East Ham Library (Plashet Public Library) 1899.

When the East Ham Urban District Council was formed in 1894 J H Bethell, later Lord Bethell, proposed introducing the Free Libraries Act. The population was at that time more than 50,000 and the product of a penny rate, at £670, was enough to support more than one library. Initially making use of a converted house, the first library was opened in North Woolwich and Bethell then turned to Passmore Edwards for help in establishing a library at Plashet.

History

When the East Ham Urban District Council was formed in 1894 J H Bethell, later Lord Bethell, proposed introducing the Free Libraries Act. The population was at that time more than 50,000 and the product of a penny rate, at £670, was enough to support more than one library. Initially making use of a converted house, the first library was opened in North Woolwich and Bethell then turned to Passmore Edwards for help in establishing a library at Plashet.
Edwards chose Herbert Gladstone, the youngest son of the Prime Minister William Gladstone to open the Plashet Free Library. Designed by Silvanus Trevail in the Tudor Renaissance style, with the use of Ruabon red facing bricksthe library opened in October 1899. It had cost Edwards £4,000 plus the 1,000 books he added towards the 8,000 on the shelves when the library opened. Bethell also provided 1,000 scientific and technical books and in the first year over 3,000 residents registered as members.
In 1903 the great nephew of Elizabeth Fry, Mr Sydney Buxton, MP, unveiled a bust of her at the East Ham Town Hall. The marble bust, sculpted by Henry A Peagram RA was one of the thirty busts and memorial plaques commissioned by Edwards. It is now to be seen at the Newham Library.
In 1903 the East Ham Improvement Act empowered the Council to spend a 1 1/2d rate on its libraries and with assistance from Andrew Carnegie two further libraries were opened, at Manor Park in 1905, and in 1908, adjoining the Town Hall in High Street South.

Current Use

The Plashet Library closed in 1993 when a new library was opened in nearby Green Street, one of the main shopping streets in Newham and more convenient for users, and the Passmore Edwards building became the Registry Office. The Registry Office was relocated again in 2019 and in June of that year was taken over by squatters.

Posted in London Libraries.

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