Tullie House was given a novel use in 1893

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Tullie House
Tullie House

When Tullie House was acquired by the city in 1890, from a trust formed of subscribers who had saved the building from demolition, it was planned to extend this to include a library, museum, school of art and technical institution.

While the old part, dating from 1689, was used as a temporary reading room, it took until 1893 before the extensions were ready for the public.

There was still construction work to be completed because a house on Castle Street, incorporating a clock tower, was to accommodate the librarian who was yet to be appointed.

Interviews were held in September 1893 for the 27 applicants and it was Rochdale-born Robert Bateman, from Oldham Free Library, then aged 30, who was selected for the post.

There was criticism that he was not from the area but it was pointed out by RS Ferguson, chairman of the museum committee, “there was no local candidate who has served in a Public Free Library”.

 Robert Bateman

Robert Bateman

Early in October Mr Bateman took up the post and the Journal made it clear that he “has entered upon his duties which will be of a very laborious character for some time to come”.

While volunteers worked on preparing the musuem, Mr Bateman was single-handedly organising the library which was to open first.

At the opening ceremony, which had to be delayed until November 8, 1893, RS Ferguson said: “I believe we have started with a very good librarian.”

The Carlisle Patriot reported that “Mr Bateman, with several years’ experience, is in the prime of life and is evidently not afraid of hard work”.

On the opening day, the public were allowed into Tullie House to inspect progress but the lending library did not open until the end of November, the reading room on December 4, and the museum on December 18.

The boys’ reading room did not open until January 1894.

The librarian’s house was far from ready and city minutes on October 30, 1893, recorded “that the house at present occupied by Mr Whitfield in Spring Gardens Lane be placed at the disposal of the public library committee as a temporary residence for the librarian if they require it”.

It was not until later in 1894 that the librarian’s house at Tullie House was finished to be occupied by Mr Bateman, his second wife, Kate, and their daughter Gladys.

Details of the birth of Robert Bateman’s sons in this house came from the Journal in February 1917: “Temporary Lieutenant (acting Captain) RW Bateman, Manchester Regiment, son of Robert Bateman, formerly librarian at Tullie House, has been awarded the Military Cross. Captain Bateman, who was born at Tullie House in 1894, was educated at Manchester Grammar School.”

He was one of the ‘Oldham Pals’ and survived the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

The newspaper added “his youngest brother, Gerald, who was also born at Tullie House, is a Midshipman in the Royal Navy”. Gerald Ashworth Bateman was born in 1896.

Robert Bateman left Carlisle to go back to Oldham as chief librarian in January 1898 and in 1904 because curator at the Whitworth Art Gallery, a position he held until 1922.

His wife had died in childbrith in 1900 and his third marriage was to his sister-in-law, Emma Louise Wallace. In retirement he lived in Manchester and died on June 26, 1934.

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