The Mechanics Institute, Eyam

Recent Photograph of The Mechanics Institute (Eyam)

According to White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Derby, 1857, the Mechanics' Institute was established in Eyam 1824, together with a Subscription Library, which then contained 766 volumes. In 1857 there were 30 members, each paying 3d. (just over 1p) a month. William Wood[1] was the librarian.

This library was also visited by William Elliott of Foolow in 1840, who described it as: ‘glorious institution for those d---md wild mountains, they might as well have had a library printed in Chinese for Eyam people...’[2]

The notice on the door says

Eyam Village Club

Note: in case any of you are wondering (as I did, initially - and, apparently as did William Elliott!) what Mechanics were doing with books, when work-benches and oily rags might seem more appropriate, the archaic definition of mechanic was "A craftsman, an artisan". Mechanics Institutes were set up throughout the country, and (I think) would have been providing for the ‘extra curricula’ needs of the parish's skilled workers or tradesmen.

(Information provided by Rosemary Lockie)

[1] Author of the History and Antiquities of Eyam
[2] A letter written by William Elliott, born in Foolow in 1831, describing his childhood in Foolow and Eyam.

Image contributed by Peter & Janet Kirk on 18th October 2003.
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