Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Museums, Public Buildings and Galleries - Geological Museum

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Museum of Economic Geology, Craig's Court, Charing Cross. - This institution, which, under the superintendence of Sir H. De La Beche, is connected with the Office of Woods and Forests, has been formed for the purpose of showing the application of Geology to the useful purposes of life, by collecting and exhibiting specimens of the mineral produce of Great Britain, including ores of the various metals, building stones, marbles, coal-pits, &c. with a collection of models of mines and mining machinery. A laboratory is attached to the Museum, in which the analysis of soils, ores, &c., is performed for the public, and in which pupils receive instruction in chemical analysis. The Museum is open every day from 10 to 5 in summer, and from 10 to 4 in winter, and may be seen upon application to Mr. Phillips.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844


Illustrated London News, 1848

MUSEUM OF PRACTICAL GEOLOGY, No.28 to 32, JERMYN STREET extending to Piccadilly, where there is also another front. Established in 1835, in consequence of a representation to the Government by Sir Henry de la Beche, C.B., (the Honorary Director), that the geological survey, then under the Ordnance, and in progress in Cornwall, possessed great opportunities of illustrating the application of geology to the useful purposes of life. It was suggested that collections for that object should be made, placed under the department of Works, and be arranged with every reference to instruction, so that thos interested should be enabled to judge how far our known mineral wealth might be rendered available for any undertaking they are required to direct, or may be anxious to promote for the good or ornament of thei country. The collections were at first placed in Craig's-court, Charing-cross, but they augmented so rapidly, chiefly from donations, that a larger building became necessary for them. It is expected that the Museum (of which Mr. Pennethorne is the architect) will be open in the present year, (1850), and that the lectures, on subjects connected with this establishment, for which a spacious theatre is provided, will be commenced. These lectures have long since been authorised, but the want of proper accommodation for the public has hitherto prevented their delivery. From the desire manifested by the mining interest, as expressed in memorials to the Government, this establishment will probably, in a great measure, assume the character of a School of Mines, similar, as far as circumstances permit, to the École des Mines and other Institutions of the like kind on the continent. The raw mineral produce of Great Britain and Ireland, viz., coal taken at the pit mouth, iron in the pig, and so on, is now valued at 23,000,000l. per annum, so that such an establishment may be expected to present many advantages in that department alone, to which, however, it will not be confined, the applications of our mineral substances to engineering and architecture, and of geology to our agriculture, receiving proper attention. In 1839 an office of mining records was added to this Institution, in consequence of the representation of a committee of the British Association for the Advancement of Science to that effect, the great losses of life and of capital sustained from the want of such records having been pointed out. Already a very valuable collection of mining records has been formed. A laboratory had been previously found necessary, where not only analyses and examinations should be instituted in illustration of the collections, and for government departments, (as regards the subjects for the development of which the Museum was founded), but also for the public at moderate cost, pupils being also received. The collections, gratuitously open to public inspection, are already very considerable, and are rapidly increasing, chiefly, as at first, from donations. They comprise alike illustrations of the geology of the United Kingdom and of its colonies, and of the application of that science to the useful purposes of life ; numerous models of mining works, mining machinery, metallurgical processes, and other operations, with needful maps, sections, and drawings, aiding a proper and comprehensive view of the general subject.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850


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IN our Journal of last week we described the ceremony of opening this new Museum, and engraved the Jermyn-street Front, with the Portrait of Sir Henry De la Beche, the Director of the Institution.
    The Museum of Practical Geology was established in 1835, at the instance of Sir Henry De La Beche, who was then engaged on the geological survey of Devon  and Cornwall; during the progress of which he had collected a large number of specimens, illustrating the mineral formations of the western districts of the kingdom. A few rooms in a house in Craig's-court were all that was at first appropriated to this purpose; but, like all good thoughts, the progress has been  steadily onward, until eventually the fine structure in Jermyn-street was built purposely for the collection.
    The objects are, to present, in an intelligible manner, complete illustrations of the mineral wealth of the United Kingdom and the colonies; to show the modes of the occurrence of mineral deposits; to exhibit, as far as it is practicable, the modes of working the mines; this being effected by well-executed models of the machinery, and collection of the tools employed; and to display  the metallurgical processes by which the metal is obtained, and the uses in art and manufacture to which the metals are respectively applied. The collections are not merely confined to the metalliferous ores and their products. The earthy minerals which are of any industrial value are embraced, and thus the clay and sands employed in the manufacture of glass and china appropriately find a piece. The history of manufactures is intended, and the illustrations of the ceramic art of our own country are tolerably complete, all the varieties of British pottery, from the earliest earthenware productions of Staffordshire, to the most recent productions in porcelain and parian, being included. In the same manner the history of glass manufacture is illustrated and we find the series commencing with Roman glass, proceeding with very fine examples of Venetian and early German, and continuing onward to the best examples of modern glass.
    The lower hail of the Museum is devoted to the building and ornamental stones of the kingdom; and here will be found examples of British marbles, which show that for ornamental purposes we need not pass beyond our own shores, the granites, serpentines, porphyries, and limestones of our own land furnishing a great variety in colour and character. Ascending the stairs, we reach the main portion of the collection. Here, in a noble apartment, are accumulated the illustrations to which we have alluded, and in the galleries are arranged a unique collection of British fossil remains. At the end of this apartment is the Model-Room, filled with models of machinery and with mining tools, &c. The upper story of the building is devoted, on the side next Picadilly, to a well-furnished laboratory; and on the Jermyn.street end, to the Mining Record Office, where are deposited such plans and sections of  the mines of the United Kingdom as may have been presented, or such as have been collected by the officers in charge of this department. . . .  A very admirable Theatre is provided, and a Library peculiarly adapted to the studies of the establishment. These will, In a short time, be devoted to their proper purposes; the organisation of the educational staff and objects being in progress.

Illustrated London News, Jan.-June 1851

Lecture at the Museum, 1852 [ILN Picture Library]

MUSEUM OF PRACTICAL GEOLOGY, Piccadilly,-the entrance in Jermyn Street,-is open, gratis, to the public every day but Friday. It originated in a suggestion made to Government (in 1835) by Sir Henry de la Beche, and was opened, in 1837, as the "Museum of Economic Geology," in Craig's Court, Charing Cross. But so rapid was its increase, and so important were its developments,-a Laboratory, a School of Mines, and a Mining Record Office being successively established,-that it became necessary to provide it with a larger and more suitable habitat; and the present edifice was accordingly built, from Mr. Pennethorne's designs, in 1850, and opened on the 15th of August 1851, by the late Prince Consort. It cost 30,000l., and is exceedingly commodious and well arranged.
    The geological survey of the United Kingdom, formerly under the Board of Ordnance, has its offices here.
    The building contains a Geological Museum (on the ground-floor and in the galleries), which illustrates the mineral products of every part of Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies, and exhibits numerous beautiful specimens of fossils, ores, and marbles, as well as of porcelain, enamel, glass, and mosaic works-furnishing, indeed, a complete history of the ceramic art. There are, also, many interesting models of mining works and mining machinery. The Lecture Room will comfortably accommodate 450 students, and evening lectures by eminent professors are here delivered to artisans and mechanics every season. The Library, of a purely scientific character, is accessible to students.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

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Geological Museum, in Jermyn-street, Piccadilly, contains a superb collection of minerals, metals, and their products. The hall into which the visitor first enters is devoted to stones used in building, and for architectural adornments. Here are plinths and blocks of an immense variety of marbles, granites, porphyrys, serpentines, elvans, and conglomerate stones. The building stones of Great Britain are very strongly represented, and in the recess by the stairs are some cases of British serpentines, granites, and conglomerates, which show what an immense variety of ornamental stone our architects have ready at hand. In this hall are busts of presidents of the museum and other eminent geologists. Upstairs in the grand hall are specimens of every known ore of all the metals from all parts of the world, as also the manufactured products of the ores. The number and variety of ores of the same metals are immense, and the beauty of many of them is very remarkable. There are some lovely specimens of rock crystals, and ladies will be interested in the collection of gems, and in the beautiful examples of agates and amygdalites. There are many geological models showing the stratifications of various localities, and the direction and nature of mineral lodes. Facing the staircase is a model on a large scale of the geological stratifications of the Thames valley beneath and around London. Just behind this is a gold snuff-box mounted in diamonds, and a magnificent salver in steel and gold. The first was presented by the Emperor of Russia, the second by the Russian School of Science, to the late Sir Roderick Murchison who bequeathed them to the museum. At e south end of the hall is a very fine collection of glass and pottery. There are also examples of Limoges enamels, and other vitreous ware. In the upper galleries is a superb collection of fossils of all kinds. In the chambers at the north end of the hall is a collection of models showing the underground and surface workings of mines, pumps, engines, man-ladders, lifts, cages, tools, furnaces, and in fact of all machinery, apparatus, and plant connected with mining. Large as the museum is it is wholly insufficient to hold more than a small proportion of the specimens of rocks and ores which have been presented to it, and the cellars are crowded with cases of valuable specimens. The museum is open free to the public daily, except on Fridays. NEAREST Railway Stations, Charing-cross (Dist. and SE.); Omnibus Routes, Piccadilly and Regent-street; Cab Ranks, Albany, Piccadilly, and St. James?s-square. 

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

    GEOLOGICAL [MUSEUM], 30, JERMYN STREET ... Contains interesting specimens of minerals and fossils; models of mines and mining machinery; geological maps, plans &c. Open daily, except Fridays, from 10 to 4 or 5; Mondays and Saturdays, till 10 p.m. Closed, August 10th to September 10th. Admission free.

Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895