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Listed Building - Central Library

Statutory Listed
Grade II
Date Listed 26/04/2017
Location Description
The Central Library
Wellington Road South

Stockport Central Library by architects Bradshaw, Gass and Hope, funded by Andrew Carnegie, opened in
October 1913. Not included in the listing is the later extension to the SE, supported on piers.

Reasons for Designation

Stockport Library, of 1913 by Bradshaw, Gass and Hope, is listed at Grade II for the following principal
* Architect: as a good example of civic architecture by the Bolton practice Bradshaw Gass and Hope,
several of whose buildings are listed;
* Architectural interest: for a strong, well-proportioned composition, with striking use of contrasting
materials and fine craftsmanship, and as a mature example of free-Classicism;
* Plan: as a good example of the mature response to debates on library planning of the period,
combining elements of both closed- and open access systems;
* Degree of survival: for considerable retention of historic fabric throughout, despite minor changes,
and for the survival of overall layout and some fittings;
* Historical Interest: as a good example of a Carnegie library, representing the civic and philanthropic
ideals of the early C20;
* Group value: for its prominent contribution to the streetscape, and group value with other listed civic
buildings located in close proximity.


There has been a library in Stockport a since 1875, in the form of a library room which operated from the
upper storey of the Produce Hall in the Market Place. This situation was less than ideal and funding for a new
purpose-built library was sought from Andrew Carnegie. Born in Dunfermline, Carnegie was an iron and steel
magnate and prolific philanthropist who was passionate about the availability of free libraries, funding
approximately 3,000 libraries during his lifetime in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the US.
£15,000 was gifted to Stockport Corporation for construction of the new library building and in 1912 the
commission was won through an architectural competition by the Bolton practice of Bradshaw, Gass & Hope.
Bradshaw Gass & Hope is Bolton’s oldest architectural practice, still in existence, founded as JJ Bradshaw in
1862. The firm is distinguished as one of the first multi-disciplinary practices, and were responsible for the
design, generally through competition, of several libraries and other civic buildings in the early C20. Among
their listed works is the Manchester Stock Exchange (1904-6; Listed Grade II), Royal Exchange, Manchester
(1914-21; Listed Grade II). The library was built to accommodate an open access system, having the lending
library shelving arranged in a radial pattern around librarian’s desks that flanked a carefully regulated
circulation system, with various other reading and reference rooms located in separate parts of the building.
The library was officially opened in October 1913. Bolton Archives hold letters of correspondence regarding
contractors and construction of the library building, and copies of original plans are held by the library. There
was a major refurbishment in 1963, at which time it is likely that library usage was reconfigured and principal
fittings removed.
The building constitutes a full freestanding block within prominent urban setting along a principal transport
route through the centre of Stockport. It sits in close proximity to the Town Hall (National Heritage List for
England: 1067166, Grade II*), the former Stockport Infirmary (NHLE: 1309376, Grade II), the War Memorial
Art Gallery (NHLE: 1392091, Grade II*) all on Wellington Road South, and the statue of Richard Cobden
(NHLE: 1067156, Grade II) on St Petersgate, all constructed in the early C20.


Red brick and Portland stone neo-Baroque style public library, built 1913 to designs by Bradshaw, Gass and
Hope. Not included on the listing is the later extension to the SE, supported on piers.
MATERIALS: orange brick walling laid in Flemish stretcher bond with Portland stone dressings beneath a
Welsh slate roof. The rear elevations are English garden wall bond.
PLAN: the plan is L-shaped over two-storeys with the principal elevation facing SW along Wellington Road
South, and the secondary elevation along St Petersgate to the NW, arranged about a domed circulation bay
at the W corner. A two-storey office range sits parallel to the principal block along Lawrence Street at rear,
enclosing the single-storey central lending library, which is top-lit.

EXTERIOR: the roofs are hipped over the main two-storey sections, and pitched to the rear office range. The
flat roof over the central lending library has a conical lantern. The building is classically proportioned, seven
bays to the SW, six bays to the NW, with an additional corner circulation bay.
The principal elevations rest on a band-rusticated stone plinth containing the basement, which is fully
exposed at the NW, and only partially exposed at the principal SW elevation, owing to the sloping site. To the
W, the circulation bay is topped by an octagonal Portland stone cupola, with a zinc-clad dome and flagpole, lit
on alternate facets by eight-pane windows over a two-tier corniced base. The corner is canted, and each side
is lit by a window clasped by piers having alternate brick and stone banding. The principal elevations are read
symmetrically with similar detailing, spanned by a modillioned cornice with full stone entablatures detailed
with carved laurel wreaths resting on end bays which break slightly forward, and flanking a set-back brick attic
storey which lights the first floor rooms at high level and is finished with a simple lead-capped coping.
The breakfront bays are also articulated by banded piers; at the principal SW elevation they each contain a
double-height stone arch with deep moulded architrave and scrolled keystone. That to the E contains the
principal entrance, which is rectangular, surmounted by a scrolled open pediment containing the Stockport
Armorial Bearings with foliate pendants, with a shouldered multi-pane window over, and the letters ‘PUBLIC
LIBRARY’ fixed to an arched metal frame above. The original door has been replaced with automatic sliding
doors, although a pair of original cast-iron gates remain, again depicting the Stockport Coat of Arms. To right
of the door is a foundation stone, bearing the name of the architect, other dignitaries and the date of August 1
The windows are original multi-pane fixed timber inset with circular pivoting lights, generally set in moulded
shouldered stone architraves with dripstones and projecting sills over plain apron panels. There is one to
each breakfront; those to the NW have a horizontal three-light window in place of the arches at the principal
elevation; between them, the principal elevation is five windows wide, and the NW elevation is slightly shorter,
with four windows between breakfront bays.
The windows to each floor are vertically aligned, those at attic are pivoting timber windows with eight panes in
plain stone surrounds. The basement windows are boarded over, including Diocletian basement windows
located to the breakfront bays at the NW elevation. The letters ‘STOCKPORT CENTRAL LIBRARY’ are fixed
to each of the main elevations. The rear elevations are plainly detailed in brick, and unadorned with the
exception of the easternmost bay, which continues the detailing from other elevations. Directly to its left, a
large latticed arched window sits over the recessed former children’s entrance, which is plainly detailed with
an unadorned stone panel over. There are no features of special note, and the range is extended to the E.
The rear elevations of the L-shaped wing are also plainly detailed.

INTERIOR: the layout is substantially intact, although there has been some reconfiguration of uses within the
building. The detailing has been partially altered, including loss of the original staircase, although most doors,
plasterwork, and some library fittings, remain intact. Original oak doors have been retained to most rooms,
and are generally double-leaf with stained glass upper panels, set in a deep moulded oak architrave on plinth
blocks. Most have original name panels centrally placed over, some detailed with gilded room names,
although others are covered by temporary makeshift or fixed plastic name plates. Windows are original, those
to the ground floor having internal secondary glazing. Floors are generally covered with laminate or carpet,
although original floors may remain beneath.
Entry is between the basement and ground floor levels; to the left on entry an open well stair descends to the
basement (recently gated) and rises ahead to the main library floor, which has a large armorial stained glass
fanlight above the entrance. The stairwell windows each have a stained glass central panel detailed with the
name of a famous author. The original stone balusters have been replaced, although the original stairs
appear to remain intact, and the stairwell now accommodates a new lift. Accessed via double-doors ahead is
a corridor, formerly the Borrower’s Hall, flanked to the left and right by open round-headed arcaded partitions,
with the ceiling divided into coffers by lateral beams detailed with plain cornicing. Ahead, to the rear of a
recent relocated borrower’s desk, is a large stained glass window commemorating Corporate Reform, 1836.
The lending library is located to the right, lit from above by a substantial shallow domed leaded lantern,
original and recently restored, supported by Doric columns on hexagonal plinths. The original one-way
circulation route, which supported the open access system and was monitored by a series of staff
enclosures, was formerly located inside the arcaded partition, and has been removed.
The former reading room is located in the SW wing, and now forms part of the main library, although the
original partition, also in the form of an open arcade, remains intact.

The NW wing is occupied by two separate areas divided by a glazed screen with central double doors. These
comprise the former Ladies Room to the front, now the children’s library, and the Magazine Room to the rear
which has also been incorporated into the general library. Original oak doors lead to a staff area to the rear,
comprising two large offices. These are plainly detailed, and the former librarian’s office has a large, plainly
detailed fire surround with overmantel.
Passing up the main stair, there is a commemorative plaque detailed with the Stockport Arms recording the
opening of the Library on 14 October 1916, before reaching the first floor landing, which has a coved ceiling.
The local heritage library occupies the former lecture hall, located in the SW wing, and the former reference
room to the NW is now (2016) occupied by a staff workroom, terminated at either end by a former lecturer’s
room (also having access from the first floor landing, now disused) and rare books store respectively, both
now (2016) in use for book storage. Both the main rooms have coved ceilings supported along the long walls
only by oversized brackets with stylized Greek Key motifs, and lit by a series of high-level windows. Former
multi-pane laylights are still extant, but painted out. No original fittings are retained to the local studies library,
but the staff workroom, as well as the two smaller storage rooms, retain some original fitted oak shelving with
panelled ends. The laylight in the former rare books store retains its glazing.
The rear wing contains a number of small offices and staff rooms accessed off a linear corridor, and access
is also provided to an additional corridor, added c1960, which provides direct access to the local studies
library. There are few features of special interest in this area, although painted panelled doors are retained,
with original glazed top panels, and the former mess room, now an office, has a simple timber fire surround in
the neoclassical style. The basement stair is located to the E end of the corridor, and has an oak handrail
supported on cast-iron balusters.
The basement is L-shaped, having services, original washrooms and janitor’s office beneath the rear office
wing, and the former children’s library, patents store and minor hall to the NW wing. The children’s library and
patents store are now amalgamated for storage and retain no features related to original use. The minor hall,
still so-called, has been fully refurbished as a multi-functional studio space. Original floors are painted
concrete, and a ramp now covers the original concrete stair which descends from the direct children’s
entrance at the rear of the building. Original painted timber half-glazed doors and glazed partition screens are
A secondary entrance at the SE provides direct access to the former first floor lecture room from street level.
At the half-landing level is a projector room, marked as a cloakroom on original plans, but containing no
features of special interest.

Selected Sources

Manchester Local Image Collection (Manchester City Council), accessed 23 September 2016 from
Plans and Elevations (Stockport Heritage Library)

Former Local List description :

Library of 1913 founded with a grant from Andrew Carnegie and designed by Bradshaw Gass & Hope of Bolton. A good example of a Carnegie Library with many features typical of the building type.

Library of red brick and Portland stone, Baroque/Renaissance style with a corner dome with a tall finial to the corner of St Petersgate. Five-window range flanked by a bay to the south which is framed by banded pilasters and has a tall arched window, cornice and cartouche in the frieze. At the other end a similar bay contains the main entrance. Attic storey with small windows. Rusticated basement taking the fall of the land. The corner domed bay has banded pilasters, and the elevation to St Petersgate is broadly similar to the Wellington Street South elevation.

Interior: ground floor library has arcades and a glazed dome supported by Ionic columns, upper reference and technical libraries. Stained glass with the names of writers.

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