The Society's seal and three photographs

Music and bagpipes


The Society took an interest in local music and musical instruments from the 1850s onwards, and in 1882 published the first large-scale regional survey of traditional music in this country, Northumbrian Minstrelsy.

The Bagpipe Collection  was started by William Alfred Cocks (1892 - 1971), a clockmaker from Ryton As well as over a hundred sets of bagpipes, the Collection includes 300 books, including some hand-written manuscripts; photographs; personal correspondence; and numerous items of ephemera.  It is housed in the Morpeth Chantry Museum at Morpeth, Northumberland, now under the auspices of the Woodhorn Trust. FARNE, the Folk Archive Resource North East, features scanned images of tunes and songs from many of the manuscripts.

History of the Collections

William Alfred Cocks (1892-1971), a master clock maker, was elected to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne on 25th August 1920, and remained a member until his death in 1971.  The first Honorary Curator of the Bagpipe Museum, in which the Cocks Collection was exhibited, was Mr R. A. S Cowper, who converted a floor in the Society of Antiquaries' accommodation in the Black Gate in Newcastle upon Tyne for its display. The exhibition was on display at the Black Gate for 15 years, during which time Colin Ross became Honorary Curator.

By the mid 1980s, however, the Society was becoming increasingly concerned about the upkeep of the collection, whose contents, storage and display needed major refurbishment and conservation.

At the same time, Castle Morpeth Borough Council had acquired and restored the medieval Chantry in the centre of Morpeth, Northumberland. It was agreed to marry the collection to the building: Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum was formally opened in 1987 by HRH Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. The first Curator was Gillian Crawley. 

For more information, look at the Bagpipe Museum Souvenir Guide, jointly published by the Newcastle Antiquaries and Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum, available at the Chantry for £4.95.  Enquiries to 01670 500717 or 500700.






In the future, don’t forget your past