©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 15, 2018
Webpage updated: September 15, 2018




In the year 1820, when the higher classes were afraid of the influence of education and the people ignorant of its value, Mr Henry Brougham, afterwards Lord Brougham, was devoting his energies to the promotion of a scheme for the education of the poor in England and Wales, from which the plan for the formation of mechanics’ institutions emanated.

At about the same time, two professors at the University of Glasgow, John Anderson and George Birkbeck, were giving free lectures to the working people of Glasgow.  In 1822 George Birkbeck set up the first Mechanics’ Institute in that City.  This met with much opposition, as there were those who thought it ‘unwise to give to persons who were destined for the common walks of life the advantages of instruction suitable to those of a higher grade’.

However, the Glasgow venture met with such success that in December 1823, Dr Birkbeck, in conjunction with Lord Brougham, succeeded in establishing an institute in London.

A Mechanics' Institute was apparently formed at East Stonehouse in about 1845.  It met in the Saint George's Hall.

On the evening of Tuesday April 12th 1859 Mr P T Barnum, of New York, had the honour of addressing the East Stonehouse Mechanics' Institute on "The Science of Money Making" 'in the course of which he will introduce an original definition of HUMBUG, supporting his theory by pictorial illustrations and original anecdotes, examples and experiences'.   He repeated this at the Devonport Mechanics' Institute on the Wednesday eveninbg.

Reserved seats cost 2 shillings, 1/6d or one shilling but 'if after Friday April 8th seats remain unsold, the price will be raised'.

The advance announcement further stated that: 'During the entertainment, Professor Kratky Bashix, a Slovonian Hungarian Artiste, who has appeared before Her Majesty and all the Crowned Heads of Europe, will play a Grand Fantasia upon an instrument smaller than the Tebia of Picco and producing much more peculiar and startling orchestral effects.'