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Public Library

A Grade II Listed Building in St James's, Dudley

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Latitude: 52.5117 / 52°30'42"N

Longitude: -2.085 / 2°5'6"W

OS Eastings: 394325

OS Northings: 290427

OS Grid: SO943904

Mapcode National: GBR 4PF.Q0

Mapcode Global: VH91B.T42C

Plus Code: 9C4VGW67+MX

Entry Name: Public Library

Listing Date: 9 April 1976

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1287111

English Heritage Legacy ID: 217995

Location: St. James's, Dudley, DY1

County: Dudley

Electoral Ward/Division: St James's

Built-Up Area: Dudley (Dudley)

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Dudley St Edmund King and Martyr

Church of England Diocese: Worcester

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726/4/167 ST JAMES'S ROAD


The Library was designed by George H Wenyon with sculpture by H H Martyn of Cheltenham and opened in 1909. It is of red brick with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. The original building has two storeys and a four-storey extension was added in 1964. The style is Edwardian Baroque.

EXTERIOR: The street front is of five bays symmetrically disposed. The central three bays project and the composition builds towards the climax of the central entrance. The basement has ashlar walling with mullioned windows at left. The ground floor is rusticated with alternate, pronounced, projecting bands. The first floor has banded rustication to the ashlar dressings and brick walling. The central bay has an emphatically projecting doorcase to the centre with heavily banded Tuscan columns to either side. These support an open and broken pediment. Resting on this at either side are recumbant figures of Science (left) and Literature (right). Above them is a panel with lettering in relief reading "PUBLIC/LIBRARY" and above this is a tall arched staircase window which projects into a semi-circular pediment which is crowned by a large figure of Philosophy. At either side of the central bay are mullioned and transomed windows to the ground floor and above them are recessed bays flanked by Ionic columns with circular windows surrounded by wreaths and swags. The bays to far right and left have canted bays to the ground floor with Gibbs surrounds to the central windows and segmental pediments. Above these are panels of blind walling decorated with pilaster strips and garlands and wreaths. There is a parapet to the top of the wall. Across the front are four prominent lead downpipes which have hoppers supported by projecting models of cherubs. The building is adjoined by the Town Hall (completed 1928) to its east, although keyed brickwork on that side indicates that an addition or continuation of the building was planned from the start. The north face is largely masked by the mid-C20 addition, but a single bay at fro left has a canted bay to the ground floor. The west side also has the prominent addition of 1964 at left, but at right are two bays of 1909, the far right of which has a Serlian window at first floor level which lights one of the reading rooms.

INTERIOR: There is terrazzo flooring to the entrance hall and pilasters with projecting bands to their lower bodies. The central staircase hall has a barrel-vaulted ceiling and deep cornice. The dogleg staircase is marble, with deep balustrade and vase-balusters. The two first floor reading rooms have panelled walls and barrel vaults with roof lights. That to the west has a Venetian window to the end wall.

The designation is principally dependant on the building designed by Wenyon which dates from c.1908. The later addtions of 1964 are of lesser interest.

HISTORY: The library was built as the result of a donation of £7,500 by Andrew Carnegie in 1905. George H Wenyon of Dudley won the commission following a competition. The foundation stone was laid on 26 June 1908 by the Countess of Dudley and the Mayor, Councillor Cook, and the library was opened in September of the following year by John Hubert Ward, Equerry to Edward VII. The building was modernised in 1933 and again in 1947 and in 1964 a four-storey flat-roofed extension was added to the rear. Ordnance Survey maps show that the footprint of the building has not changed greatly since the Third Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1919, and early photographs show that the building was initially largely single-storeyed at the rear. When it first opened the library building included a reference library, magazine room and lending department. It also provided research rooms, including a separate ladies' reading room on the first floor. Only library staff had direct access to books on the shelves and lending books were requested and then delivered to borrowers in the central hall. The first librarians were Miss E J Southall, who acted as chief librarian and her two sisters, Miss E L Southall and Miss A.R.Southall. Open access to the lending library was not adopted until 1933. The architect, George H Wenyon, was responsible for the Tipton District Public Library (Grade II), completed in 1905 and also a project funded by Andrew Carnegie.

SOURCES: Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England: Staffordshire (1974), p.122; Dudley M.B.C., A Conservation Review of Properties within the Civic Quarter (2007); J.Bennett, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Public Art Guide, Dudley MBC (1990); Hilary Atkins, Diane Matthews & Samantha Robins, The Twentieth Century - Dudley, pp. 22 & 35 (1999).

The Public Library, St. James's Road, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* The building is a good example of the Edwardian Baroque style, which was executed by the local architect G.H.Wenyon.
* The building adds considerably to the urban texture of this part of Dudley and is an attractive example of a civic building of its date.
* The building has several well-preserved interiors, including the entrance hall, staircase hall and first floor reading rooms.
* Although there has been some degree of alteration to the building this does not detract from the principal facade or interiors which are notably intact.

Listing NGR: SO9432590427

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