Public buildings
The Mansion House

Sponsor

Institute of Historical Research

Publication

Author

Eneas Mackenzie

Year published

1827

Pages

232-234

Citation Show another format:

'Public buildings: The Mansion House', Historical Account of Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Including the Borough of Gateshead (1827), pp. 232-234. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43351 Date accessed: 18 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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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.

Footnotes

1 It is said that the large old house known by the sign of the Nag's Head, at the foot of George's Stairs, was anciently the residence of the mayor. It might perhaps have been used for this purpose while the present Mansion House was building.
2 The common council ordered, May 15, 1694, "to provide two beds for the judges' chambers in the Mansion House." September 29, 1760, they ordered "to discontinue the custom of giving vails to servants in the Mansion House." When no prisoner is capitally convicted at the court of assize, it is customary for the corporation to present the judges, &c. with white gloves, it being a maiden assize.
3 "In former times, the aldermen of the town had their scarlet gowns, but the proud Scot got them by conquest, as they did other ornaments of the town, thinking no English, in authority, worthy to wear scarlet but themselves; and so they continued lording over us for two years, until they were hired out, as they were brought in, being a mercenary nation, for any nation for money."—Grey's Chorographia.
Amongst the plate belonging to the corporation are a silver basin and ewer, on which are the subsequent inscriptions:—"This basin and ewer was by Sir Gilbert Gerrard Bart. and his two sons Gilbert and Samuel Gerrard Esquires grand-children to the Rev. Father in God Dr. John Cosins late Bishop of Durham, presented to the right worshipful Sir Nathanael Johnson and the Court of Aldermen of the ancient towne of Newcastle and is designed for the use of the Mayor that annually governs accordingly to be delivered by the present Mayor to the Court of Aldermen and by them to the next Mayor that shall be chosen and soe successively for ever June 8, 1681." The arms also of the town, and those of Johnson and Gerrard, are engraved on them. On the ewer is this inscription:—"This ewer with a basin was presented by Sir Gilbert Gerrard Bart. and his two sons Gilbert and Samuel Gerrard Esqrs. to the use of the annual Mayor of the antient towne of Newcastle for ever June 8, 1681."—Arms also of Johnson and Gerrard, with those of the corporation. On a large silver bason is the following:—"Ex dono Lioneli Vane armigeri majori & burgensibus villæ & comitatis Novi Castri super Tinam."—Arms of the town, and those of Vane and Fenwick. There is a singularly handsome epergne, given by Mr. Bowes, and a silver salver, with this inscription:—"The first royal purse of one hundred guineas, run for at Newcastle upon Tyne, was won June 25th, 1753, by a bay horse called Cato, belonging to George Bowes, Esq. who generously presented it to the corporation to purchase a piece of plate, in remembrance of his Majesty's grace and favour."—The king's arms, those of the town, and Bowes.
The Mansion House has also a rich circular silver waiter, a handsome tureen and server, a gold lackered cup, on which is represented the battle of Hastings, with table and dessert silver spoons, and other articles of plate. There is likewise a silver gilt cup, of very elegant design and execution, in which it is usual to present mulled wine to the new mayor, at his first entrance into the Mansion; for which purpose it is said 'to have been given to the corporation. Formerly, the newly-elected mayor, on Michaelmas Monday, entertained such freemen as pleased to attend at the Mansion House; but in consequence of the shameful excesses that happened on these occasions, the common council, in 1773, resolved to discontinue the custom.