Wolverhampton Central Library

1902Wolverhampton, England. Lat/Long 52.58305556-2.125

Architect: Henry Thomas Hare of London.

Heritage designation: LG II*, 1977 (1992). Purpose built library; Private gift: £1,000 16/6/1897[i] but reported also as £10,000[ii]. Open library, council managed.

The first Carnegie funded Library in England. Although not noted in the Carnegie Trust records either in New York or Edinburgh, the gift is acknowledged in the building and in the contemporary press[iii]. If George Washington Browne is the star Carnegie library architect of Scotland, H.T. Hare became the English equivalent. The two-storey building is the only Carnegie Library in England or Wales to be designated Grade II*. It is the first Carnegie library in the UK to feature red brick with contrasting Doulton’s yellow terracotta dressings, the “Queen Anne Style” with which many presume applies to them all. It features fireproof construction and ferro-concrete vaulted ceilings with inset cast glass paviours[iv]. The plan shows a significant development from the shuttlecock from first used in a Carnegie Library at Wick four years previously and is at an altogether larger scale. The envelopment of the oval stone staircase leading the public to the piano nobile provides a careful instruction to acknowledge admission to a certain privileged status. The balance between offering a theatrical opportunity and a calm command to hear your own footsteps and be quiet is effective.

[i] “Personal Gossip.” Gloucester Citizen, 16 June 1897.

[ii] “Mr. Carnegie’s Benefactions.” Portsmouth Evening News, 30 Dec. 1903.

[iii] Gloucester Citizen, 12 Feb. 1902.

[iv] Architectural Review, March 1906 Vol XIX, No 112 p 129-134.

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