Kensal Rise library

Brief description

The library was  built on land belonging to All Souls College, Oxford, by Architects Done Hunter and Co. of Cricklewood. It was built in two stages, first a reading room and librarian’s office, but when that became too small, the decision was made to appeal to Carnegie for funds to enlarge the building and make space for a lending library. The extension was also designed by Done Hunter and Co – specifically, their architect Murray Rust.

Current status: Closed by Brent council in 2011, but re-opened and run by a community group in 2019  (2019)

  • Year grant given (if known): 1903
  • Amount of grant: £3000
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): Reading room opened on 27 September 1900, by Mark Twain, and the library by Judge Rentoul on 13 May 1904.

Photo of library in 2011:

kensal-rise-geograph

Photo © Robin Webster (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Details:

Old photo of library (postcard):

Nothing in my collection yet

Visited?

Not yet

Web links:

Celebrating the Carnegie legacy

On 11 August 2019, the centenary of the death of Andrew Carnegie, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 30 minute documentary: Gordon Brown on the Gospel of Wealth. The former Prime Minister, who has focused on the importance of education since he retired from government, talked about the good – and bad sides – of one of the richest men in the world. Born in Scotland, making his money in the United States, he was the first modern philanthropist.

Four books about Andrew Carnegie, lying on a table alongside 2 ring binders filled with postcards of libraries, displayed in plastic sleeves
A selection of books and postcards from my collection.

The programme paid a brief visit to Dunfermline library – opened in 1883 it was the first one funded by Carnegie, and is still high on my list of Carnegie libraries to visit.

Besides funding so many libraries, Carnegie also funded bursaries for students – firmly believing that literacy and education was the most important thing to spend his money on. It was interesting to hear from a modern charity with similar aims: Room to Read also focus on education – in particular girls.

The programme also contained many insights from today’s philanthropists – including one who commented that each year when the Forbes rich list of billionaires is published, he castigates those at the top, saying they are not giving their money away fast enough. Andrew Carnegie would have approved.

I learned something new too – among a list of countries who received funding to build libraries, Gordon Brown included Malaysia. I’d never heard of this one, but a quick bit of research revealed there was one, in Kota Bahru, 250 miles northeast of Kuala Lumpur. I’ve updated my list, but as this news article reveals, the library was demolished in 1982, so the only evidence now will be articles and photos.

Skewan library

Brief description

The architect was J Rees Cook. The book “Books, Buildings and Social Engineering: Early Public Libraries in Britain” includes the date 1905, while the stone over the door has the date 1904. More research needed!

Current status: Currently a community centre, owned by Coedffranc Town council. News items (linked below) indicate that the library service may relocate back to the building! (2019)

  • Year grant given (if known):
  • Amount of grant:
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 1904

Photo of library today (2019):

Red brick building with yellow stone details

Old photo of library (postcard):

Visited?

Yes, on our way back from a week in Pembrokeshire.

Web links:

Penarth library

Brief description

The library was built 1904-6 by H Snell, architect to the Windsor estate, in the Free Jacobean style. The contractor was Mr Bond. The site was donated by Lord Windsor. The foundation stone was laid by Samuel Thomas, chairman of the library committee, on 10 September 1904.

While the library was opened in 1905, it was not until 1909 that the council could afford the additional £350 to build the planned caretakers cottage alongside.

The original entrance was through an arched doorway on Stanwell Road (the left of the photo below, and shown in the old postcard). This doorway is now closed, but the painted stained glass is still in place (see photo below). The new entrance is approached by steps or a ramp.

Awarded Grade II listing in 1990

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Vale of Glamorgan council (2019)

  • Year grant given (if known): 1904
  • Amount of grant: £4,000
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 30 August 1905 by Lord Windsor.

Photo of library today (2019):

Two storey stone building on a corner site,
Penarth library

Details:

Arched doorway with ornate stone surround, stained glass and green painted wood
Original doorway to Penarth library
Bronze plaque commemorating Lord Windsor who gave the site, and Andrew Carnegie who provided £4,000 for construction of the library
Bronze plaque in Penarth library

Old photo of library (postcard):

old postcard showing Penarth library

Visited?

Yes, during our holiday in South Wales in June 2019.

Web links:

Canton library

Brief description

Designed by R M Bruce Vaughan, architect of Cardiff. The building was largely unaltered apart from some rebuilding following a fire in c1990. Then in 2014, it underwent a £829,000 refurbishment .

Awarded Grade II listing in 2001

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Cardiff City council (2019)

  • Year grant given (if known):
  • Amount of grant: £5,000
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 7 March 1907 by Alderman David Jones JP (Carnegie had been invited, but was unable to attend). On the same day, the party of city officials had taken specially arranged trams and come from the opening of Cathays library.

Photo of library today (2019):

Ornate carved stonework around the entrance to Canton library - gothic pointed windows and the words: Carnegie library. Free to the public.
Entrance to Canton library. Carved in the stonework: Carnegie library. Free to the public

Details:

Stone plaque which states that Canton Branch library was erected at a cost of £5,000 given to the citizens by Andrew Carnegie Esquire LLD. 1906
Stone plaque on the front of Canton library

Old photo of library (postcard):

Nothing in my collection yet

Visited?

Yes, during our holiday in South Wales in June 2019.

Web links:

Cathays library

Brief description

Designed in an Arts and Crafts style by Speir & Bevan, architects of Wharton Street, Cardiff – following an open competition. The stained glass is by Harvey & Ashby of Birmingham, and the contractor was W.T. Morgan of Cardiff.

The interior has lots of original features, and is as pretty as the outside. Stained glass windows include depictions of books, and the original circulation desk has been restored and sits in close to its original position. One curiosity that I’ve never seen in another library – a tiled drinking fountain. And this was an original requirement, as we saw it listed in the competition brief to the architects.

Closed in 2009 to be refurbished, and reopened in 2010.

Awarded Grade II* listing in 1975

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Cardiff City council (2019)

  • Year grant given (if known):
  • Amount of grant: £10,000 (but the project overspent, and council minutes reported a further £409 8s 1d had been requested – and received.)
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 7 March 1907 by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Councillor WS Crossman JP (Carnegie had been invited, but was unable to attend). On the same day, the party of city officials took specially arranged trams and opened the Canton library.

Photo of library today (2019):

Stone building with symetrical wings, each with a tall stained glass window. Between the wings, the central section has a wide entrance doorway, and a narrow spire above
Cathays branch library

Details:

Detail of stone carving above the entrance to Cathays library, including the words: Carnegie ... free to the public
Ornate carved stonework above the entrance to Cathays library

Old photo of library (postcard):

Nothing in my collection yet

Visited?

Yes, during our holiday in South Wales in June 2019. We spent a long time in the library, looking at original council minutes which detailed the months leading up to the library opening, and original plans – both for the library when it was first built, and for changes both to its interior and exterior later on.

Web links:

Whitchurch library

Brief description

The building was designed in the Flemish Baroque style by R and S Williams of Cardiff and built by W T Morgan. The war memorial in the garden in front of the library commemorates the dead from two World Wars.

Awarded Grade II listing in 2002

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Cardiff City council (2019)

  • Year grant given (if known): The parish first petitioned the Carnegie Foundation for a grant in 1899 (but weren’t successful immediately)
  • Amount of grant: £2,000
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 14 December 1904

Photo of library today (2019):

Single storey red brick building, with war memorial in front (statue of a man on a tall plinth)
Whitchurch library

Details:

Brass plaque noting the Andrew Carnegie donated £2,000 to the council to enable the library to be built
Plaque in Whitchurch library, recording Carnegie’s donation

Old photo of library (postcard):

Nothing in my collection yet

Visited?

Yes, during our holiday in South Wales, June 2019. There was a poster in the library with details of their plans for refurbishment and changes. The current entrance is round to the side of the library, and leads into the modern extension. That is going to be closed, so the configuration of those rooms can be changed. The library will once again be entered via the original front door – seen on the left hand side of the photo above.

Web links: