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Garston Library, Liverpool

Description: Garston Library

Grade: II
Date Listed: 25 July 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1405548

OS Grid Reference: SJ3980384977
OS Grid Coordinates: 339803, 384976
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3582, -2.9059

Location: 4 Stormont Road, Garston L19 1QN

Locality: Liverpool
County: Liverpool
Country: England
Postcode: L19 1QN

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Listing Text


Library, 1908-9, by Thomas Shelmerdine, Liverpool Corporation Surveyor. Brick-clad with cream-coloured spar render set upon a red sandstone plinth, deep hipped and pitched slate roof, cast-iron rainwater goods. Single-storey plus basement. Vernacular Revival style with strong Arts & Crafts influences.

Reason for Listing

Garston Library, constructed in 1908-9 to the designs of Thomas Shelmerdine, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural quality: it has a striking Vernacular Revival design displaying strong domestic Arts & Crafts influences unusual for a public building of this type;

* Intactness & interior quality: it is little altered, particularly externally, and retains many original interior features that lift the library's design considerably above the purely functional, including segmental-vaulted ceilings, Tuscan-style antae, arcading, exposed timberwork, parquet and marble floors, some glazed tilework and built-in bookcases, and a galleried central hall;

* Planning: its original layout remains largely intact and retains its three distinct, principal spaces; the original lending library and two reading rooms, separated by arcading, with a rear staff annexe;

* Architect: it was designed by the notable Liverpool Corporation Surveyor, Thomas Shelmerdine who has many listed buildings to his name, and it survives as a good example of his work, reflecting his significant contribution to the construction of municipal buildings in Liverpool.


Garston Library was constructed in 1908-9 to the designs of the Liverpool Corporation Surveyor, Thomas Shelmerdine. Amongst many other buildings within Liverpool, Shelmerdine was responsible for the design of the Hornby Library, which was added to the Picton Reading Room, Liverpool in 1906 (Grade II*) and a number of branch libraries within Liverpool, many of which are listed

The library was erected at a cost of £8183, which was funded by the steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. As noted in his Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry, Carnegie was a prolific philanthropist who amongst many other donations, funded approximately 3000 libraries in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and his adopted home of the United States during his lifetime. The land for Garston Library was bought by Liverpool Corporation and the building work was carried out by Messrs Brown & Backhouse. Garston Library was opened on 26 May 1909 by Councillor F J Leslie, Chairman of the Library, Museum & Arts Committee.


PLAN: Garston Library consists of three parallel halls aligned north-east - south-west with private staff areas to the rear left of the building.

EXTERIOR: all the windows are original and are of timber, some with replaced glazing. The original stone slate roof coverings were replaced in 2002.

Front (south-west) elevation: this nine-bay elevation faces south-west on to Bowden Road and towards St Mary's Road and is symmetrical in its composition. The three central bays are set underneath a large gable that rises above the roofline and incorporates a small, half-timbered gablet to the apex, which is surmounted by a gilded finial. The ground floor level of the three central bays is of red sandstone and projects forward with battered buttresses to the corners. The main entrance lies to the centre bay, which in turn projects forward slightly, and consists of partly-glazed, panelled double doors with a flat hood above. To each side of the entrance are three, small four-light windows. The building is single-storey but the inclusion of windows at first floor level (replicated to the rear), which light the three internal halls and central mezzanine galleries, gives the impression that the building has two floors. Consequently, at first floor level above the main entrance is a large, multipaned, segmental-headed window flanked by small, paired, four-light, square windows to each side. Flanking the three central bays are canted outer bays, which rise up through the eaves. Both bays are identically styled with four-over-four sash windows that are paired to the centre face, and are flanked by single windows in the same style. Set to the deep roof above are wide, multipaned, flat-roofed dormer windows, each with a small, half-timbered gablet breaking through the roof above and behind, and surmounted by small spear finials. To each corner of the elevation are further battered buttresses.

North-west elevation: this elevation faces Stormont Road and is of five-bays with a central canted bay in the same style as those to the front, with paired six-over-six windows to the front face and narrower four-over-four windows to the side lights. Flanking this central bay are two sets of paired four-over-four sash windows set within shared surrounds. Set to the far left of the elevation is an additional bay that forms part of the original, rear staff annexe and has a lean-to roof. The annexe incorporates a doorway with a partly-glazed, panelled door in the same style as those to the main entrance, with a flat hood above, and an adjacent sash window. The doorway is now accessed by a modern ramp. Rising from the far left corner of the annexe, which also has a battered buttress, is a tall rendered chimneystack.

South-east elevation: the south-east elevation faces Lumley Street and is identically styled to the north-west elevation, but without the additional lean-to and doorway.

Rear (north-east) elevation: the north-east gable end of the three central bays has a bow window to the ground floor and a large, multipaned, segmental-headed window to the first floor level above. Smaller windows exist to both floors on the left, and the gable apex is half-timbered. Projecting from the right side of the rear elevation is the staff annexe, which is lower in height with a lean-to roof, and is lit by a series of multipaned sash windows to the north-east side. To the annexe's east corner is a tall rendered chimneystack and battered buttress that match those found at the opposite corner fronting Stormont Road. A later doorway has been inserted into the annexe's south-east wall. To the far left of the rear elevation is a canted bay in the same style as those to the other elevations, which is flanked by single windows. Like the front elevation, there is also a flat-roofed, dormer window set to the roof above with a half-timbered gablet above and behind. A small rear yard area exists behind the rear elevation.

INTERIOR: internally the library has a central entrance hall, which leads into three large, parallel rooms: originally a lending library flanked by two reading rooms. All the interior timberwork is of oak and there are original cast-iron radiators (now disconnected). The entrance hall has exposed ceiling beams, timber mullion windows to the north-east wall and a Connemara marble floor, but has lost its original glazed-tile dado, which has been removed and replaced by applied timberwork. Attached to the south-east wall is a beaten copper plaque recording the opening of the library and Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy. A dentil cornice also wraps around the room at 3/4 height and incorporates pilaster strips. Originally the entrance hall was T-shaped with entrances off to each side that led into the reading room halls, however, the two arms of the entrance hall have since been partitioned off for use as offices, and a central doorway leads straight into the lending library. The original door architraves surmounted by dentil cornices survive in the reading rooms. The three large parallel rooms all have parquet floors (those to the two former reading rooms are hidden under later coverings), segmental-vaulted ceilings with exposed timberwork and timber dentil cornices, and are separated by arcades with timber dressings and square piers clad with brown/orange glazed tiles. At each end of the vaulted ceilings in the former reading rooms there is also a segmental-arched window divided into four lights with leaded glazing. The central hall is double-height with galleries to four sides supported at ground and first floor level by Tuscan-style antae. The gallery balustrades incorporate Tuscan-style column balusters, and built-in bookcases incorporating Tuscan-style pilasters line the walls of the two side galleries, which also incorporate some leaded-glazed skylights. A narrow, timber stair flight that originally existed to the rear left of the central hall, and led up to the galleries, has been removed and replaced by a modern stair to the rear right, with a disabled toilet occupying the space underneath. This has resulted in the blocking-up of two arcade openings, but they remain visible in the south-east reading room. The galleries are also now accessible via a modern lift that has been inserted into part of the staff annexe to the rear left of the central hall. The north-east end of the north-west reading room is now used as a One Stop Shop and contains an early C21, removable office pod. An original dwarf, partly-glazed timber screen, depicted in a historic photograph of the reading room dating to 1909, has been removed, along with the original counters in the central hall. A former librarian's office in the rear staff annexe has been converted into a toilet and its fireplace has been removed. The basement lies underneath the staff annexe and is accessed by a stair with stick balusters and square newel posts. The stair is lit by a large skylight and as the stair descends, the walls are of white glazed tiles which continue into the basement. The basement has quarry-tiled and cement floors and contains a number of small rooms and one original panelled door survives. A replaced rear door accesses an external stair well containing an original stone stair with a wrought-iron balustrade that leads up into the rear yard; the stair well also has white glazed-tile walls.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.