A FAMILY tradition came full circle yesterday as a society celebrated its 200th birthday.
It was 200 years to the day yesterday when bookseller John Bell called a meeting which led to the founding of the Society of Antiquities of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Although two centuries have passed, some things don’t change.
That first meeting of 17 gentlemen was held in the Turk’s Head Inn, which stood at the junction of the Bigg Market and Grainger Street.
Yesterday’s celebration was also held at an inn near the same location, with members rolling up to the Old George.
Among the arrivals was Karen Robinson, the great, great, great, great grand-daughter of John Bell, who had heard that the event was taking place.
Karen, who lives in Heaton and is a Newcastle councillor, decided to join the society on the date that her ancestor laid its foundations.
Karen heard about the family link from a relative’s family tree research.
“The more I have found out about John Bell, the more pride I have felt,” said Karen.
“It is so exciting and I am going to join the society. I am sure John Bell would be tickled pink.”
The society was the first of its type in England outside London and now has more than 700 members.
It has extensive collections in archaeological and social history items, arms and armour, coins, music, paintings and prints, archive material and a library of more than 30,000 books and periodicals.
It also saved historic locations such as the Castle Keep and Black Gate in Newcastle and in the 1930s rescued the central section of Hadrian’s Wall from destruction from quarrying, which led to government legislation protecting not only monuments but also their settings.
Yesterday Newcastle Lord Mayor Jackie Slesenger presented the society with a birthday present of a commemorative plaque which will be erected on the site of the 1813 meeting.
She said: “ I love history and we have to continue to make sure that historic places are not lost.
“The passion and enthusiasm of the society has been fantastic for Newcastle and the wider area and the plaque will have a place of honour in the city.”
Society president Lindsay Allason-Jones said: “There have been many changes in the last 200 years in society and technology but the society is still going strong.”
Richard Bailey, former president and Emeritus Professor at Newcastle University, who lives in Ponteland, said: “The 200th anniversary is an amazing achievement and during that time the society has continued to make people aware of the area’s rich past on which a lot of present day tourism is now based.”
John Bell, who collected rare books, coins and antiquities was born in Newcastle in 1783 and set up his bookshop on the Quayside.