Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society
Biographical Account: Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society was founded at a meeting in the Cutlers Hall on December 12th 1822. It was formed as a successor to the Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge which had folded in 1805, but was, by dint of its membership, a facet of several other societies, including the Sheffield Subscription Library and Sheffield Book Club. The Lit and Phil, as it is often known, served a variety of social and civic purposes. Firstly, it provided a means for local middle class individuals to keep in touch. Secondly, it was a response to the formation of similar societies in other Cities, perhaps most notably, Manchester, which had formed its own Lit and Phil in 1781. Thirdly, it was a means to pass on knowlege through sharing of books and provision of lectures. The society started to ammass a small collection, mostly of natural history but also including archaeological and ethnographic material, displayed in a museum situated in the Cutler's Hall. By 1826, the collection began to grow with large donations such as Jonathon Salt's collection of pressed plants. The museum was moved to larger rooms, above the music halls on Surrey Street, but even these were considered inadequate. The society made it their long term goal to persuade the local authority to provide a suitable building in which their collections could be publicly displayed. This goal wasn't realised until the 1870s, when an agreement was reached transferring ownership of the Lit and Phil collections to the public in return for Sheffield Corporation (the equivalent of the town council) purchasing Weston House and its grounds, to be converted to a public museum and park. The Lit and Phil continued to hold regular 'conversaziones' and lectures on a wide variety of subjects for the next 60 years, but membership began to dwindle throughout the early 20th century and by the 1930s, the society had become financially unsupportable. By this time, other societies, such as the Hunter Archaeological Society and Sorby Natural History Society, both of which are still going strong even today, had taken over many of the functions of the Lit and Phil. The final lecture of the Lit and Phil, given by Captain Knight called, 'Eagles of the Sea' was given in December 1932.