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A day to remember

Newcastle celebrates the opening of a new museum of natural history in 1889.

John Hancock, ornithologist and professional taxidermist, was solely responsible for initiating and forging ahead with a proposal to build a grand new museum of Natural History in the outskirts of the city of Newcastle.

The ever expanding collections of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle-on-Tyne had finally outgrown the Society’s ‘Newcastle Museum’, located at the rear of the Literary and Philosophical Society building on Westgate Road.

His project began in 1878 with the purchase of the land at Barras Bridge and the preparation of building plans followed by a major fund raising exercise. By 1883 his ambitious vision was nearly completed and The New Museum of Natural History (later renamed The Hancock Museum) was ready for business. Hancock’s remarkable achievement was publically acknowledged when the museum formally opened to the public, with great pomp and ceremony, on Tuesday 20th August, 1884.