Victorian London - Education - Libraries - Passmore Edwards Public Library, Borough Road 


A Description of the Building which was Opened Yesterday by the Right Hon. James Bryce, M.P.

The new "Passmore Edwards' Public Library," Borough-road was opened yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon by the Right Hon. James Bryce, M.P. It has been erected at an inclusive cost of 14,515 and of this amount 3,943 has still to be raised. The building stands some twenty feet back from the pavement in the Borough-road, and the space thus available is turfed. This arrangement greatly enhances the architectural effect of the building, and also removes the reading rooms further from the noise of passing traffic. The building consists of a basement, ground floor and first floor, with an attic floor over the portion assigned to the librarian's residence. The basement extends over the whole area of the building, being well lighted by an area which completely surrounds it. In the basement are the heating chamber and the coal cellars; the rest of the space is available for the storage of books, and repairs and unpacking, &c. The ground floor is placed abuot three feet above the level of the pavement. On entering one reaches the ladies' room on the right-hand side and the news room on the left-hand side, the public portion of the lending library being immediately in front. The boys' room has a door opening into the news room, but it is proposed that the usual means of access shall be through the lending library, thus enabling the staff to have full control over those who use the room . The public rooms are all under the direct supervision of the staff in the lending library, as is also the entrance hall. 
On the first floor is the reference library and magazine room, with book store attached. A spiral staircase from the boko store communicates with the lending library and basement below, enabling the staff to reach one department from another with great facility. Adjoining the reference library is the committee room. There is a separate entrance for the librarian's staff, and this entrance also leads to the librarian's residence, which comprises:- Drawing room, dining room, and three bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, scullery, &c. The exterior facings of the wall are of red brick, with terra cotta dressings, cornices, mouldings and enrichments, the roof being covered with slates. Over the entrance is a panel bearing the inscription "Passmore Edwards' Public Library." The rest of the space is filled in with a conventional tree of knowledge. The figure subject in the upper portion of the gable represents St. George. and the Dragon, and the shields on either side of this bear the Cross of St. George and the Badge of the Vestry of St. George the Martyr, Southwark, respectively. "Truth holding the mirror up to Nature." The main staircase is of teak, the newels, balusters, and handrail being polished, while the doors and screens are of varnished pine, the wood being stained on two different tints. This treatment is also carried out to the wood panel ceiling of the reference library. Glass has been largely used in order to provide as much light as possible throughout the building. In the entrance lobby has been fixed a granite slab bearing the dates of the laying of the foundation stone and opening of the library, with the names of the Commissioners and those connected with the erection of the building attached. The contractors were Messrs. J. Smith and Sons of Norwood, and the whole building has been carried out from the designs and under the superintendence of the architect, Mr. A. Blomfield Jackson. The library contains 6,472 volumes and the present chairman of the commissioners is Mr. Alexander Hawkins.

Municipal Journal and London, February 9, 1899