Passmore Edwards Library, Dulwich 1897

The site for the Dulwich Library was given by the Dulwich College. Passmore Edwards dedicated the library to the memory of Edward Alleyne, the Elizabethan actor and founder of the College


After establishing a Central library and a branch library at Knatchbull Road, Minet, Chief Librarian Edward Foskett planned to build libraries at both Dulwich and Nunhead and wrote to Passmore Edwards for assistance. His response was that he would donate £2,500 for a library at Nunhead or £3,000 towards a library at Dulwich, preferring the latter as he knew the area more. Edwards had lived at Camberwell Grove for a while when he first moved to London as a young man, leaving when the house was demolished to make way for an extension of the railway into London.

The Governors of Dulwich College were willing to donate the land required but were legally unable to do so and it took an amendment of the Free Libraries Act to allow this to proceed. Built to a design by Charles Barry & Son, the foundation stone was finally laid by the actor Sir Henry Irving on 24 October 1896 and it was opened a year later by Lord Halsbury, the Chancellor, and dedicated to the memory of Edward Alleyn, the founder of the Dulwich College. By this time Edwards had increased the amount he had given for the library to £5,000.
During the 1940 air raids a bomb landed on the north-west corner of the library causing considerable damage but as part of the post war rebuilding an extension was added which included a public hall.

Current use

Today, the Dulwich library, one of a diminishing number of Passmore Edwards libraries in London still in use, is thriving. Disabled access has been cleverly fitted into the internal structure of the library giving access to the computer suite and the public hall. To the rear of the library the gardens are well maintained and provide a pleasant relaxation from the passing traffic.


Posted in London Libraries.

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