The Charles Buller Memorial Library, Liskeard 1896

Erected in the centre of the town, using Bath Stone and local Polyphant stone, the Liskeard Free Library was a handsome addition to the town’s buildings.


Work on the Liskeard library commenced in February 1896, within the former garden to Stuart House. During the excavations workers found a well-defined silver lead load, two feet wide and seven foot from the surface and it was reported that ‘some fine stones were taken from it before being sealed over’.
Edwards laid the Foundation Stone on April 1896, the same day as he opened the Cottage Hospital. It was another of Edwards’ Triumphal Processions, escorted by mayors, aldermen and town councillors, as he visited Liskeard, Bodmin, Hayle, St Ives, Falmouth, and Truro laying foundation stones or performing openings wherever he went.
The following October he was back and residents of Liskeard joined in the celebrations as Passmore Edwards dedicated the library to the memory of Charles Buller, former MP for the District.
Designed and built by John Symons and his son, Frank, the library was constructed in Polyphant stone with Bath stone dressings.
Although it was a building that the people of Liskeard could be proud of, keeping the doors open was a different matter. The Council allocated only £14/year for a part time librarian, the Camborne librarian received £54, and the ground floor was let to the Cornish Bank to help with running costs. In addition, the Town Clerk and rating office were housed at the library until 1950 and the National Provincial Bank also operated from the premises until 1954 when library provision was taken over by the County Council. In 1905 Leonard Courtney, MP for Liskeard from 1876-1885, unveiled a bust of Charles Buller presented to the library by Passmore Edwards. The bust has since been removed from the library and in 2010 was in the public hall.

Current Use

Under the control of the County Council the library prospered providing the services of a modern public library. In the year 2000 a mural, depicting events from Liskeard’s history was unveiled at the library. The work, by local artist June Cole covers 25 feet by 13 feet and is displayed in the stairwell to the library.Following the financial crash in 2008/9 reduced Government support to libraries across the country has resulted in the closure of over 800 libraries with the likelihood that more will follow. Cornwall Council’s review of the library service has meant that so far none have closed with the emphasis on the responsibility for individual libraries being transferred to Town and Parish Councils. In Liskeard the Town Council were not in a position to take over but an arrangement has been agreed with RIO, a Community Interest Company, to redevelop, at the cost of £500,000, and run the library building. The library service was moved to rooms at the Cornwall Council’s offices at Luxstowe House and the Grade 2 listed Passmore Edwards building closed in April 2019. As of February 2020 no work has yet taken place to restore the building and to alter the interior to reflect RIO’s exciting proposals and funding has not been secured.

Posted in Libraries.

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