History of Salford Museum & Art Gallery

Salford Museum and Art Gallery, 1978

Introduction

  • In 1849, Salford City Council sanctioned the use of Lark Hill Mansion as an educational site and planned to turn the mansion into a public museum and library
  • Mr John Plant was appointed as the museum's curator and librarian in October of 1949
  • The museum opened as the Royal Museum and Public Library in April 1850. After being open for 129 days, the museum had an average of 1,240 visitors per day
  • Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were patrons of the museum until 1940 and the library was the first, unconditionally free public library in the country

Changes to the building

  • In it's first year of opening (1850), extensive refreshment rooms were opened on the basement floor and two adjoining rooms were added to the library which allowed it to accommodate nearly 12,000 volumes
  • In 1851, three of the East rooms in the museum were knocked into one and suggestions were made to turn it into an art gallery
  • Large extension work began in 1852 with a large reading room on the ground floor and a room for museum purposes above. It was added to the back of the building to allow for future extension and a new staircase was also proposed to accommodate the increasing number of visitors
  • Between 1854 and 1856, the North and South galleries were opened along with the lending library of 2,500 books
  • By 1857, visitor figures had raised to 888,830 per year which equates to a daily average of 3,508
  • Edward Langworthy left £10,000 to the museum and library when he died in 1874. With his money, the building of the Langworthy wing began in 1875 and was finished and in occupation in 1878. The official opening was on 14 August 1878 and a grand ball was held in the museum that evening to celebrate

Interesting facts

  • Lark Hill Mansion was built in 1809 by Colonel James Ackers. When it was demolished in 1936 due to safety precautions, it was replaced with a new wing which mirrored the Langworthy wing
  • The ground floor of the new wing was turned into the Lark Hill Place exhibition in the 1950s
  • Peel Park, in which Salford Museum and Art Gallery is situated, was named after Robert Peel in honour of his contribution to the subscription fund which allowed the council to purchase Lark Hill Mansion in 1849