Passmore Edwards Free Library, Science and Art Schools, Launceston 1900

More than once Passmore Edwards questioned Launceston’s enthusiasm for a library and the local Council’s commitment to its maintenance. The building has now been converted for use as apartments.

History

In February 1898 the Mayor of Launceston received a letter from Passmore Edwards asking what progress had been made towards building the library. It had been 3 years since the offer had been made and they had got no further than selecting a site. The Council’s response was to say that the County Council had agreed to use the upper floor as a Technical school and to ask that Edwards condition that the Town secured £500 for furnishing and maintenance be relaxed to £300.
This brought an almost immediate response.
Your letter was somewhat reassuring though you have not complied with the reasonable condition indicated in my last letter. I have no desire to back out of any promise I have made but I shall not like to provide another public building in Cornwall with such lack of zeal and smallness of practical result as seen in some other places in the county. Had I known a few years since what I know now, I should have spent less money in Cornwall and more in London. My wish is to benefit the largest number of my countrymen and experience has taught me that but few comparatively are benefited in Cornwall by what I have done there. But I will hope for the best. I cannot consent to reduce the cost of the building to £1500. When I consented that £200 of the £2000 should be devoted to equipment and books the conditions were different. The new site will entail more cost in the construction and one half of the building is to be devoted to arts and science. You will need to spend at least £2000. Get on with it!
Time passes and life is short, or at all events, for some of us, and I want to do the most in the least time and to get the maximum of good for the minimum of expenditure. 
Problems at Launceston had arisen from the beginning. Passmore Edwards appointed Trevail as architect without reference to the council and left it to him to tell them. This he did by inserting a public notice in the local paper, immediately establishing a difficult relationship with the Council and a stream of offers of potential sites. Each site needed checking, surveying and sketches produced to put to the Council. And each Councillor on the building committee had his favoured site and wanted to put his penny worth in to the library design. To save costs Trevail’s proposed bell tower was deleted and the library restricted to the ground floor, the upper floor to be given over to technical education.
The final gift from Passmore Edwards to the people of Cornwall, the last of the nineteen stepping-stones stretching the length of Cornwall, as many stones as there were letters in Edwards’ name, opened in April 1900. Set into the front of the building, in Terracotta, were the words Passmore Edwards Institute at first floor level, to represent the art and science school and Adams Memorial representing the library. John Couch Adams, the mathematician and astronomer, joint discoverer of the Planet Neptune, was born near Launceston. Edwards had previously wanted to build a lighthouse in memory of Adams but had to be content with the library and a marble bust of Adams presented to the library.
It is a very attractive building of terracotta and local Polyphant stone. Trevail utilised terracotta in several of his buildings and secretly received a commission from the supplier, Henry Dennis, the owner of the Ruabon Clay works. On the ground floor three rooms housed the library, newspaper room and magazine room whilst on the first floor there were four rooms to be used for arts and science classes. Accommodation for the caretaker was provided in the basement.

Current Use

Sadly, the last of the Passmore Edwards libraries to open in Cornwall was also the first to close. In April 1971, concerned with increasing maintenance costs, the County Council moved the library service to a new building in Bounsall’s Lane. The Adams Memorial building has since been converted into residential apartments.

Architect

Free Library & Cornwall Central Technical Schools, Truro 1896-1899

Although Sir Charles Lemon, had offered to provide schooling in Truro in 1838, it was the generosity and enthusiasm of Passmore Edwards that led to the construction of firstly the Library, in 1896 and then the adjacent schools in 1899.

History

Truro was one of the five Cornish towns that benefitted from the Ferris bequest of £2000 each to provide a Free Library. The Borough Council had already started a library in the public rooms building and iut the bequest to one side.
Edwards, in offering to match the Ferris bequest, referred to this existing library as being ‘cabin’d, cribb’d and contain’d’.
Building of the new library commenced in May 1895 under the eye of Silvanus Trevail, both as architect and Mayor, and in early May 1896, crowds gathered to witness the opening. Led by the Mayor of Truro and the Mayors of most of the Cornish towns, all adorned in their robes and chains of office, a procession made its way to the new building in Pydar Street, where Edwards declared the library open. The library was dedicated to Henry Sewell Stokes, the Truro lawyer who had been Edwards’ first employer. Stokes became the Clerk to the County Council when it formed in 1894 but was also known as ‘The Cornish Poet’. He died in 1895, a month after construction of the library commenced.
In his reply to the vote of thanks Edwards said that some men had ‘no objection in writing their names in characters of blood and fire over war blasted provinces, or over bombarded and broken cities’, but he preferred to write his name, ‘if I write it at all, in characters of light over my native county and over London where I have lived and laboured’. His original intention was to open three buildings in Cornwall; the Institute at Blackwater – his place of birth, the Convalescent home at Perranporth – in memory of his mother, and the Institute at Hayle – in memory of his father. However, the three grew to seven, which he called his ’Seven Cornish Sisters in Stone‘ and as other places pleaded for an equality of treatment, the seven increased to twelve and then to nineteen, ‘and with which number his work in Cornwall would be accomplished’.The establishment of an Institution to promote technical education in Cornwall had been proposed by Sir Charles Lemon in 1836, and he offered a substantial sum of money to support it. However the offer was not taken up and although another attempt was made in the Jubilee year of 1887 it was to be more than 60 years before the Institute was created.
Again, it was Silvanus Trevail who saw an opportunity to realise Lemon’s scheme during the negotiations with Passmore Edwards over the building of Truro Free Library. There was no provision for technical education in the library and Trevail was successful in receiving a promise of £5,000 towards the cost of providing an adjacent building. The final cost was to be three times this and Trevail worked hard to gather financial support wherever is was available. But support was not universal; many distrusted Trevail’s methods and whilst other Boroughs resented “County” money being channelled into Truro, Truronians feared the Institute would become a white elephant, a financial burden on the ratepayers.
The foundation stone was laid with full Masonic ceremony. As usual a half-day holiday was declared and the crowds turned out to see the event. More than 400 masons came together from all parts of Cornwall to process the short distance from the Municipal buildings to the school site. The new Mayor, Alderman Dorrington lead the procession and conducted the proceedings, welcoming Edwards as the only freeman of the city.
During the speeches Edwards said that whereas every small town and many villages enjoyed a chapel or church, and often both, there were very few institutions where the industrial arts were taught. The Central Technical Institution, which he suggested should be dedicated to Sir Charles Lemon, was necessary in the interest of both skilled craftsmen and the community at large. England, he said, with its mineral and geographic advantages, and its judicious mixture of races should be first and foremost in the broad and ever widening field of industrial action, a sentiment as much matched to today’s challenges as of those of our late Victorian forefathers.
Completion of the schools was delayed by administrative problems but eventually the building was ready and opened by Lord Mount Edgcumbe, Lord Lieutenant and Chairman of the County Council, in October 1899. Adjacent to and in line with the library, and in the same Plymouth limestone with Bath stone dressings and of a similar English Renaissance style, the school included chemistry, physics and biology laboratories as well as metal workshop, art rooms and a museum. Trevail announced that 500 science students and a similar number of arts students had already enrolled at the Institute. In importance it was on a par with the formation of the Camborne School of Mines, established by Lemon, and Falmouth College of Art.

Architect

Current Use

Truro library still imposes itself on the street scene in this tiny Cornish City. When the adjacent Technical School was closed in the late 1970s the library service took over the whole of the building. A few years ago the County Council proposed selling off the building for retail use but fortunately this idea was abandoned, when the Trustees of the school building reminded the Council that it was they, and not the Council that controlled this half of the building.. Since then the library has been extensively restored and modernised internally and as the Truro Community Library is the flagship of the Cornwall Libraries Service.

Passmore Edwards Free Library, Falmouth 1896

The Library was incorporated into a new Municipal Building and an Arts and Science School.
Standing on one side of the market square, the Moor, the building retains its prominent position in the centre of the Town.

History

In September 1893 Passmore Edwards was presented with the honorary freedom of the Borough of Falmouth. During the celebratory dinner that followed, he said that as Cornwall was mainly surrounded by the sea, he should like to build a lighthouse at the Manacles. After consideration the Borough Council decided that they would rather have a library!
Following the adoption of the Free Libraries Act by the Falmouth Council in 1894, the Falmouth Free Library Authority was formed, under the Chairmanship of Alderman Thomas Webber. A penny rate raised £123. Passmore Edwards offered £2000 to match that earlier bequeathed to the Town by Octavious Allen Ferris. Passmore Edwards also gave 1000 books.
A building that would house the municipal offices as well as a Science and Technical Institute and the Library was agreed upon and the architects W H Tresidder and F J Bellamy (Borough Surveyor) were appointed. The Science & Art Department, in London, granted £420 towards the Science and Technical School and the Town Council provided £2000, £1800 of which was by means of loan raised with the sanction of the Local Government Board, for the Municipal Building.
A site situated in the centre of the town, on the side of the Market-Square (the Moor) and previously used as a pig market, was provided by the Town Council and the contract to build was awarded to a Mr Carkeek. The Building News, on 13 April 1894 reported “The front will be in Plymouth limestone, with Cornish granite dressings, and the remainder in local stone. Great care has been bestowed on the plans with the object of getting the maximum of accommodation and light. The fine entrance hall, staircase, and newspaper-room will form attractive features, and ample space has been given for the lending and reference libraries, above which are three commodious, well-lighted rooms for technical instruction, for which there is a great and growing want in Falmouth. One wing of the building will be devoted to municipal offices, with council chamber and anteroom”.

The Building Committee received a plan of a mantel piece to be presented to the library by Mr Bethnick MP.
The winter of 1894/5 was severe and building work on the new library building almost came to a halt on several occasions. Passmore Edwards laid the foundation stone on the same day as he opened the Falmouth Cottage Hospital, 13 April 1984. By February 1895 it was reported to the Town Council that ” The whole of the Municipal end was raised to the level of first floor, and a large portion of the building, including the portico, was built to the height of the cornice, a great part of which was in position”.
A temporary Library had been agreed by the Free Library Committee, in premises in Arwenack Street, and Alderman Thomas Webber, J.P., C.C, the Mayor, opened the reading room, on 2 April 1894. The lending library opened approximately a week later. All of the books donated by Passmore Edwards and other generous donors had been transferred to the temporary premises, and insured in the Royal Exchange in the sum of £350, and Mr and Mrs Brenton were appointed as caretakers, “to take charge of the premises in consideration of their having rooms, rent free, and for further remuneration for additional duties they might undertake.”
As with all public libraries at that time the books available for either reference or for lending were kept in a store room and the would be borrower, after studying the printed catalogue requested the chosen book from the library counter.. The temporary library opened with 1100 volumes of books and 25 daily and weekly magazines and newspapers. The Mayor undertook to provide for the newspapers for the first 6 months. The success of the Library was immediate. In 1984 there were 604 borrower tickets and 1,200 books a month were being issued at a rate of between 50 and 150 a day. By the end of the first year the number of books available had risen to 1,552, 150 of which were in the reference library, together with over 25 newspaper and Magazine titles in the reading room. Nathaniel Fox presented many gifts of books and Magazines.
The Bye law Committee of the Town Council prepared the necessary Bye laws & Regulations, which included that only persons over the age of 14 could use the reading room, which was open from 9am to 9pm six days a week, or lending library, open initially 3 times a week (Monday and Saturday, 6-9 in the eve and Wednesday 11am until 1pm).
The Rules stated that “Burgesses (electors) or persons resident in the Borough of Falmouth are alone entitled to borrow books from the lending library”. Burgesses were entitled to borrow books after signing an undertaking to replace or pay for any book lost or damaged. Other residents were only allowed to borrow books if they could obtain the signature of a “Burgess” as guarantor. A burgess could sign for no more than 4 other borrowers. Persons resident within 5 miles of the Borough boundary could also enroll on the payment of a subscription of 5/- per year, provided, again, that a “burgess” would sign their application.
The temporary library finally closed on 28 March 1896 and the books were transferred to the new premises on the Moor. Passmore Edwards donated a further £100 towards the library furniture. The Buildings were formally opened on 1 May 1896. With the opening of the new building the popularity increased and within the year to April 1897, 19,389 books had been borrowed
In 1897 the authority agreed to take over responsibility for the Library for the Blind which was then moved from the Polytechnic Hall to the Free Library. During that year permission was also granted for shorthand classes to be run in the Reference Library on Tuesday evening but these were short-lived as it is recorded that they ceased the next year.
When the post of Library Clerk was advertised at £20/yr. [9am to 9pm except Tues (6pm) & Fri (1pm)]. 6 applicants were interviewed by the Exchequer & Finance Committee with the Mayor in chair. Florence Basher was appointed at £13/yr and this was increased by 2s per week (10p) in 1901. This was obviously not entirely to Miss Basher’s satisfaction as she left shortly afterwards to be replaced by a Miss Jago. Miss Jago left in 1902 to be replaced by Miss Lowry. Meanwhile Mr Brenton continued to serve the Library, now as Sub Librarian.
A history of the Science, Art and Technical School may one day be separately presented but it is noted that in 1898 there was a request that the library reading room should be made over for the school’s use in exchange for a replacement room to be built to the North of the building.

Architects W H Tresidder and F J Bellamy (Borough Surveyor). No further information available.

Current Use

The library remains open but now under the control of the Falmouth Town Council.

The Charles Buller Memorial Library, Liskeard 1896

Erected in the centre of the town, using Bath Stone and local Polyphant stone, the Liskeard Free Library was a handsome addition to the town’s buildings.

History

Work on the Liskeard library commenced in February 1896, within the former garden to Stuart House. During the excavations workers found a well-defined silver lead load, two feet wide and seven foot from the surface and it was reported that ‘some fine stones were taken from it before being sealed over’.
Edwards laid the Foundation Stone on April 1896, the same day as he opened the Cottage Hospital. It was another of Edwards’ Triumphal Processions, escorted by mayors, aldermen and town councillors, as he visited Liskeard, Bodmin, Hayle, St Ives, Falmouth, and Truro laying foundation stones or performing openings wherever he went.
The following October he was back and residents of Liskeard joined in the celebrations as Passmore Edwards dedicated the library to the memory of Charles Buller, former MP for the District.
Designed and built by John Symons and his son, Frank, the library was constructed in Polyphant stone with Bath stone dressings.
Although it was a building that the people of Liskeard could be proud of, keeping the doors open was a different matter. The Council allocated only £14/year for a part time librarian, the Camborne librarian received £54, and the ground floor was let to the Cornish Bank to help with running costs. In addition, the Town Clerk and rating office were housed at the library until 1950 and the National Provincial Bank also operated from the premises until 1954 when library provision was taken over by the County Council. In 1905 Leonard Courtney, MP for Liskeard from 1876-1885, unveiled a bust of Charles Buller presented to the library by Passmore Edwards. The bust has since been removed from the library and in 2010 was in the public hall.

Current Use

Under the control of the County Council the library prospered providing the services of a modern public library. In the year 2000 a mural, depicting events from Liskeard’s history was unveiled at the library. The work, by local artist June Cole covers 25 feet by 13 feet and is displayed in the stairwell to the library.Following the financial crash in 2008/9 reduced Government support to libraries across the country has resulted in the closure of over 800 libraries with the likelihood that more will follow. Cornwall Council’s review of the library service has meant that so far none have closed with the emphasis on the responsibility for individual libraries being transferred to Town and Parish Councils. In Liskeard the Town Council were not in a position to take over but an arrangement has been agreed with RIO, a Community Interest Company, to redevelop, at the cost of £500,000, and run the library building. The library service was moved to rooms at the Cornwall Council’s offices at Luxstowe House and the Grade 2 listed Passmore Edwards building closed in April 2019. As of February 2020 no work has yet taken place to restore the building and to alter the interior to reflect RIO’s exciting proposals and funding has not been secured.

Passmore Edwards Free Library, Camborne 1895

“The proposal to build a library did not, at first, find favour with the ratepayers and a substantial majority was against it until Mr Edwards came to the rescue with £2000”.

History

The Building News of 13 April 1894 contained the following report. “Mr. Passmore Edwards, accompanied by Mrs. Edwards, Miss Edwards, and Mr. H.P. Edwards,BA., on Tuesday last, amidst great rejoicing, in Queen’s weather, laid the foundation-stone of this library, being the most recent of many libraries and institutes founded through Mr. Edwards’s generosity in Cornwall. The whole town and district practically turned out to welcome him, with processions of friendly societies, local board, fire brigade, volunteers, bands playing, church-bell, ringing, etc. The building will stand on an excellent site on the Cross, immediately facing the main approach to the railway station, at the junction point of five streets, and will form the most prominent object seen by every one arriving by rail to Camborne.
The local board purchased the former leases of the four tenements that recently occupied the ground,and Mr. Arthur F. Basset, the gentleman has just attained his majority with the ownership of the Tehidy estates, has most liberally granted a 999 years lease on a nominal rental whilst the building is used for the purposes for which Mr Edwards intends it. The shape of the site, as plans show, gave considerable difficulty in design, but led to a picturesque grouping and some prominent features that lend an originality to the building that might not have been so apparent under the ordinary circumstances of a rectangular site. The dimensions of the principal rooms are:-newsroom, 40ft. by 20ft; lending library, 32ft. by 20 ft; porch, 10ft by 5ft; hall, 24ft by 12ft; borrowers lobby, 20ft by 10ft; periodical room and reference library, 41ft 6in by 20ft; general committee room 20ft by 19ft; a book repairing room, a librarian’s room, 20ft by 12ft; and a caretaker’s residence.
The walling will be in pink elvan, with granite and Bath stone dressings; the roofing will be of Delabole slate, the internal joinery of varnished pitchpine. The architect Mr Silvanus Trevail, F.R.I.B.A., of Truro”
An early library existed in Camborne within the Camborne Literary Institute which was founded in 1829 and it is unclear whether Passmore Edwards’ offer of funding for a Free Library was solicited or whether it followed on from the Will of Octavious Allen Ferris who had left his residuary estate to establish or aid in the establishment of Free Libraries at Redruth, Camborne, Truro, Falmouth and Penzance and of which Passmore Edwards was aware.
The decison to build the Free Library was taken as the Local Government Board, for Camborne, was nearing the end of tenure, soon to be replaced by the Camborne Urban District Council by virtue of the Local Government act 1894. At this time the population was almost 15,000 with a rateable value of just over £40,000. In accordance with the transitional arrangements set out in the Act, the appointed Library Committee remained in place, although not members of the new authority. This meant that arangements to oversee the building of the Library, furnishing and supply of books and magazines, as well as the appointment of Librarian and staff, continued without delay so that by the time of the opening, in May 1895, the library, with 2,900 books ready for issue, the Reference Room furnished with a valuable collection of books mainly provided by gifts from private individuals and libraries within the town, and the Reading Room with daily and weekly newspapers and weekly and monthly magazines and periodicals, was ready. The Ferris bequest, of £1947. 1s. 11d, was used for furnishing and largely stocking the library with books, whilst Passmore Edwards. The “caretaker’s residence” in the original plans was never built although proposals to do so were raised from time to time. The low wall originally at the front of the library was removed some years later to make way for road improvements.
The first Librarian was Mr W J (Jacob) Laity of Fore Street, Beacon. By trade he had been a boot and shoe maker and kept a shop in his back garden where the villagers brought their shoes for repair. Described as a “knowledgeable man” he served as Librarian for 14 years, until 1909. (Early Libraries in Camborne by J F Odgers, 1963.).
Although the cost of providing the library had been met without charge on the ratepayers, providing the library service was a different matter, especially at a time when a fall off in mining lead to a diminishing rate return to the new Council. Less than the standard 1d rate was provided to the Librarian and the Library Committee and this was to continue for a number of years.
During the first year 2000 readers tickets were issued and the number of books issued totalled in the region of 45,000 from a stock that had risen to nearly 5,000. The Reference Library for many years depended upon gifts an donations and, in 1901-3, the room was used by the Camborne UDC initally as office accommodation and then as a Committee Room, for which the sum of £10 per year was paid over to the Library Committee. However, by 1931 1,200 volumes had been secured together with numereous objects “relating to art, history, science and industry.
It was not until 1913 that the Museum began to be established when Mr James Thomas, a local postman and amateur antiquarian handed over to the museum his extensive collection of local “finds”.The magnificence of this gift was such that the Council met to accept the gift from Mr Thomas and to provide a large glass case to contain the artifacts. The intervention of WW1 again prevented progress towards establishment of the museum and it was not until the conclusion of WW2 that a Curator was appointed to give separate attention to this element of the Library.
In 1903, William Cox, a Cornish artist, presented the Library Committee with two of his oil paintings to be hung in the Reading Room and in the same year Passmore Edwards presented a bust of Richard Trevithick.
Assistance towards the running costs came in 1902 when the Town’s Coronation Committee gave the Library £55 from the distribution of surplus funds, in 1907 the books belonging to the Literay Institute, which stood in Commercial Square from 1842, were given to the library, and, in 1915, a grant of £20 from the County Council towards forming a Children’s Library. Also in 1915 a gift of 750 volumes was received from the Library of the Smith Wesleyan Institute, founded by Dr George Smith in Camborne. However, with the onset of WW1 the UDC had cut the grant to the Library by £30 “for the duration”. At that time the annual income and outgoings was around £200 per year.
On the resignation of the Librarian, in 1909, William Prideaux was appointed to be replaced, in 1916, by Mr W Jenkin when National Service called upon Mr Prideaux to serve in the ambulance section. Mr Jenkin remained in post for 29 years, resigning at the end of WW2 in 1945.
The period between the wars saw steady progress in the growth of the Library service in Camborne. In 1926 the Tehidy Working Men’s Club, formed in 1872 and at that time occupying premises in Fore Street, offered its entire circulating library to the Camborne Library and in 1927 an application made to the Carnegie Trustees resulted in a grant of £420 spread over 3 years, as well as an additional grant of £50 towards special books on mining. The grant was conditional on the UDC increasing its grant to the full 1d rate, £320 per year, and this was agreed. The stock of books at this time exceeded 9,000.
In 1929 The Town Planning Committee and the Library Committee accepted a proposal put by the Trevithick Memorial Committee to erect a statue as a memorial to Richard Trevithick at the front of the Free Library and facing towards Beacon Hill, up which Trevithick’s locomotive had travelled “up Camborne Hill, coming down” nearly 130 years earlier. The unveiling took place in 1932. Plaques are fixed to the sides of the plinth to commemorate Trevithick’s work.

Architect

Redruth Free Library 1895

Designed by local architect James Hicks, the Redruth Library served the people of Redruth until 2018.

History

The Redruth Urban District Council had already received £2000 to build a library through the Ferris bequest but had not progressed the matter. When Edwards offered to match the bequest they asked local architect James Hicks to start on a design. Initially they considered that they would use Edwards’ offer of £2000 to construct the library and invest the bequest from Ferris to provide for ongoing maintenance. However, Edwards’ offer was not sufficient to meet all of the building costs and some of the Ferris bequest was used for incidental works.
More than 7000 gathered to witness Edwards lay the foundation stone in September 1894 and on Wednesday, 30 May 1895, after opening of the Camborne Library, he returned to Redruth, to open the Redruth Library, which he dedicated to the name of his younger brother, Richard. It was the fourth ceremony he attended that week, laying the foundation stone to the Liskeard Cottage hospital on Monday, the foundation stone for the Newlyn Art Gallery on Tuesday, and the opening of both the Camborne and Redruth libraries on Wednesday. On Thursday he was to open the Truro library.As was usual in Cornwall a day’s holiday was declared, and in the afternoon sports were organised on the recreation ground, and in the evening the people of Redruth celebrated with a carnival, fireworks, bands and a procession of floats.
Maintaining the library was not a problem. The penny rate raised £94 per annum and the interest on the invested money brought this up to £130 pa. The Librarian was paid just £54 pa but with free house rent, coal and gas.
The library underwent a number of reorganisations over the years and extended into the former Redruth College building, adjacent, which had previously both been home to the YMCA and used as a telephone exchange.

Architect

Current use.

Like many libraries in Cornwall the running of the Passmore Edwards library transferred to the Town Council, in this case the Redruth Town Council, under Cornwall Council devolution plans in 2018. Place and the Clinton Road property transferred back to the Cornwall Council and has since stood empty. After the Cornwall Council submitted a pre planning application for potential demolition and housing development a campaign started to save the old building. The Council has since stated that they have no plans to demolish the building and have offered the building for sale with a preferred community use.