As part of our wider initiative to surface and expose the heritage value of Shildon Railway Institute, the first and therefore longest running such organisation associated with the railways, the Shildon Heritage Alliance CIC have produced and published a digital image of the Institute’s Half-Yearly report book via the www.shildonrailway.institute website.
The report book was used to capture a six-monthly address to the members of the Institute on behalf of the serving committee, and each report reflects the progress and challenges of the Institute as well as its financial ongoing standing as an act of transparency to the members whose contributions part financed it. Running to 270 pages, the document covers the period from 1855, where the Institute inhabited a reading room that was part of the Masons Arms building, through to 1892. Details in the book cover the creation of the first New Shildon Mechanics Institute building in 1860, early structural problems with it during the 1860s, and its eventual expansion in the mid 1880s to incorporate the adjacent house (which still stands on Station Street today).
It offers truly interesting insight into the parallel evolutions of New Shildon as a town, community and the Institute itself.
The original book, currently in the hands of a private owner, unable to be scanned flat, was photographed page by page, with permission, and with each page then painstakingly being reformatted and reassembled to create a digital book. The whole process took over 45 hours to complete over a number of months when time allowed by SHA.CIC volunteer and Director Dave Reynolds.
The resulting digital image can be accessed without charge at the following web page: https://shildonrailway.institute/heritage-1/half-yearly-report-book-1855-92
It should be noted that the digital file is really large at around 399MB so caution should be exercised when accessing it – you might not want to view it using a mobile device not connected to wi-fi as the data charges or consumption might prove something of a shock.
We’re hoping that the document will prove a useful reference to individuals and organisations looking to understand not just the history of the organisation and the town, but general attitudes to working class education and reading in that era or regional economic conditions.
The imaging isn’t perfect – you may spot the occasional thumb tip here and there – but by making this unique historical record available we hope that we have helped to share something more of the story that this historic organisation played in the growth of New Shildon and the opportunities it gave to our working class forebears.