Uncovering - The Beaney Backstory

Uncovering - The Beaney Backstory
Alan Barber

Published by Bene Books CT4 5TW


• It celebrates the opening in 2012 of 'The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge' our refurbished & enlarged landmark in Canterbury High Street.
• It traces the development of Canterbury's Library from 1769 to the present
• It outlines the growth of Canterbury's Museum from 1823 sharing a purpose-built Institution in Guildhall Street opened 17 October 1826.
• It explains the changing method of borrowing a book from choosing it in a catalogue to choosing it from an open shelf (Canterbury changed in 1927).

• It outlines the 'rags to riches life-story' of James George Beaney (1828-1891)
• This poor lad was born in Northgate Street, Canterbury his father was a labourer/sawyer but died when James was two.
• His older brother George became a sawyer but James went on to achieve his burning ambition to become a doctor.
• Here in Canterbury he began as an errand boy for a chemist, then learned to dispense medicines and served an apprenticeship from 1847
• His Master was William James Cooper, a Surgeon & Apothecary (brother of Sidney Cooper the artist).
• Married in Wales 1849, started academic studies in Edinburgh 1852 health broke down (TB) took recuperative long voyage to Melbourne.
• Returned to Edinburgh 1853 resumed studies and awarded Licentiate Royal College of Surgeons 1855.
• Served as a surgeon in the Crimean War and with peace in 1856 acted as ship's surgeon on migrant voyages to New York.
• Migrated with wife to Melbourne November 1857 and worked his way up to a successful practice and gradually earned his fortune.
• Made return trips to UK in 1878 (when sadly his wife died) and 1885; banquets given in his honour, both times, here in Canterbury.
• Died in Melbourne 1891 left many 'munificent' bequests including £2,200 from repairs & memorial in Canterbury Cathedral and £10,000 for building an Institute for Working Class.


To KCC Libraries for enrolling me as a Time2Give volunteer and inviting me to research the story of Canterbury's Beaney Institute, its predecessors and its donor.

To the Bridge and District History Society who invited me to talk about my project; for which I created a PowerPoint presentation and it forms the basis for my book.

To the Canterbury City Council for printing the book which has enabled it to have a retail price of £5.00.