We spent a week exploring South Wales recently, and the number of libraries visited has inspired me not only to record them in a blog post, but also to expand the remit of my Carnegie legacy blog to cover Wales.
There are several more good reasons for this extension – (although one is a ‘wish I could turn back the clock’ one – in that I visited the Carnegie-endowed library in Aberystwyth many times back in the 1980s – so it is up there with Kendal as a ‘Carnegie milestone’ for me) as when I tried to find out more about these libraries, they proved hard to track down. So I thought it worth adding the bits and pieces I found to the same formula I’ve used to record the legacy in England.
Back to our recent travels though. In numbers: 10 libraries visited, of which 6 were Carnegie endowed (although one was no longer a library).
Carnegie legacy: Two in Newport
Our first detour was to Newport, where we first found Rogerstone library. The entry on my other blog contains details, but my main memories are of a bright and welcoming space, with many original features (fireplaces, and a war memorial). It was also the first of several to have pretty stained glass.
Hearing about my interest, both the member of library staff and a library visitor told us we must also go into Newport, and find the former town library – which was now in use as a nursery.
Carnegie legacy in and around Cardiff
In one day we were able to see 4 Carnegie endowed libraries, and each very clearly made reference to their heritage.
First stop was Whitchurch, which was much bigger on the inside than it appeared. This library survived proposals for closure some years ago, and there are now plans for investment. The modern extension just visible to the left of the photo below will be reconfigured to provide more space. The current entrance takes you in via that extension, but the plans also mention reopening the original entrance – seen to the left of the photo.
We had a particularly interesting time in the Cathays branch, which is now described as ‘Cathays branch and heritage library’ as it contains the area’s archives. A member of staff there kindly found lots of material in the archives, including minutes from council meetings and a folder which contained lots of plans and architects drawings – adding lots of details to my research. I’ve included some on my website (link above) but there is much more to work through.
Just as the original team of council officials had done on 7 March 1907 when Cathays and Canton libraries were opened (although they traveled in specially chartered trams), we drove on to Canton. From the road this building looks like a chapel, but it was originally designed as a library, and inside it is one of Cardiff’s busiest branches.
Finally, we left Cardiff and headed towards the coast, to visit Penarth library. The main lending library is downstairs, with reference and study areas upstairs. We spent some time there scouring the local studies collection for information about the library, and found an excellent timeline compiled by a local historian.
And the other libraries?
We first stopped in Caerphilly, mainly to visit the amazing castle. And when we parked the car, we realised the impressive building behind us, with panoramic views of the castle, was the public library. [This link, and links in following paragraphs, are to my photos.]
Next non-Carnegie was when we stopped for an ice cream in Porthcawl. The library is a 1960s (approx) square block, very close to both main street and sea front.
On a very grey and rainy day we stopped in Neath, and found their library – which looked as though it could be a Carnegie, but I haven’t found any evidence that it was. Bright and colourful inside, the children’s library is in the building next door.
Our final call was to Carmarthen, where we found a very impressive building, which was mid refurbishment. The library had a plaque which described Furnace House as dating from 1761, and having originally been the home of Robert and John Morgan, ironmasters and founders of the Carmarthen Furnace (1747) and Tin Works (1761).
Already planning to go back!
There are lots more Carnegie libraries to visit. Many are still libraries, and many now have new purposes – for example Skewen is now a parish hall, Bridgend an arts centre and Tonypandy a clinic. Whatever their current use, I look forward to updating this map! (blue pins = visited, red = those I know the postcode of……..and I’m sure there are more.)