Bethnal Green library

Brief description

The original architect in 1896 was James Tolley. Building converted by borough architect A.E.Darby. History (taken from the listing entry): The Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green did not pass the Public Library Act until 1913, subsequently preparing plans for a new library by the borough engineer and surveyor A.E. Darby in 1915. However, WWI intervened and the prohibitive rise in building costs afterwards resulted in their constructing instead a temporary institution in 1919. When soon afterwards deciding to undertake a permanent institution, the borough purchased part of the Bethnal House Asylum Estate, the former male wing that had been built in 1896. A.E. Darby instead designed the conversion of what was a much larger facility, including an Adult Lending, Reference and Children’s libraries, as well as a Lecture Hall and Newsroom. It cost £36,000 and was built by Messrs. Patman and Fotheringham, with G.W. Hammer & Co. supplying the furniture.

Funding awarded by the Carnegie UK Trust.

Awarded Grade II listing in 2005. Listing describes it as “Late Victorian Classical exterior with inter-war library interior in the mid-C18 Adam-inspired style” and mentions “4 plaster medallions in curved niche behind colonnade (Richard Wagner, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and William Morris) commemorate interesting choice of cultural heroes.”

Refurbished in 2015.

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Tower Hamlets council (2017)

  • Year grant given (if known):
  • Amount of grant:
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 13 October 1922, the the Mayor, Councillor JJ Vaughan

Photo of library today (2012):


Thanks to flickr user Tom Bastin (shared under cc licence)


Old photo of library (postcard):

Nothing in my collection yet


Not yet

Web links:

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