Sevenoaks library

Brief description

Designed by  Edwyn Evans Cronk. The land was donated by Henry Swaffield – a Cornish methodist who also mostly funded building the methodist church next door to the library (which opened in 1904).

It is not nationally listed, but does appear in a database of locally listed buildings, managed by Sevenoaks council (see link below). The listing says:  “Architect: Edwyn Evans Cronk of Pall Mall and Sevenoaks. Eclectic design, Jacobean in flavour with borrowings from 17c and later. Two storey, in red brick with stone dressings. Street front ground floor has two mullioned and transomed four-light windows in stone. Central stone pilaster with foliate capital supports the base of large mullioned and transomed, canted oriel
window with ogee lead roof at first floor. Head and base of oriel have moulded stone cornices which extend across the front as cornice and plat band. Above is double-stepped scrolled gable with finial and shield in centre with seven acorn (Sevenoaks) motif. Entrance bay on west side with semicircular gable and circular stone decorative feature. Ogee lead roof over with elaborate weather vane. Mullioned and transomed window to first floor. Recessed double entrance doors, top half glazed; elaborate stone surround; round columns with foliate capitals support simple stone brackets topped by scrolled, rounded broken pediment with ball finial. Inside is plaque commemorating the generosity of both benefactors and some good stained glass.”

George Bennett was librarian from 1920-1965. In 1940 he set up the Citizens Advice Bureau in the old library.

Current status: Closed in 1986, when library services moved to a new site in Buckhurst Lane. The building is now used as offices. The brass plaque reads ‘Hand Picked Hotels’ And when I looked them up, their registered address is “The Old Library, Sevenoaks”. (2021)

  • Year grant given (if known):
  • Amount of grant: £3,000
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 1905

Photo of library in 2021 :

Sevenoaks – former library

Details:

Plaque in the building. Photo credit: Hand Picked Hotels

Old photo of library (postcard):

Nothing in my collection yet

Visited?

Yes, on a lovely sunny day in November 2021. Couldn’t go in, as the building is now offices, but at least as it was Sunday, there were no cars parked in front.

Web links:

Plaque in the building. Photo credit: Hand Picked Hotels

Chatham library

Brief description

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 – including the Town Hall – now the Brook Theatre), 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: Closed in 1971 due to dry rot. Then demolished in May 1984. Brought back to life in 2021 as the subject of an online game (see link below).

  • Year grant given (if known): 1901
  • Amount of grant: £4,500 (total cost £5,000
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 7 October 1903, by the Mayor of Chatham, Councillor William D Driver, Chairman of the Library Committee

Old photo of library (postcard):

chatham
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.
  • News article: Medway’s one-of-a-kind online escape room exploring local history launches (Oct 2021) The library is the first building to feature in a new online game.

Dartford library

Brief description

It was designed by Thomas E. Tiffin AMICE, the then Dartford Urban District Council Surveyor, and built by  Messrs H. Friday and Sons and Ling, using Portland and York stone. The library was extended in 1937, in the same style as the original.

The Carnegie UK Trust gave an additional £450 for books in 1933 – a different tack to the original grant which was specifically for the building – councils had to furnish and supply with books themselves.

Re-opened in November 2016 after a £650,000 refurbishment (link to news item with photos below).

Awarded Grade II listing in 1975.

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Kent County Council (2016)

  • Year grant given (if known): Between 1912-14
  • Amount of grant: £7,400
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 1 January 1916, by  A. W. Smale, Chairman of the Dartford Urban District Council, and W. A. Ward, the Chairman of the Library Committee.

Photo of library today (2008):

Details:

Old photo of library (postcard):

dartford

Visited?

Yes, in 2008

Web links:

With thanks to Christoph Bull, a Kent historian who provided additional facts for this entry. He was also District Manager of Dartford library 2009-2013.

Gravesend library

Brief description

The building was opened in 1905, and spilled over into the building next door in 1983. The architect was Edmund J Bennett, who designed a building in the palladian renaissance style. The builder was AE Tong. The library remained closed access until 1924.

Awarded Grade II listing in 1975.

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Kent County Council (2016)

  • Year grant given (if known): around 1904
  • Amount of grant: £6,000 (which the town increased to £7,050 to cover the full costs)
  • Year opened (and by who – if known): 28 September 1905, by GM Arnold, Mayor of Gravesend

Photo of library in 2008:

Photo of library in 2017:

gravesend-forblog

and showing new entrance to the right of the Carnegie building:

gravesend-forblog2

Details:

plaque-forblog

Old photo of library (postcard):

Nothing in my collection yet

Visited?

Yes, in 2008, and again in 2017. The new extension is light and airy, with a mezzanine area which houses the local studies collection.

Web and other links:

With thanks to Christoph Bull, a Kent historian who provided additional facts for this entry. He is also a former District Manager of Gravesham libraries (and his tours are mentioned in Martin Tapsell’s article).

Ramsgate library

Brief description

Designed by Stanley D Adshead, following a competition judged by Henry Hare, the library was his first major commission. Pevsner described it as being in “refined, scholarly neo-Georgian” style.

Just before its centenary celebration, fire destroyed the building on 13 August 2004. It was however rebuilt, retaining the facade, but with a new building behind on the original footprint. It reopened in 2009.

Awarded Grade II listing in 1988, before the fire.

Current status: Still open as a public library, run by Kent county council (2021)

  • Year grant given (if known):
  • Amount of grant: £7,000
  • Year opened: October 1904

Photo of library in 2009:

3913362128_f2175645c0_o

Details:

ramsgate-detail-sep09-small

Stained glass window, installed to commemorate the fire. Previously the circular space had contained a window with the town’s coat of arms.

Old photo of library (postcard):

ramsgate

Visited?

Yes, in 2009, after it reopened.

Web links and other references:

  • Entry on the listed buildings register (nb, not sure what happens to a listing after such a destructive fire? The front has been retained, but the building behind is completely different)
  • Article celebrating the reopening of the library (contains a photo of it ablaze)
  • 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.