A visit to the local archives provided a wealth of information about this library. Tenders were put forward in May 1901, but were considered too expensive, so the architect George E Bond, (a local man who designed many of the areas notable public buildings), was asked to prepare plans for a cheaper building. There was a note in the local paper that in December 1901 there was a proposal to borrow a further £2,580. The foundation stone was laid in October 1902 by the Mayor.
When complete, the committee invited Andrew Carnegie to come and open the new library, but he had other engagements, so declined. The weather for the opening ceremony was fine, and there was a large crowd.
The first librarian was from West Ham, and there is a note that he asked for a phone and typewriter, but these only materialised in 1943, after he had retired! The library remained closed access until 1943.
The library was expanded in 1962, by the addition of a (very ugly) prefab alongside, for a children’s section and staff workroom. The address was 221 New Road.
Current status: Demolished in the 1980s
- Year grant given (if known):
- Amount of grant: £4,500 (total cost £5,000
- Year opened (and by who – if known): 7 October 1903, by Councillor WD Driver, Chairman of the Library Committee
Old photo of library (postcard):
Later photos show that the library lost its rooftop urns, and the small stone semicircular piece at the top of the gable. The arches which appear to have been filled in with tiles at the start were later plastered over.
Web links and other references:
- An sort of ‘twin’ connection is that Chatham, Ontario also had a Carnegie library! Their $19,000 was received in 1902, and the library was opened on 14 September 1903.
- Details about this, and all libraries in Kent found in a 3 part article written by Martin Tapsell: The Hare and the Tortoise – some notable public library buildings in Kent, published in Bygone Kent 2001-02.
- As mentioned above, details also found in various editions of the Chatham News, and Chatham Standard, seen in Medway Archives.
- There is another postcard of the library stored in the Cityark – Medway Archives online collection.