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Literary and Philosophical Society

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The Lit and Phil library in Newcastle is open for visitors who have pre-booked a timed slot.

For now, to ensure adherence to social distancing guidelines, access to The Lit & Phil will be for members only who have booked. Members may book up to 2 one hour slots per day up to 3 times per week on different days.

  • Visitors are advised to wear a face covering and make use of the hand sanitising stations.

Newcastle is home to many fantastic buildings, places that you walk past or into, trying to imagine what they were like years ago. You don’t need to imagine what the Lit & Phil was like because it retains its original purpose as well as all of its charm. The interior of the main reading room is sky lit with three enormous dome lanterns set into the roof. The walls of the galleried, double height space are lined with some of the 160,000 book collection.

It’s a phenomenal, inspiring and welcoming space, a great place to spend some time. Members and visitors enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and use the library to read the papers, meet friends, work and study. The vast collection grows by over 1000 books each year and we house. The Lit & Phil is also home to 7,000 CDs, and over 10,000 LPs. The music is mainly classical and represents a significant collection that also includes scores, sheet music and reference works.

The Literary and Philosophical Society was founded in 1793 by a few like-minded gentlemen, and they first met in three Newcastle locations including The Old Assembly Rooms. The Society thrived and in 1822 members decided to build themselves a permanent home in the gardens of Bolbec Hall, and the Lit & Phil as we know it was opened in 1825. It was always populated with leading thinkers of the day who met to talk and exchange ideas; early presidents of the society included Robert Stephenson, Lord Armstrong, Joseph Swan and Charles Parsons. These illustrious figures from history, as well as Victorian author Charles Dickens, met to discuss literature, science and new discoveries of their age in Newcastle's Lit & Phil.

Testament to these innovators, it was to members of the Literary and Philosophical Society that George Stephenson demonstrated his miners’ safety lamp in 1815. In 1880 the society’s lecture theatre was the first public room to be lit by electric light, during one of Joseph Swan’s many lectures at the Lit and Phil.

A Library first and foremost with over 160,000 books, we house current fiction alongside historical collections. Unlike public libraries we are building a collection, we don’t throw books away which means that when you find a book that you can’t put down, chances are that we have the rest of that author’s work. The Lit & Phil is fast becoming a cultural centre for the North East, a writers’ paradise and literary destination. In 2010, there were over 100 events at the Lit & Phil including book launches, poetry readings, lectures, concerts, workshops and tours. Most events take place in the awe-inspiring reading room, where guests are thrilled to see nothing but books lining every wall. All events are open to the public and many are free, although donations are welcome.

An AccessAble guide is available for this location. Click here for a Detailed Access Guide that lets you know what access will be like when you visit.

Useful Information

Opening Hours

Monday 09:30 - 19:00

Tuesday 09:30 - 20:00

Wednesday 09:30 - 19:00

Thursday 09:30 - 19:00

Friday 09:30 - 17:00

Saturday 09:30 - 13:00


Telephone: 0191 232 0192


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