister of the Hanover Square Chapel,[3] which was situated just behind the present position of Newcastle Central Station. Here, he began Newcastle's first Sunday School, 'a focus of light and yearning' for the town.[4] One of his students was John Buddle, who became a wealthy landowner, and a prominent member of societies such as the Literary and Philosophical Society and the Natural History Society. Buddle would be a major influence on the Durham and Northumberland Coalfield, "the King of the Coal Trade". In 1816, Buddle devised a system of diverting an underground ventilating current which is still in use today, however, he did not live to see the full impact of his legacy, as he died in 1843, nine years before the founding of the North of England Institution.[5] His papers and 'place books' were later deposited at the Institute, and they still remain there today.

Following an explosion at Felling in 1812, the Sunderland Society was set up with the purpose of increasing the safety of gas usage within mines.[6] This committee secured the services of Sir Humphry Davy, the inventor of the safety lamp, in 1815.[7] However, despite these changes, explosions continued to occur, culminating in a devastating explosion at St Hilda Colliery, in which 52 persons were killed. The South Shields Committee recommended the introduction of Government inspections of mines, and the thorough education of mechanical engineers, leading to the first Government Inspection Act of 1850.[8] In just a few years, however, a Coroner's court was held at the Mill Inn, Seaham, in 1852, where it was suggested that it would be of great advantage to form a society to consider the prevention of accidents in coal mines.

At a meeting of the Literary and Philosophical Society on 3 July 1852, it was proposed to form a society to meet at fixed periods and discuss the ventilation of coalmines, the prevention of accidents and purposes connected with the general working of the coalmines. They proposed the society be called "The North of England Society for the Prevention of Accidents and for other purposes connected with mining.", and that Nicholas Wood would be the chairman.[9] It was agreed that a committee be appointed to draw up rules for the regulation of the society, which were accepted, and the inaugural meeting was held on 3 September 1852, at which Mr Nicholas Wood delivered the inaugural address at the lecture theatre of the Literary and Philosophical Society. It was determined the Object of the Institution was "to endeavour if possible, to devise measures which may alert or alleviate those dreadful calamities, which have so frequently produced such destruction of life and property" and, secondly, "to establish a literary institution, more particularly applicable to the theory, art and practise of Mining".[10]

Nicholas Wood held the office of President from the inauguration of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in 1852 until his death on 19 December 1865, at the age of 70, however, in 1858 he suggested he should not be automatically re-elected. Earlier in his life, Robert Stephenson, the son of George Stephenson, a contemporary of Nicholas Wood, became a pupil of his, and went on to provide numerous railway contributions.[11] Robert died in October 1859 and a sum of £2000 was left to the Mining Institute, which formed the basis of a fund for the building of a permanent home for the Institution.[4]


Nicholas Wood statue in the Wood Memorial Hall

The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers was built amongst the richest buildings of the era, within Grainger's new town, having been built on the site of the medical school on land traditionally held by the Dukes of Westmoreland, the Nevilles. The library hall was commissioned and built in 1872 to the design of Archibald M Dunn, whose Father had been present at the inaugural meeting of the Institute. The library was built at the height of the English Gothic Revival, and has come to represent the era with high windows and a sky lit barrel vaulted ceiling, showing a mixture of gothic and Tyneside Classical themes. Within the building, there is a monumental statue of Nicholas Wood presiding over the library, mounted on the top of a throne in the setting of an iconstasis. There are other works of art within the room, such as marble busts of John Buddle and Thomas Foster, the Institute's second President.[2]


The present collections of the Institute fall under several headings: Books, tracts, maps, photographs, archives, periodicals, artworks. There is a searchable catalogue. As other institutions have closed, their libraries have transferred to the Mining Institute. These include those of the Centre for Lifelong Learning (relevant sections) University of Newcastle, Coal Research Establishment from Stoke Orchard by Cheltenham and elements from the Bretby Mining Research Establishment.


Richard Grainger's 1836 proposal for a Central Railway Depot 
John Buddle 
Birkinshaw's patent railway 
Inside the Neville Hall 
Inside the Wood Memorial Hall 
Thomas Young Hall's system for penetrating dangerous gases 1853 

Notable members[edit]


  1. ^ Home of the Black Diamond - The Nicholas Wood Memorial Library, p. 2, ".. the Nicholas Wood Memorial Library, reputed to be the largest mining library in the world. Formed by The North of England Institute of Mining Engineers in 1852 .." 
  2. ^ a b Blance, R.; Burn, H.; Ceiriog-Hughes, J.; Doyle, A.; Jackson, N.; Mallett, D.J; Porthouse, J.S.; Sanderson, R.; Taylor, G.W., The Mining Institute Renaissance- Anniversary Celebrations 1852–2002 
  3. ^ 'Protestant Dissent: Chapels and meeting-houses', Historical Account of Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Including the Borough of Gateshead (1827), pp. 370-414. URL: Date accessed: 07 February 2014
  4. ^ a b Harding, J.T. (1986), A History of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, The Mining Engineer - Journal of the Institution of Mining Engineers 146: 252–6 
  5. ^ Hiskey, Christine E. (1978), John Buddle (1773–1843): agent and entrepreneur on the North-East coal trade 
  6. ^ The first report of a society for preventing accidents in coal mines comprising a letter to Sir Ralph Milbanke, Bart. Author: Buddle, John Milbanke, Ralph (Sir) Society for Preventing accidents in Coal Mines. (Sunderland) Newcastle upon Tyne : Printed by Edward Walker, 1814. NEIMME In: Tracts, vol. 35, p. 15-62; vol. 53, p. 93-140; vol.60, p.1-48; vol. 94 p. 61-108; Bell collection, vol. 4, p. 71-107. With list of members.
  7. ^ Leifchild, J. R. (1856), Our Coal and Our Coal-Pits; the people in them and the scenes around them (2 ed.) 
  8. ^ North and South Shields Gazette, Government inspection of mines: report of the proceedings at a public meeting in South Shields, called by the magistrates, 7 June 1850, NEIMME Tracts 45: 94–118 , Extracts from the North and South Shields Gazette
  9. ^ Anderson, WM., Transactions of the Institute- Meeting of Colliery Owners, Viewers., "Chairman", pp.1- 2 , Located at the NEIMME
  10. ^ Wood, Nicholas, Transactions of the Institute- Inaugural Address, pp. 11–32 , Located at the NEIMME
  11. ^[not in citation given]

External links[edit]