Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The project benefitted from a happy circumstance as the site was on the route of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession. A covered grandstand was erected and tickets sold for between one and five guineas. Retiring rooms were provided and light luncheons available. The enterprise boosted funds for the library by £2000.
The completed library was opened in February 1899 at a total cost of £14,515 of which £3,943 still had to be raised. The newspaper reading room was on the left hand side of the entrance and there was a room reserved for “ladies” on the right hand side. The main library was down the corridor and straight ahead, while on the first floor was a reference library and magazine room. On the western wall is an allegorical relief entitled “Truth”, said to be “Truth holding the mirror up to Nature”. The library is within the Parish of St George the Martyr and over the entrance is a relief of St George slaying the dragon. Beneath this are two badges. One is the cross of St George and the other is the symbol of the Bridge House Estates, a reminder that a large part of Southwark was under the jurisdiction of the City of London.
The library closed in 1992 and afterwards was used for a while as a crèche facility for students and staff at the nearby South Bank university. Sadly this lovely arts and crafts style building is not in use at present and there are signs up to say it is protected by occupation (December 2014), but its future is protected to some degree as it is Grade II listed.
The public library in Borough Road was the fourth library in Southwark made possible by a donation from benefactor John Passmore Edwards. (Dulwich and Nunhead libraries page gives brief information about this remarkable man.) He offered to donate £5000 to build a public library in the parish of St George the Martyr, and the site in Borough Road acquired by the vestry.