Plaistow Public Library 1903

The Plaistow library is


This branch library was designed so that it could be managed by a minimum number of staff, as the sum available from the rates was very small. The design produced by S B Russell appears to have been based on his design for the West Ham Museum, producing one large room, sixty foot square under a domed and barrelled roof. The exterior is in red brick and Bath Stone. When it opened in 1903, the lending library was in the centre, with space for 12,000 books, separated from the newspaper and reading areas by a glass screen, eight feet high, and which gave a single attendant a clear view of the whole of the library. The flexibility of the building has allowed the layout to be adapted to meet different needs over the years and has, perhaps, contributed to it remaining open today.
Edwards chose Andrew Carnegie to open the Plaistow library in 1903. Carnegie said that it was the first time that he had been asked to open a library to which he had not contributed even one penny. Any disagreements he may have had with Edwards over the Echo had clearly been forgotten as he praised his former colleague. Perhaps a little tongue in cheek he dubbed him ‘St Passmore‘ and said that if he had been born a hundred years earlier he would certainly been canonised.

Current Use

In December 2020 the Newham Council sought residents views on a proposed move for the library to a new more accessible building in Valetta Grove, close to the Tube Station. As part of the consultation, the council is looking for opinions on what should happen to the existing Grade II listed building. Several other of the Passmore Edwards buildings have found new community use and it is hoped that this wonderful building can continue to do so.


Posted in London Libraries.

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