THE MANSION HOUSE.
This public building stands in the Close, which was anciently one of the genteelest
parts of the town. The old Mansion House belonged to an old hospital of the town,
and which the common council had thoughts of altering or rebuilding in 1683. In
1691, the present house was begun to be built on the scite of the old one. (fn. 1) It cost
the corporation £6000, besides the necessary furniture. It is a handsome structure of
brick, with an area or court before the north front, and a pleasant terrace adjoining
the river on the south front. A sun-dial upon the terrace is dated 1711. The building has been considerably enlarged by an addition to the west end. The grand entrance is by a flight of steps, which was last year covered, and converted into a
convenient portico. In the grand saloon, the fire-arms, halberts, cutlasses, and other
weapons belonging to the corporation, are tastefully arranged; and over the fire-place
are some fragments of curious armour. The principal stair-case is formed of black
oak, and is singularly commodious and magnificent. The oak-room is above 42 feet
in length, and of a proportionable width. It contains the noble carved chimney-piece
removed from the Bee-hive on the Sandhill, and is altogether a very grand apartment.
It is used as the dancing-room at balls. The dining-room, which is above 50 feet in
length, is sufficiently large to accommodate at least 80 persons. Above the fire-place
is a large painting by Richardson, representing the town as viewed from Sheriff Hill.
There is also a near view of Newcastle, by the same artist, which cost 50 guineas;
and a representation of the scene on the Sandhill at the celebration of the Coronation,
by Parker, and which the corporation purchased for £100. This room is also
adorned with the engraved portraits of several distinguished characters. The
mayor's parlour is peculiarly neat. It contains the regalia, and a good year-clock,
purchased during the mayoralty of M. Featherstonhaugh in 1711. The drawingroom, in 1820, was enlarged and beautified. The large mirror is a fine specimen of
home-manufacture. In the state bed-room a new and very noble bed has recently
been set up. All the other apartments are sumptuously furnished; but the want of a
library is a deficiency that must strike every stranger with surprise. On the whole,
as Bourne observes, this "is a building grand and stately, and, considering the place
it stands in, is very ornamental." The situation, however, is extremely ineligible,
being almost continually enveloped in smoke and soot.
Upon the election of a new mayor annually at Michaelmas, he generally takes up
his residence in the Mansion House during the year of his mayoralty. Besides a
liberal salary, he is allowed a handsome state-coach, a barge, and a valuable and elegant service of plate, &c. His establishment is, however, very expensive. He entertains the judges of assize, with their chief officers and servants, during the assize
weeks; and frequently gives entertainments to very large companies of the gentlemen
and the civil, naval, and military officers in Newcastle and its vicinity. (fn. 2)
The regalia of the corporation are kept in the Mansion House. They consist of a
large mace of silver, gilt, having on it the following inscription:—"Made for the
corporation of Newcastle upon Tyne, anno regni Jacobi Secundi, tertio, annoq. Domini 1687, Nicholas Cole, Esq. mayor; Thomas Pace, Esq. sheriff." The arms of
the town, with those of Cole, on the knob at the bottom: on the part under the
crown, the rose, thistle, and fleurs-de-lis, and the harp, with a crown over each, and
the initials, I. R. Under the mound, the king's arms, with I. 2 R. This principal
piece of the regalia is carried before the mayor, on processions, by the water-bailiff.
Here also are kept two swords of state, of elegant workmanship: the one is covered
with black, the other with scarlet velvet; the former is used on ordinary processions,
the latter on festivals. It is then that the magistrates wear scarlet gowns. (fn. 3)
On July 19, 1821, the day of the coronation of his majesty George IV. the mayor,
George Forster, Esq. was invested with a valuable gold chain and medallion, and
which is to be worn by all future mayors on public occasions. There is also kept in
the Mansion House a massive gold snuff-box, and an elegant gilt one, with the corporation arms, for the use of the mayor for the time being.
The New Library of the Literary and Philosophical Society, the Public Schools,
the Custom House, the Infirmary, Dispensary, House of Recovery, Lying-in Hospital, and some of the other Hospitals for the Poor, deserve to be ranked amongst the
public buildings of the town, especially as some of these buildings display considerable grandeur and beauty of architecture; but their description is so inseparably interwoven with the history and constitution of the establishments to which they belong,
as not to admit of being separated.