Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne

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Literary and Philosophical Society
of Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, Westgate Road - - 1736286.jpg
Established1793 Edit this on Wikidata
LocationTyne and Wear, England, UK
Coordinates54°58′08″N 1°36′50″W / 54.969°N 1.614°W / 54.969; -1.614Coordinates: 54°58′08″N 1°36′50″W / 54.969°N 1.614°W / 54.969; -1.614
grid reference NZ248638
Location in Tyne and Wear

The Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne (or the Lit & Phil as it is popularly known) is a historical library in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, and the largest independent library outside London.[1][2] The library is still available for both lending (to members) and as a free reference library.


Founded in 1793 as a "conversation club" by the Reverend William Turner and others – more than fifty years before the London Library – the annual subscription was originally one guinea. The Lit and Phil library contained works in French, Spanish, German and Latin; its contacts were international, and its members debated a wide range of issues, but religion and politics were prohibited.[3] Women were first admitted to the library in 1804.[4] In February 2011, actor and comedian Alexander Armstrong became President of the Lit & Phil. He launched their funding appeal at a special gala event.[5] At the start of 2012, membership of the Library reached 2,000, the highest number since 1952.


Library interior

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Lit & Phil was host to a long list of the intelligentsia of the era. Engineer and inventor George Stephenson showed his miner's lamp there, and in 1879, when Joseph Swan demonstrated his electric light bulbs, the Lit and Phil building became the first public building to be so illuminated.

The Society received in 1800 the country's first specimens of the wombat and the duck-billed platypus from John Hunter, Governor of New South Wales and honorary member of the Lit and Phil.[6][7]

Between 1822 and 1825, a new building was created for the Society on Westgate Road, designed by John Green. The building is still in use today, with many original features including iron-work second-floor galleries.


Notable members[edit]

Amongst the historic and contemporary members are the following:[citation needed]


  1. ^ Glover, Andrew (8 February 2011). "Alexander Armstrong in appeal to save Lit and Phil". The Journal. ncjMedia, Trinity Mirror. Archived from the original on 15 February 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011. The Lit and Phil is the largest independent library outside London, housing more than 150,000 books. Its music library contains 8,000 CDs and 10,000 LPs. The society was founded early in 1793 as a ‘conversation club’, with an annual subscription of one guinea. The current building was built in 1825.
  2. ^ "Lit and Phil - Welcome". 2011. Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2011. The Literary & Philosophical Society (Lit & Phil) is the largest independent library outside London, housing over 150,000 books.
  3. ^ Lit & Phil History – Independent Library Newcastle Archived 2007-11-14 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Editorial. "In praise of… Newcastle's Lit & Phil | Opinion". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  5. ^ "Interview: Alexander Armstrong, president of the Lit & Phil". The Journal. 15 December 2011.
  6. ^ Series 38.11 Copy of a letter received by the Literary and Philosophical Society... 5 August 1798
  7. ^ Page 270 of Magazine of Natural History, edited by John Claudius Loudon, Edward Charlesworth, John Denson, published 1829 by Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green. (Google's version)


External links[edit]