St Ives Free Library 1897

Erected on a site given by Mr. T B Bolitho MP, the St Ives Library continues to serve its residents and visitors alike.


After opening the Hayle Institute, and after the obligatory luncheon and speeches, Mr & Mrs Edwards they made their way, together with the obligatory procession of Cornwall’s Mayors and Aldermen, around the bay to St Ives. Here they were met by the Mayor and Corporation, and the thousands lining the gaily-decorated streets. Passmore Edwards was there to lay the foundation stone for the St Ives Free Library, which he did, in the name of “one and all”.
The Borough of St Ives had been swift in accepting Passmore Edwards’ offer of a public library and adopting the Free Library Act, but finding a suitable site was not so easy. Thomas Bolitho, MP for the Western Division of Cornwall, offered the site on which the library was finally built as a gift, and where it still has pride of place in this busy little Cornish seaside town.
Passmore Edwards again instructed his friend John Symons to both design and build it, Frank Symons preparing the plans and borrowing features both from Trevail and James Hicks’ work. By January 1897 the library was complete and handed over to the Corporation but it was not until April that the official opening took place. Passmore Edwards was invited to carry out the opening ceremony but replied that he could not travel all the way to St Ives for just one building and so the honour of opening the library fell to Bolitho.
The front elevations are of pink Elvan stone on a granite dressed plinth and with Bath stone dressing. The other walls are of local stone with brick dressing. There is a noticeable influence from Trevail, whilst the corner castellated turret is similar to Hicks’ design for the Redruth library.
Internally, the ground floor was given over to the newspaper and periodical room, lending library and borrowers’ lobby and a boys’ reading-room. A reference library shared the first floor with a committee room, the librarian’s room and the caretakers’ apartment. Ladies not wishing to use the main library rooms could also use the Committee room.


Current use

The choice of building material, though resulting in a much more pleasant design than the more somber Institute at Hayle meant that the library has needed renovation over the years and following transfer to the Cornwall County Council the library has seen several changes. As recently as 2006 refurbishment and extension of the library has taken place to prepare it for another century of service to the residents of St Ives. Now home to the St Ives Art Collection and the St Ives Trust Archive, the renovated library provides the Internet connection and other services required of a library in the twenty first century. Following the Cornwall Council’s review of library services the Town Council took over the running of the library in 2018.

Posted in Buildings in Cornwall.

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