Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)UB/MC/A
TitleRecords of the Mason College Board of Trustees
Extent1 volume
DescriptionEarly meetings are primarily concerned with the purchase and lease of lands adjoining the intended site of the college in Edmund Street, and the conveyance of land and properties at other locations in Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield. It appears to have been intended that meetings should usually take place annually, with special meetings being held to discuss specific matters as they arose. Minutes of special meetings and annual meetings during the early 1870s contain information about the purchase of land and properties, rental from leasehold properties, and the preparation of land for construction of the college buildings. There is also evidence that the trustees were considering questions relating to the academic curriculum of the college. A special meeting held 16 December 1873 discussed the conclusions of the sub-committee appointed in February 1873 which recommended that classes for the study of chemistry and physics should be organised first, together with mathematics classes. By the time of the third annual meeting, in February 1874, it had been decided to make provision in the new buildings for medical instruction, and to include anatomy and Greek and Latin languages in the curriculum. The minutes for the fourth annual meeting, on 23 February 1875, discuss arrangement for the ceremony to lay the foundation stone, and a newspaper report of the proceedings at the ceremony, taken from the 'Birmingham Daily Post' is pasted into the volume.

'Monthly' meetings of the trustees are recorded from April 1877, probably to allow regular discussions to take place as to the practical work of the college, and the order in which academic departments should be opened, although the minutes of these meetings also contain information about progress made in the construction of the college building, and about properties and land owned or leased by the college and administered by the trustees. Minutes of the seventh annual meeting, held 22 February 1878, include a statement of properties belonging to the trustees of Sir Josiah Mason's Scientific College.

Minutes of the meeting held 14 May 1879 contain the first detailed discussion of the curriculum of the new college, and the trustees propose to ask the University of London to examine students' work. The trustees also emphasised the importance of appointing professors of chemistry and physics so that they would be able to advise the architect about the fittings of the respective laboratories. It was decided at this meeting to make appointments for three years, renewable by the trustees, with a stipend of £250 per annum with half of the class fees. Copies of the advertisement for professors of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology including botany and zoology are inserted in the minutes of the meeting held 2 July 1879, together with a memorandum as to the conditions of the appointments. Samuel Allport was formally appointed [geology] museum curator at the meeting held 5 November 1879, at a salary of £150. Minutes of the meeting held 7 January 1880 contain lists of the applicants for the chairs of chemistry, mathematics, biology and physics, with details of their qualifications, and a list of applicants for the posts of assistants and demonstrators, including addresses. Minutes of meetings held in February 1880 contain further discussion about the selection of candidates, including a copy of a letter from Professor Tilden recommending that his own current assistant be appointed, and setting out the duties he expects the assistant to carry out.

Minutes of the ninth annual meeting, held 21 February 1880, contain discussion of the income and expenditure of the college, and questions connected with the opening and organisation of the college, at which Professors Hill, Poynting, Tilden and Bridge joined the trustees, resolving that all classes were to be opened to both men and women, and that no student aged fifteen or under was to be admitted without first having passed an entrance examination. The majority of meetings held during the rest of 1880 contain information about preparations for the college opening ceremony, the engraving of the college seal to enable prospectuses to be issued, the appointment of demonstrators, and the purchase of equipment for laboratories and a collection of fossils. There are also references to the resignation and appointment of trustees. Minutes of meetings held in August and September 1880 include reports of sub-committees appointed to organise the opening ceremony, and the minutes of the meeting held 6 October 1880 includes a cutting of the lengthy report in the 'Birmingham Daily Post' which contains an account of the opening ceremony, the inaugural address by Thomas Huxley, and the subsequent celebrations.

Following the opening of the college and the appointment of Council committees, one function of meetings of the Board of Trustees was to approve the reports and recommendations of these new committees. Other matters discussed by the trustees during the early 1880s include the practicability of offering evening lectures, the preparation of the college Calendar, and the expansion of the college curriculum and appointment of additional professors and lecturers. A special meeting held on 15 January 1881 resolved to appoint a professor of physiology 'with special reference to the laws of health', a professor of civil and mechanical engineering, a professor of geology and mineralogy, a lecturer on English language and literature, a lecturer on French language, a lecturer on German language, and a lecturer on Latin and Greek languages. The minutes of the tenth annual meeting, held 23 February 1881, summarise developments over the past year, including the opening of the college, changes among the trustees, the opening of college, the college estates, college income and accounts, professors and students, the extension of college course, the library and museum, and the use of college buildings. There are a number of references in the minutes to applications by Birmingham societies to use rooms in the college.

After the opening of the college, the Board of Trustees met less often, probably because the managerial and academic business of the college was now being decided by the Council and the Academic Board. There were no meetings between February 1881 and September 1881, when a special meeting was held reporting the death of Sir Josiah Mason and confirming the appointment of Thomas Avery, Joseph Chamberlain, Richard Chamberlain, George Dixon and Robert Francis Martineau to be the five official trustees. Minutes of special meetings held in 1882 record discussion concerning the provisions of a bill to be presented to parliament for the incorporation of the college and of Josiah Mason's orphanage at Erdington, and the purchase of additional property on Edmund Street and Great Charles Street. Minutes of the eleventh annual meeting, held 23 February 1882, contain discussion of Mason's legacies and annuities, claims on his estate, and the continued income for the college.

Most trustees meetings from this date onwards are annual meetings, held to approve and adopt statements of accounts, and to hear reports of Council and council committees. Special meetings were held when individual trustees resigned. A special meeting was held on 5 February 1890 to discuss the appointment of a Principal and to set out the duties of the office at which Robert Heath was appointed, to attend all meetings of the Council and committees of the Council, and to act as permanent chairman of the Academic Board. Minutes of a special meeting held 1 February 1893 record discussion of funds required for new buildings following the recent transfer of the medical department of Queen's College to Mason College, and the loan raised by the trustees on security of the residuary estate of Josiah Mason.

Meetings held in late 1896 and in 1897 are largely concerned with the draft bill to incorporate the college, and a meeting held on 20 November 1896 was convened so that the views of the trustees and the Senate as to the establishment of a 'Midland University' might be presented to Joseph Chamberlain at which the Principal and Dean explained the current position. The minutes record Joseph Chamberlain's view that he was opposed to Mason College becoming a constituent part of Victoria University or to a University being established without adequate funds, and his suggestion that the trustees defer fund raising until the appeal on behalf of the General Hospital had ended. A meeting held 9 December 1896 contains references to the trustees discussing the report of a special committee on the draft bill for the incorporation of the college, including a clause for the establishment of a Court of Governors, and minutes of meetings held in 1897, including the annual meeting, are heavily focused on the Mason University College Act, and contain references to meetings of a special committee appointed to prepare draft statutes. A meeting of the trustees was held 29 December 1897 to consider matters usually resolved at the annual meeting
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryAlthough the Deed of Foundation of Josiah Mason's Scientific College was dated 12 December 1870, the first meeting of the trustees was not held until 23 February 1872. The original trustees consisted of Mason, as founder and 'bailiff' or chairman, and James Gibbs Blake, Mason's doctor, and George James Johnson, his solicitor. Four additional trustees had been appointed by the time of the next meeting in February 1873; George Shaw, professor of chemistry at Queen's College, Thomas Pretious Heslop, former professor of physiology at Queen's College, William Costen Aitken, designer for a brass and copper company, and John Thackray Bunce, editor of the 'Birmingham Daily Post'. The trustees managed the business of the College during its early years, and during the 1870s this largely involved negotiating the purchase or lease of pieces of land or properties around Edmund Street and Great Charles Street which would form the site of the college building, or administering rents from other properties purchased by Mason and conveyed to the trustees to provide income for the college. Much of the work to establish issues of multiple ownership, and the rights of tenants and sub-tenants was undertaken by G. J. Johnson. The trustees formed a sub-committee to advise on the subjects to be taught by the college and the equipment and teaching accommodation needed, and the minutes suggest that there was also a finance sub-committee. The trustees were heavily involved in planning the ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the college in February 1875, and in making arrangements for the college opening ceremony in October 1880. They also appointed professors of chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology, a librarian and museum curator in time for the start of college classes in 1880. Once the college was opened, the trustees separated their legal from their managerial responsibilities, and in February 1881 set up a Council to run the college. The trustees also served on the Council. Although the Board of Trustees became gradually less directly concerned with the academic work of the college, they still made efforts to limit the influence of the professors.


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