Monday, 30 January 2012

Penny Readings, a Reading Room, and two libraries, ....... tales to support a new painting by Peter

In the age of the internet who would want to go to a library? For a start you have to go there, and mix with a lot of strangers who are always in front of you and seldom are in a hurry to get their book stamped. And you can bet there will be children laughing out loud as they read in the corner supposed to be the quiet room.

They are says one of my friends “a hangover from another age. Surely all that you could possibly want from pasta dishes to the date of the fall of Rome can be found somewhere on the net?”

Of course we all know that libraries have changed a lot. Our library can boast a range of computers with access to the world, an automatic book check out and a neat collection of DVDs. It is even possible to look up and reserve a book on line and have it delivered to the library.

Libraries have and still are a vital part of any community. In another age when books were not cheap and newspapers not so easily available the library and before it the “reading room” provided the only means by which many could further their knowledge or just read for pleasure.

Nor must we forget that for the generations born before the introduction of the 1870 Education Act, full time schooling was hit and miss and in agricultural communities school attendance vied with the needs of harvest time and plant sowing.

So the introduction of Penny Readings in 1867 in the village proved a great attraction and were supported by our own brass band and Vocal Society. The brass band I have already mentioned in the earlier post

In 1874 a reading room was opened on Beech Road in a rented house and despite a shaky start by 1879 had “700 volumes of well selected books principally of an educational character, but comprising all the best works of the standard novelists.”* Later the library settled in Rowe House which was on the corner of Acres and Beech Road.

But these were essentially voluntary aided and depended on local fund raising. So in 1879 £120 was collected towards equipping the reading room with new books. And this tend towards self help had been here from the early 19th century when both the Methodists and the parish church raised subscriptions for building the Wesleyan chapels and Sunday School on Chorlton Row** and rebuilding the National school on the green and Rectory on Edge Lane.

Not till 1908 did we get our first municipal library which was opened in a rented house on Oswald Road and was part of the agreement by which Chorlton and other townships voted for incorporation into the city. It was “furnished with a thousand carefully selected volumes for use in the library and home reading,.............. a good selection of magazines is placed in a separate reading room [and] a special feature of the new library is the provision of a room for meetings of Home Reading Union circles and similar organisations.” ***
Which brings me to our library on Manchester Road and another of Peter’s painting’s which are on display at a number of places across Chorlton and can also be seen on his facebook site

I think he has captured perfectly the building and its customers on a busy library day. It opened in November 1914 with 7,420 books with capacity for another 3,000. On top of this there was a general reading room for adults and another for young people.

There had however been some opposition because it was in part funded by the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie who provided £5,000 towards its building.

Now the whole story of Carnegie libraries Is enough for another post as is the debate on the future of present site in the light of Council plans for redeveloping the leisure facilities of Chorlton.

Picture; ©Peter Topping 2011

*Thomas Ellwood, 1886
**Chorlton Row is now Beech Road
***Manchester Guardian November 23 1908

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