Mechanics' Institutes were educational establishments which provided adult education, particularly in technical subjects, to working men. They were often funded by local industrialists in the expectation that they would ultimately benefit from having more knowledgeable and skilled employees. For adult working people they were a valuable source of reading material and provided an alternative to gambling and drinking in public houses.

Southampton Mechanics’ Institute was opened in 1830 in Hanover Buildings. It attracted few artisans, but its membership was made up of mostly clerks and shop assistants. It was renamed the Polytechnic Institution in 1842. It housed a small library, a museum and a reading room stocked with newspapers and magazines. It also offered weekly lectures and various educational classes. In the 1850s membership was over 500.

Further reading:

History of Southampton Vol. 2, by A. Temple Patterson, p132, 154-55, 192. (HS/h)


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