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Torquay Library

A Grade II Listed Building in Torquay, Torbay

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Latitude: 50.4692 / 50°28'9"N

Longitude: -3.5321 / 3°31'55"W

OS Eastings: 291367

OS Northings: 64387

OS Grid: SX913643

Mapcode National: GBR QV.WXT3

Mapcode Global: FRA 37HT.7T1

Plus Code: 9C2RFF99+M5

Entry Name: Torquay Library

Listing Date: 30 April 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1423601

Location: Tormohun, Torbay, TQ1

County: Torbay

Electoral Ward/Division: Tormohun

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Torquay

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Torquay St Mary Magdalene (Upton)

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Tagged with: Public library

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Torquay Library. 1937. Designed by Borough Engineer, P W Ladmore, in an Art Deco style with associated boundary and retaining wall. The structural engineer was Dr Oscar Faber and the contractor was R E Narracott. Late C20 and early-C21 alterations. The three-storey lift shaft to the rear of the building is excluded from the listing.


Torquay Library. 1937. Designed by Borough Engineer, P W Ladmore, in an Art Deco style with associated boundary and retaining wall. The structural engineer was Dr Oscar Faber and the contractor was R E Narracott. Late C20 and early-C21 alterations. The three-storey lift shaft to the rear of the building is excluded from the listing.

MATERIALS: it has a concrete frame encased in brick, with facings of Portland stone to the entrance bay and limestone blocks to the flanking bays. The rear elevation is rendered. The windows are metal framed and the internal fittings are teak.

PLAN: rectangular plan, with a central entrance that breaks forwards and a recessed two-storey link between the public hall and the town hall.

EXTERIOR: the three-storey building comprises ground and lower ground floors, and a basement which was formerly open. At street level, the principal elevation (north-east) of the ground floor has a central entrance bay flanked by six-bay wings. The entrance has a surround of deeply recessed orders with a pair of teak doors with an Art-Deco glazed panel and a plain fanlight above. The windows to either side have moulded stone cills and, together with the window above, are set within stepped, recessed openings. The entrance and window above are set within a raised stone surround which has a shaped head and includes a stepped flagpole holder which rises above the stepped parapet. There is a narrow frieze of concave fluted stone strips which continues around the sides. The façade is inscribed with the words ‘PUBLIC LIBRARY’ in bronze lettering with green enamel infill. The flanking wings both contain six windows, each set within stepped recesses with flat keystones. To the left of the south-east wing is a set-back bay linking the library and the town hall. The lower ground floor has six windows to either wing, with a window set horizontally beneath the entrance. Windows and wall panels have been inserted at basement level between the concrete posts. The side (north-west) elevation has five bays. The return bay of the flanking wing includes double doors to the former education office at ground floor, and to the right are a further four rendered bays. The rear (south-west) elevation of the building rises to three storeys and comprises a central three-bay section containing a central, horizontally-set window with a projecting lintel, with two rows of three, horizontally-set windows below. To either side are flanking wings of five bays. The downpipes to the side and rear elevations are square in profile and have stepped and fluted hopperheads. The pyramidal roof lantern has glazed panels.

INTERIOR: The walls to the vestibule and entrance hall have sections of polished Lummaton marble. To either side of the vestibule is a chrome radiator grille with a geometric design. The floor is understood to be unpolished Travertine marble; it is now (2014) carpeted. The entrance to the main lending library has been widened to accommodate automatic doors, and the counter has been removed. There is now a modern, free-standing desk to the left. The lending library is double-height with a gallery around the perimeter. To the centre of the ceiling is a rectangular rooflight with a geometric design using chrome glazing bars. The glass has been painted. The gallery, which has a cork tile floor, is accessed via staircases to either side of the entrance. Each has a stepped and curved timber banister; an aluminium handrail has been added above, and at gallery level are stepped newel posts. Around the perimeter of the gallery is fixed shelving with stepped cornices. The safety rail, which has been raised, has curved sections to the corners. To the north-east side of the gallery, above the entrance hall, is the former Chief Librarian’s Office, which includes a fixed ladder and hatch to the roof, and a book lift which continues down to the lower ground floor. The library rooms to either side of the main lending library have glass-block rooflights. The interior retains original bookshelves with stepped cornices; the skirting and doorframes also have a stepped design. The surviving doors have a glazed panel with a chrome geometric design, and some retain chrome door handles and back plates. The original light fittings have been removed. The lower floors are used as office accommodation and storage.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: concrete boundary and retaining wall with supporting concrete buttresses to the inner face and grey limestone to the outer face. There is a bridge from the wall to the entrance bay. The walls have stepped piers and spike-topped railings which include a curved section with a circle and scroll design in front of each window. The original bronze lamps to the entrance piers have been removed. The wall continues along the north-west elevation and incorporates steps to the doorway to the former education office on the ground floor, and steps down to the former entrance to the juvenile department on the lower ground floor.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that C21 century lift shaft to the rear of the building is not of special architectural or historic interest.


Funded by an £8,900 donation from the Carnegie Foundation, Torquay’s first public library, designed by Thomas Davison, was built in 1907. It formed part of a two-phase development with the Town Hall (Grade II) which was built to its immediate north-east in 1911. By 1930 the library needed to expand and Torquay Council decided that a new library should be built to the north-west side of the Town Hall. The new library was designed in 1933 by P W Ladmore, the Borough Engineer, along with two architectural assistants, W Masden and R Crompton. It was agreed in 1934 that the Lymington Road frontage should be clad in local dressed limestone to match the Town Hall, and the central entrance bay was to be built of Portland stone. The firm R E Narracott were appointed as contractors, and Dr Oscar Faber as structural engineer. The library opened on 26 January 1938.

Externally, the building is largely unaltered, though a lift shaft has been added to the rear elevation and the basement, which provided car parking and caretaker’s accommodation, has been fully enclosed with the insertion of windows and wall panels. Internally, there has been some reconfiguration of the plan with the removal and some re-siting of plasterboard and glass-partition walls. The former juvenile department has been relocated from the lower ground floor to the ground floor and the library facilities now operate on one level. Some removal of the fitted furniture including the library counter, the reading desks from the former reading room, and some of the shelving has been removed. The lower ground floor and basement are now (2014) used as office accommodation and storage.

Reasons for Listing

Torquay Library is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural quality: an interesting example of an Art Deco library that is well-composed with subtle detailing;
* Interior: well-preserved library interiors from before 1939 are rare and at Torquay the overall internal decorative scheme is of high quality with good Art deco detailing throughout, including features such as the radiator grilles, rooflights, shelving and doors;
* Group value: it forms part of an important group of civic buildings with Electric House (Grade II) and the Town Hall (Grade II) which incorporates the Carnegie funded library.

External Links

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