REDCAR – Literary Institute and Gertrude Bell Painting

Accreditation Cleveland Standard (28/09/1933)

Redcar Literary Institute
Sir Maurice Ball Unveils Portrait
of His Sister

   It gives as me great pleasure to think that in this room there is a memorial to her. She came to Redcar in 1870 when she was two years old. It was her home as far as she had a home, because she was always a wandering spirit, a pioneer.
With the words Colonel Sir Maurice Bell of Mount Grace Priory unveiled a portrait of his sister Miss Gertrude Bell, the celebrated scholar, peer, historian, archaeologist, art critic, mountaineer, explorer, gardener and naturalist, in the Redcar Literary Institute on Saturday. The portrait was a copy of that exhibited by Mr. Frank Sargeant, R.A. in the Royal Academy some years ago.

Lady Trevelyan Opens New Extensions

   Miss Bell’s connection with the Literary Institute was no slight one, for it was here that she delivered some of the first lectures. By the older generation she is remembered and appreciated.
“She had a love for Redcar, continued Sir Maurice, “and all her life had a feeling that Redcar was her home.” It gives our family great pleasure to feel that she has her memorial in this town.
There were also present at the ceremony Miss Bell’s sister, Lady Trevelyan. Miss Richmond, the Mayor and Mayoress of Redcar (Councillor and Mrs. W. Morris), Mrs. Wragly, Dr. A. S. Robinson chairman of the Literary Institute, Mr. S. J. Brown (general secretary) and Mrs. Brown, Mr. J. C. D. Barnett (financial secretary) and Mrs. Barnett, Mr. Henry Walker, and Mr SOME) Nixon. A letter of apology for his absence received from Lord Zetland.


   Saturday, was doubly a red letter day for the Institute, for the new extensions to the premises were officially declared opened by Lady Tevelyan, who cut the tape at the foot of the main entrance. These new extensions include several new rooms – chess and games room, a room specially set aside for ladies and committee rooms – and the enlargement to twice its size of the existing reading room.
The whole building has been re-decorated and new staircase has been provided, windows have been enlarged and the little ‘tute’ has taken on an entirely new appearance.
Lady Trevelyan was presented with a pair of ornamental scissors, suitably inscribed by Mr. A. Pallister, the chief contractor. She also received a bouquet from the hands of Miss Susan Ridley, daughter of Colonel T. G. K. Ridley, and a great-granddaughter of one of the founders of the Institute.
Dr. A. S. Robinson presided over a large gathering of members and their friends.


   His first reference was to Sir Hugh Bell who, he said was a very good friend indeed of the Institute. “Anything we wanted he always gave us, and he gave it wholeheartedly. He gave us good advice and helped us with his pocket. We have every reason to be grateful for what Sir Hugh has done.”
Sir Maurice he welcomed for his own sake. As a captain he took out the Redcar Volunteers in the South African War, and in the dark days did his bit and did it well.
Lord Zetland had always taken great interest in Redcar and the Institute. It was pleasing to think that a man of his attainments had found time to take an active part in the Institute affairs. Quite a number of world-famous men had been connected with the Institute.
Dr. Robinson also referred to Sir Alfred Pease, who had a “wonderful memory and a wonderful store of reminiscences.”
“Miss Gertrude Bell was undoubtedly on of the women of her age,” he continued. “I do not think her influence if the East is yet really acclaimed, and will not probably be known until some little time has elapsed and history can estimate the importance of her work.
“It was not without cause that she was called the uncrowned Queen of Arabia. We ought to be very proud to think Miss Bell so often lectured to us in her early days.”


   Mr. J. C. D. Barnett financial secretary of the Institute, gave a brief resume of the Institute’s activities since the foundation. It was essential to create an atmosphere of business on such an occasion, and that had been allotted to him.
“I purpose this afternoon,” said Mr. Barnett, “to give you a short history of out Institute and the work that has been done during the 39 years of its life.
“Many of you who are present at our annual meeting some three years ago heard a very comprehensive history given by one chairman on that occasion, the late Councillor J. F. Batty. We resolved to gather up all these facts and compile them into one story, but I regret to say, we have not managed to get that work done. We hope to get it done and add it to the archives of our Institute.
“Sir Maurice knowing the keen interest his father had for our Institute, will no doubt be pleased to carry on with the good work and I can assure him we are pleased to have him with us this afternoon. As long as the Redcar Institute survives I am sure the name of Bell will be ever in the forefront.”


   On February 24th, 1896, a meeting was held in the Central Hall for the purpose of providing a reading room and Literary Institute for Redcar and Coatham, continued Mr. Barnett. The outcome of that meeting was that two rooms were hired in 30, High Street, Redcar, above the house and shop next door to Mr. Crowe’s at a rent of £26 which included gas, coal and cleaning.
Members were enrolled, and the two rooms were soon found inadequate. In January, 1898, the Institute took over the whole premises at a rent of £40, but the owners threatened to increase the rent to £50 so they hired No. 18, High Street. The rent of that property was £25 a year for a lease of 5 years, with the option to buy the premises next door for £20.
“The young Institute flourished and within twelve months they decided to buy that property, Sir Hugh Bell advanced the whole of the purchase price of £1,200 at a very low rate of interest, and it remained at that low rate until the time of his death.
“In 1904, No.16 High Street was purchased, and so gave us the frontage we hold at present. The ground premises have been converted into shops, we have a billiard room in the Institute Hall, and these have proved a fine source of revenue.”
At a meeting of the members held in the new premises it was decided that when the tenants evacuated No.20 they would rearrange the rooms for the benefit of the members.


   “Today, I consider a land mark in the history of the Institute,” Mr. Barnett added, “We have at last completed the work that was promised in 1898. We have arranged the premises suitably for the convenience of the members.”
Before these alterations Mr. Barnett thought that 95 per cent, of the members were unaware that the Institute possessed such rooms. The Institute hall has been described as a warren, and the chairman had hoped for a fire so that out of the ashes might come money to arrange the rooms (laughter)
But it was impossible some how to get the fire, and it has been necessary to spend money. During the early months of the year, the Council’s attention was drawn to the unsafe condition of the roof, which led to the calling in of the architect, Mr. Douglas Cox.
Mr. Cox had excelled himself and they also owed a debt of gratitude to the contractors and workmen who had put their very best into the work and made a 100 per cent job.
The Institute provided games rooms where both young and old could enjoy themselves.
“No parent, however strict can object to the atmosphere of the Institute for his son.”


   It was impossible to measure the good the Institute had done for the youth of Redcar. Many men long since grown to manhood had expressed the happiness the enjoyed through their association with the Institute and spoke of the influence it had had on their live.
“I am sure that if we have done nothing else, our efforts for the youth of Redcar have full well repaid our pioneers for their work.”
On the question of library books, for the year ending August 31, 1933 £82 had been spent on new books and £63 on newspapers and periodicals, making a total of £125. This led to the question of income.
Members’ subscriptions totaled £97 which meant that there were 388 fully paid members for last year. In 1897, the Institute had 170 members, and the figure rose to 542 by the year 1904. What had happened since? Was this enough for the town of redcar with a population of 23,000? Surely the question needed no answer.
“We have been accused many times,” he continued, “of providing for the young men of the town rather than for the ladies, but the council in their latest venture have made a definite effort to attract more ladies to our company.”
Regarding the lectures, Mr. Barnett said that after the War they had tried to make available good lectures, but the attendance was so small the idea had to be abandoned. They had the hall however, which proved very useful to Redcar and district. It was in great demand for badminton and in the summer was the headquarters of many societies for their outings.
Mr. Barnett also made an appeal for more members, and spoke of the advantages to be obtained from increased membership. “If this is done I am convinced we will move from success to success, and this day will prove a landmark in the history of our Institute.”


   Sir Maurice Bell then unveiled the portrait of Miss Ball. In his remarks he also referred to the opening of the new premises and spoke of the Institute which had lasted so long and bar one period had been so successful.
“The Redcar Literary Institute brings back to me memories of old faces that I knew so many years ago.” said Sir Maurice.
“Mr. T. D. Ridley I can see now, with his clear-cut Northumbrian features and a kindliness that the man always had. I hope his grandson will soon be commanding the Battalion which I have always taken and interest in and which has a Company in Redcar.”
Mr. Henry Walker, the oldest member of the Institute thanked Sir Maurice for his kindness in attending. “We honour him,” said Mr. Walker, “not only because he is the worthy son of a worthy sire, but because he is the brother of one whose name and memory is and forever will be revered b the members of the Institute.
Mr. Walker also paid tribute to the men “Whose breezy utterances, when they can be heard are always pleasing and encouraging to Mr. Barnett to whom they owed a debt of gratitude; and to the general secretary, Mr. “sam” Brown, who had worked energetically and tirelessly for the good of the cause as a whole.


   Mr. Reuben Nixon supported his expressions of thanks. “I created a record of this Institute,” he said, “because when at the age of sixteen years I became a member I was suspended on the first night.”
Mr. Nixon carried on the good work of the library for ten years single handed.
“I find infinite pleasure in finding members of the Bell family here. We talk about things being clear as a bell, and that is the P.H. family through and through.” continued Mr. Nixon. “Sir Hugh Bell taught us to borrow money and live dangerously. He said no place could carry on unless it had an overdraft.”
Of Miss Gertrude Bell, Mr. Nixon said, “She is enshrined in Colonel Lawrence’s book, ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom.’ When we are dead and dust, the name of Gertrude Bell will be remembered.”
The letter of apology which Mr. Brown received from Lord Zetland written from Letterewe, Achnasheen, Scotland ran as follows:-
“Since I cannot be present at the ceremony on Saturday I should like to write a word of good wishes to the members of the Literary Institute on the extension of their premises. I should at the same time like to record my sense of satisfaction that the Institute now possesses a portrait of Miss Gertrude Bell whose remarkable career excited the admiration of all and will serve as a perpetual inspiration to her fellow Yorkshire men.”




dean May 28, 2010 People & Characters