The architects were J Goddard, A H Paget and W A Catlow, of Leicester, and their design is described as being in Arts and Crafts style, or Early Renaissance. Lots of local materials were used – the red Sandstock bricks came from Hemel Hempstead, the stone is Ketton, from Edith Weston Quarries, and the roof is slated with Collyweston slates.
Land for the library was donated by a group of townsmen: Henry Gale Gotch, Harry W Mobbs, Thomas A Mursell, Charles W Stringer and William Timpson. There is a plaque recording their generosity in the library.
The building was opened by Carnegie himself, and during the official ceremony, he issued and stamped the library’s first-ever loan: a copy of his own book The Gospel of Wealth. Special trains were laid on to bring guests from Scotland – and many thousands of people attended the ceremony.
When the library was refurbished in 2012-13, the re-opening was a reenactment of the original ceremony.
Awarded Grade II listing in 1976.
Current status: Still open as a public library, run as a LibraryPlus by Northamptonshire County Council (2021). The council was in financial difficulties c2018, and there were harsh proposals which would see many libraries in the county close, but Kettering library was on the list of those which will remain.
- Year grant given (if known): 10 June, 1902 (after the letter requesting funds had been sent on 25 October 1901)
- Amount of grant: £8,450
- Year opened (and by who – if known): 7 May 1904, by Andrew Carnegie
Photo of library in 2018:
Photo of library in 2006:
nb looking at google streetview in 2016, that bus shelter and railings have been removed, and there is a much wider pavement in front of the library. Still quite lot of ivy, but you can see the crest carved above the door. Must still be quite dark in those left hand side rooms though.
Plaque commemorating the opening of the library, found just inside the front door.
Original plans for the library, showing separate children’s library (top left) and the space (bottom right) which was originally occupied by a museum.
Old photo of library (postcard):
Yes, in 2006. Must go back and see if the have removed any of that ivy!
Update: We visited again in May 2018, and the library was open, and busy, on a Saturday afternoon. The librarian showed me lots of photos of the library through various stages of its evolution, including what is now the adult fiction section, which was originally a huge newspaper reading area. She also showed me the original plans.
About the outside – apparently a lot of the ivy was removed and creeper was removed when the building was refurbished in 2012, but much of it has grown back. A visible reminder of the refurb is the original parquet floor, which was revealed when the old floor covering was removed.
- Entry on the listed buildings register
- Article (BBC – 2012): Andrew Carnegie-funded Kettering library ‘needs £1m’ to be restored
- Article (BBC – 2013): Historic Kettering library reopening
- Featured as an “archetype” library on the Shelf-Life project website