Hoxton Library (Passmore Edwards Free Library, Hoxton) 1898

The first library in Shoreditch was the Passmore Edwards Library at Haggerston.
Finding a suitable site for the second Shoreditch library, proved difficult as the Baths & Washhouses Committee was also looking for a site on which to build and it was decided to combine the two.


A site in Pitfield Street, Hoxton, was chosen and Passmore Edwards laid the Foundation stones for both the extension to the Haggerston Library and the Hoxton library on the same day. When the library was opened in 1898 it bore the name The Passmore Edwards Public Library, Edwards though he had given only £4,450 towards the total cost of £20,000.
In recognition of the gift of the two libraries, the Borough of Shoreditch commissioned George Frampton ARA, to produce a marble bust of Edwards. Frampton had already exhibited a bronze bust of Edwards at the Royal Academy and the marble bust unveiled to mark the first anniversary of the Hoxton library was identical. Frampton produced a second marble bust of Edwards, which he presented to Edwards’ wife, Eleanor, and which graced the Edwards family home for many years.
The Hoxton library suffered extensive damage during the Blitz in 1943 and was not reopened until 1956. It was finally replaced in 1995 when the Hackney Council opened a new library in Hoxton Street. For a while the building became home to the English National Opera Company (ENO) and in 2003 researcher Knighton Berry went to enquire about the marble bust of Edwards that had stood for many years on the main staircase to the upper floors. The bust was nowhere to be found but his enquiry produced sufficient interest in Teresa Deacon, then Administrator at the ENO, to continue searching amongst the disused rooms at the former library. The lost bust, badly chipped and covered in grime was eventually found in the boiler room. With the permission of the London Borough of Hackney and the ENO he was able to retrieve the bust, have it cleaned and repaired by the ceramics department of the West Dean College in West Sussex and have it transported, with the help of the Tate, to St Ives, in Cornwall, where on 31 May 2007 he presented it to the Cornwall County Council. Today the bust stands once more in its proper place, in a Passmore Edwards library.
Following the departure of the ENO the library found a new use in 2007, as the Courtyard Theatre, providing two performance areas and rehearsal space, whilst the upper floors have been converted to office and residential accommodation.


Posted in London Libraries.

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