Stephen Mitchell (1789 - 1874) - The 150th anniversary of his death

Commemorating the death of the founder of the The Mitchell Library

Sunday 21 April 2024 marks 150 years since the death of Stephen Mitchell, the founder of The Mitchell Library. It is also an opportunity to reflect on this well-loved local cultural landmark that has sustained – and been sustained by – generations of Glaswegians and city visitors.

Look out for commemorative events as we approach the Glasgow 850 celebrations of 2025!

Stephen Mitchell

Born on 19 September 1788 in Ecclesmachan, Linlithgowshire, he was the great-grandson of the founder of Stephen Mitchell & Son, a business which began in 1723 selling general provisions, before branching out into the manufacture and sale of tobacco products.

Following his retirement in 1869, Stephen Mitchell moved to Moffat, Dumfriesshire, where he died on 21 April 1874. The day after the discovery of his body, the Dumfries and Galloway Standard reported what had happened:

"It appears that Mr. Mitchell had gone out after nine o’clock, and had been seen in the forenoon near Archbank, as if going to the mineral well. As he had not returned in the afternoon, fears were entertained that, as he was in delicate health, some accident might have befallen him, and a search was made by the police and others. It was ascertained that Mr. Mitchell had not been at the well. On exploring the glen, his body was found at the bottom of a precipice and partly in the stream, about 150 yards beyond the well. Several severe wounds were on the head, and life had been extinct some hours."

As it was not possible before registering his death to determine its exact cause, there is also a record in the Register of Corrected Entries, where further details may be provided in the case of sudden, accidental and violent deaths.

Death Certificate of Stephen Mitchell

Transcription of death certificate

Name and Surname. Stephen Mitchell

Rank or Profession, and whether Single, Married or Widowed. Merchant (Retired) Single

When and Where Died. 1874 April Twentyfirst Between 11AM and 7PM near Moffat Well, P[aris]h of Moffat

Sex. M[ale]

Age. 84 years

Name, Surname & Rank or Profession of Father. Stephen Mitchell Merchant Deceased
Name and Maiden Surname of Mother. Agnes Mitchell M[aiden] S[urname] Neilson (Deceased)

Cause of Death, Duration of Disease, and Medical Attendant by whom certified. Fracture of the skull as certified by James Munro M[edicinae] D[octor]

Signature & Qualification of Informant, and Residence, if out of the House in which the Death occurred. Stephen Mitchell Jun[ior] Nephew 10 Crown Gardens Dowanhill Glasgow

Register of Corrected Entries

Transcription of register of corrected entry

Page 36.

Register of Corrected Entries for the Parish of Moffat in the County of Dumfries

Result of Precognition, received touching the Death of Stephen Mitchell registered in Entry No. 22 – Deaths for 1874

Name age & sex. Stephen Mitchell 84 years Male

When & where died. 1874 April 21st Wellburn Moffat

Cause of death Fracture of skull from a fall as certified by James Munro M[edicinae] D[octor] Moffat

Founding of The Mitchell Library

Stephen Mitchell bequeathed £66,998 10s. 6d. in a trust deed for the establishment and maintenance of a large Public Library; rather than insisting that it bore his name, he stated that this money should be the nucleus of the fund and allowed for contributions from others.

The library first opened on 01 November 1877, on the corner of Ingram Street and Albion Street. After a move to Miller Street, it opened at its current location in 1911.

Contact to research the history of this iconic Glasgow institution, or check us out here.