The Edmonton Local Board of Health had adopted the Free Libraries Acts in 1891 and opened a small temporary library in the Edmonton Town Hall in 1893. The Passmore Edwards library, in Fore Street, replaced that first temporary library. Passmore Edwards chose Mary Ward to lay the foundation stone in April 1897, at the same time that he was in negotiations with her over building the Settlement in Bloomsbury. Immediately after the short ceremony the procession returned to a public meeting in the Town Hall. In describing the ceremony that had just taken place, she prophesied the time when ‘generations of English people, both in and around London and in the remote towns of beautiful Cornwall, would still be entering the spiritual kingdom of knowledge and imagination, the Passmore Edwards Free Library’.
Designed by Maurice Adams, the library was dedicated to the memory of John Keats and Charles Lamb, both associated with Edmonton and she said it was pleasing to think that one day an Edmonton boy, through visiting the library they had just seen commenced, would produce a novel or a poem, or write a history, that would stir the English minds.
At the opening, undertaken by Dr Richard Garrett of the British Museum, in the following November, Passmore Edwards said that the people, mostly working men, now had a library and books but lacked the time to read. Hundreds of working men from Edmonton and other outlying districts of London had to travel into London daily – a journey that would take, on average, two and a half to three hours, each morning and evening. Referring to the engineers strike currently taking place, the engineers wanting an eight hour day, Edwards said that matters were made worse by the lack of workmen’s trains, resulting in long waits at the London Stations.
It was nearly forty years before branch libraries were built, at Bush Hill Park in 1923, Houndsfield Road in 1937, and Weir Hall, in 1938. In 1931 a new lending library was added to the rear of the Passmore Edwards building, which then became known as the Central Library, and a further branch, at Ridge Avenue was opened in 1963.
In 1991 the Central (Passmore Edwards) Library closed its doors for the last time, on the opening of the Edmonton Green Library. For some time the old library was used by the Sikh community but in more recent years it has been the home of the Mevlana Rumi Mosque, where visitors continue to enter the spiritual kingdom. The plaques of Lamb and Keats were removed to the Community House at 313 Fore Street.