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Former Masham Mechanics' Institute

A Grade II Listed Building in Masham, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.222 / 54°13'19"N

Longitude: -1.6581 / 1°39'29"W

OS Eastings: 422387

OS Northings: 480750

OS Grid: SE223807

Mapcode National: GBR JMVM.T9

Mapcode Global: WHC7D.H4MP

Entry Name: Former Masham Mechanics' Institute

Listing Date: 19 March 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1424895

Location: Masham, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG4

County: North Yorkshire

District: Harrogate

Civil Parish: Masham

Built-Up Area: Masham

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

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Former mechanics' institute designed by William Perkin opened in 1856. Included a large lecture hall, reading room and classrooms as well as domestic accommodation for a librarian.


Former mechanics' institute, 1856 by William Perkin of Perkin and Backhouse of Leeds. Victorian Italianate style.

MATERIALS: coursed limestone with sandstone dressings. Roof covering of modern concrete tiles which are not of special interest*.

PLAN: the principal range is orientated parallel to the street frontage with a domestic range at right angles to the rear, west. To the rear east and centre there is a parallel range to the front range: the eastern half appearing as a two storey single room extension, that to the centre forming the stair hall.

EXTERIOR front, south: this is symmetrical, being of two storeys and three bays with a central entrance. Windows have paired lights set within sandstone surrounds that include aprons. The first floor windows are tall, round-headed sliding sashes, each sash divided into four panes with glazing bars. The ground floor windows are segmentally headed with keystones and have replacement sashes (possibly late C19) with plate glass lower sashes and smaller upper sashes which are divided into two panes. The central entrance has a stone doorcase including a projecting cornice supported by paired stone consoles. The part glazed door is hardwood and probably late C20. The entrance steps and ramp are a late C20 addition and are not of special interest*. The elevation is quoined, and has a plinth, storey band and cornice. The cornice is supported by shaped stone consoles and in-turn supports a plain parapet. Centrally placed, rising above the parapet is an 1856 date stone. The end stacks shown in the London Illustrated News illustration have been lost.

West elevation: the gable end of the front range is coped, the coping projecting in the form of an open pediment. The elevation is also quoined, and has a plinth and storey band. It has four openings with stone sills and keystoned lintels, round headed to the first floor, flat with segmental soffits to the ground floor. Three of the openings are blind (and were shown as blind in 1856). The ground floor northern window has been converted into a doorway. The west elevation of the rear range is more domestic in appearance and is of two bays and two storeys, the upper floor being slightly lower than that of the front range. This has four windows with stone sills and keystoned lintels, the windows being six over six hornless sashes, excepting the northern ground floor window which has been altered. The gable end retains its ridge stack.

East elevation: the gable end of the front range is similarly detailed to the west gable except that it has centrally placed windows to both ground and first floors which match those of the front elevation. The gable end of the rear range is lower and has a first floor window matching that of the domestic part of the west elevation. The ground floor window was probably originally similar, but has been altered with a raised sill. On the first floor there is also a small, modern inserted window which is not of special interest*. The rear of the domestic range, which is set back, is blind.

North elevation: This is blind except for a round arched stair window to the centre which retains a 6-over 6 sash window. Below there is a blocked door to the rear yard. Extending eastwards from the north gable of the domestic range there is a row of stone built outbuildings.

INTERIOR: the first floor of the front range is a single room, originally the lecture hall, and features a pair of decorated roof trusses. The staircase up to the hall retains decorative cast iron balusters, the stair hall being separated from the bank on the ground floor by an inserted masonry wall, this inserted wall not being of special interest*. Cornicing to the ground floor suggests that only one internal wall was removed for the conversion into a bank. The conversion also entailed the insertion of a vault into the rear east room (probably formerly a class room). The rear west range retains panelled interior doors and other joinery, as well as its fireplaces complete with cast iron surrounds and is thought to have been mainly domestic accommodation for the librarian. The ground floor appears to have been a kitchen, with space for a range, and parlour with a hob grate, with the northern upstairs room being a bedroom with another hob grate. The southern upstairs room has cornicing and a higher status fireplace. Blocked doorways to the lecture hall and main landing suggest that this was originally the ante-room. The counters, screen, vault and other bank fittings are not of special interest*.

* Pursuant to s.1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.


Masham's Mechanics' Institute was founded in 1848, the local vicar, Reverend Thomas Riddle, being the first president until his death in 1855. A purpose-built building was erected as a memorial to Riddle, funded by public subscription and supported by local gentry, built on land donated by Trinity College Cambridge. The opening of the Riddle Memorial Mechanics' Institute was reported in the London Illustrated News of 15 November 1856. This report described the building as being Italian in style and noted that the ground floor had a spacious vestibule and staircase, large reading room, class-rooms and rooms for the librarian, and that the first floor had a lofty, spacious lecture room, ante-room, committee room and librarian's bedroom. The architect was William Perkin of Perkin and Backhouse of Leeds.

Although the building appears to have been built in two phases (the north-eastern corner appearing to be an extension), the London Illustrated News report suggests that this addition had been constructed when the building was formally opened. The building is certainly depicted as being complete on the first edition 1:2500 map of 1892. Some time before 1975 the building was divided internally to convert the ground floor into a bank, providing a separate entrance to the side linked to the staircase, with the first-floor lecture room being used as a public library. Use as a bank and library ceased in 2012.

Reasons for Listing

The former Masham Mechanics' Institute is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Social history: as a relatively early example of a bespoke building for a mechanics' institute serving a small rural market town;
* Architecture: a good, relatively well preserved example of a mid-C19 architect-designed institute building employing Italianate detailing;
* Interior: the first-floor lecture hall and the good survival of interior features in the rear west range are both notable.

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