I loved the Lit and Phil.
The tour I'd aimed for (9.45am Saturday) was fully booked, but someone didn't turn up, so they let me on anyway. I'd heard of it before (I'd half planned to go to a Val McDermid launch there at one point but missed it) but didn't know where it was - for some reason I thought it was the opposite end of Westgate Road to where it is. It's actually towards St Nicholas's Cathedral from the station, not towards Fenham.
Confusion notwithstanding, I found where I was going and joined the tour. At first I just stood and listened, but after only a couple of minutes I found myself scrabbling for my notebook and jotting down the most fascinating facts. And they were mostly fascinating.
The Society was formed in 1793, and the building was built in 1825. They own upwards of 155,000 books, but didn't keep a catalogue until 1893. After a party for the centenary of the Lit and Phil, a fire started. Noone knew how many books were lost as there was no record of what they owned.
If you're a member you can borrow books from 1860 onwards. I tremble with excitement at the mere idea.
The Hancock Museum was set up using a collection that had been bought by the Lit and Phil and housed in a small 'Newcastle Museum'. In the end, it outgrew the space available, and was moved to the site of the Hancock Museum, which was named such in 1890 after the naturalist John Hancock's death. Next year the museum will reopen as the Great North Museum. The Society of Antiquities was also started as part of the Lit and Phil.
And they have a Silent Room. How great is that?
Now I just need to find £65 to become a member....
Photos on flickr if you are interested.