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Wallsend Library, North Tyneside

Description: Wallsend Library

Grade: II
Date Listed: 20 December 2013
Building ID: 1418250

OS Grid Reference: NZ3023766535
OS Grid Coordinates: 430240, 566526
Latitude/Longitude: 54.9924, -1.5289

Locality: North Tyneside
County: North Tyneside
Postcode: NE28 7NB

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Listing Text


Public Library. 1965-6 to design by Harry Faulkner Brown of Newcastle architects' practice Williamson, Faulkner Brown & Partners. Sculpture by Murray McCheyne. Lightweight, steel-framed, largely glazed building, white plastic laminate where bookshelves abut windows, buff brick walls to rear offices, raised platform of rilled concrete surrounded by granite sets, roof fascia of corrugated aluminium.

Reason for Listing

Wallsend Library of 1965-6 by Harry Faulkner Brown of Williamson, Faulkner Brown and Partners is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architect: Harry Faulkner Brown was an influential architect in the field of library design, who designed both public and academic libraries, including the award-winning Jesmond Library (Grade II) and Nottingham University Library, as well as widely disseminating his principles for good library design, known as his 'ten commandments' both through publication and speaking at international conferences;
* Design: Wallsend Library pioneered a new modular approach to the planning of libraries with the intention of building in inherent flexibility to accommodate inevitable changes in the arrangement of bookcases, furniture and future reader services, along the lines of the 'burolandschaft' principles of office design;
* Architectural interest: there is an inherent visual harmony in the clean lines and modern palette of the single-storey building, whose deep, over-hanging roof with emphatically horizontally-lined fascia floats over the saw-tooth, vertically-glazed walls and is balanced by the solidity of the rilled concrete platform and wide 'moat' of hounds-tooth granite sets, each element also contributing practically, with the overhanging roof intended to shade the interior, the saw-toothed glazed walls directing daylight to fall directly on the book-spines of the perimeter bookcases, concrete platform to raise the building and protect its contents from possible flooding, and the 'moat' demarcating the library from its surroundings and clearly marking the entrance with a shallow' drawbridge' ramp;
* Historic interest: Wallsend Library was at the vanguard of a new post-war approach to library planning with an emphasis upon welcoming, comfortable, and accessible buildings with easily comprehensible plans;
* Interior: the open-plan layout is entered by a wide vestibule with full-height glazed walls giving the building a welcoming, open character with vistas across the library and into the pivotal courtyard bringing natural light into its centre, the visual impact of the interior reinforced by the over-arching modular grid of the coffered ceiling;
* Fixtures and fittings: the library retains its original fixed perimeter bookcases set into the exterior, glazed walls, and its courtyard garden with original sculpture of a Roman head by Murray McCheyne.


In 1965 Wallsend Borough Council commissioned a new library for Wallsend from Harry Faulkner Brown of the Newcastle architects' practice Williamso, Faulkner Brown and Partners to replace an earlier library on Park Road. The commission was awarded on the strength of Faulkner Brown's libraries for Newcastle at Jesmond (Grade II) and Heaton. Whereas Jesmond (1962-3) was a small, circular library squeezed into the corner of a shopping street, Wallsend Library was a larger, rectangular building designed to stand on a cleared block behind the high street, surrounded by Victorian terraced housing. It was opened on 13 October 1966. At the time of its construction the library was seen as a model for future development of the surrounding area, but this never happened.

Wallsend used the same saw-toothed external wall formula as Jesmond, a space-effective formula that admitted light onto bookshelves set sideways to the windows. It was a larger library though and this provided the opportunity to pioneer a new modular approach to the planning of libraries using multiples of the standard 3ft (0.9m) shelf length to generate an orthogonal structural grid in a large open plan public library area. This meant that the library space was highly flexible to accommodate the inevitable changes in the arrangement of book stacks, seating areas, and the introduction of new types of reader services in future decades.

Harry Faulkner Brown had a particular interest in designing both public and academic libraries. He was to become an influential, internationally-known figure in library layout due to international publishing and lecturing upon his principles for good library design, which he called his 'ten commandments'. His first libraries were built in Canada, where he lived for twelve years after the Second World War, and included the National Library of Canada in Ottawa. He then returned to Newcastle, forming the firm of Williamson, Faulkner Brown and Partners in 1962. Shortly after he designed the RIBA Bronze Medal winning Jesmond Library. Other libraries included those for Nottingham, Newcastle and Durham universities.

The courtyard incorporated a statue of the head of a Roman by Murray McCheyne, master of sculpture at the University of Newcastle in the 1950s and 1960s. McCheyne also sculpted the seahorses on top of Newcastle Civic Centre.

The building retains its original external finishes, doors, glazing, coffered ceiling and perimeter shelving, but the issue desk and free-standing shelving are modern replacements. A metal shutter has been inserted inside the glazing of the I.T. room (former quiet room) as a security measure.


Public Library. 1965-6 to design by Harry Faulkner Brown of Newcastle architects' practice Williamson, Faulkner-Brown & Partners. Sculpture by Murray McCheyne. Lightweight, steel-framed, largely glazed building, white plastic laminate where bookshelves abut windows, buff brick walls to rear offices, raised platform of rilled concrete surrounded by granite sets, roof fascia of corrugated aluminium.

PLAN: single-storey, flat-roofed, rectangular building with central, square, landscaped courtyard. Fully glazed vestibule, with large open-plan adult lending (originally lending and reference) and children's libraries on one side with a small, self-contained quiet room (now I.T. room), and on the other side a meeting and newspaper room, latterly used as exhibition space and reference library, with the WCs and staff area to its rear containing a work area, receiving area for the loading and unloading of books for mobile libraries, office, janitor's room, boiler house and staff room.

EXTERIOR: the library stands on a deep, rilled-concrete platform with a wide surrounding band of granite sets placed diagonally in a dog-tooth pattern which form a 'glacis' around the three main elevations. The building is single storey and has a flat roof with deep, overhanging eaves with a fascia of horizontally indented aluminium. The majority of the walls are formed by a lightweight, saw-toothed steel frame. The frame is glazed and the wider panes have slightly-projecting white laminate panels relating to in-built bookcases, with a glazed band beneath and a deep clerestory band above, over which the roof appears to floats. The narrower return panes are fully glazed and alternating panels incorporate glass louvres. Projecting south-east and south-west corner pavilions are fully glazed. The front elevation faces west onto Ferndale Avenue. The entrance is marked by a shallow, flagged ramp forming a 'drawbridge' over the granite sets. This is flanked by a rectangular pram park on the left-hand side and a rectangular cycle park on the right-hand side with slots for seven bicycles, both with surfaces of small, square sets opening onto the ramp and with shallow brick walls with concrete coping; the pram park has an added metal railing. Either side of the glazed double doors are glazed panels incorporating the word LIBRARY in their mid-rail. There are five saw-toothed bays to the left of the entrance lighting the reference library and eight bays to the right of the entrance, lighting the children's and lending libraries. The south elevation has thirteen saw-toothed bays. The east elevation has eleven saw-toothed bays lighting the lending library. At the north end the staff area is demarcated by a stretcher-bond brick wall with clerestory glazing and a full-height glazed panel next to the angled corner. The brick and clerestory glazing wraps round the north-east angled corner and continues along much of the rear elevation. On the left-hand side are timber double doors for the loading bay. At the right-hand end the reference library is lit by full-height glazed panels with an angled, glazed north-west corner.

INTERIOR: the interior is dominated by the light steel frame and the floor-to-ceiling glazing. The roof is supported by square, 6in x 6in (15.2cm x 15.2cm) hollow-steel-section internal columns the point of contact reducing to 2in x 2in (5cm x 5cm) points, placed on a structural grid of 18ft (5m) centres set in from the perimeter. The space-planning module is echoed in the detail of the coffered ceiling which is formed of truncated pyramids made of white acoustic board set in a white plastic laminate-faced grid. Flat electric lights are placed within the apex of the pyramidal shapes. The entrance leads into a large, fully-glazed vestibule closed by the central courtyard beyond. On the right-hand side are a set of glazed double doors opening into the children's library. The large, rectangular steel door handles are inscribed PUSH IN and PULL OUT. Above the doorway is a metal plaque commemorating the opening of the library inscribed WALLSEND LIBRARY WAS OPENED BY ALDERMAN DINAH SOWERBY / CHAIRMAN OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY COMMITTEE 13 OCTOBER 1966 / WILLIAMSON, FAULKNER BROWN AND PARTNERS ARCHITECTS. Beyond the children's library doors are a further two glazed doors separated by a glazed panel. The further door has a metal door handle inscribed PULL IN and the second door handle is inscribed PUSH OUT. On the left-hand side are similarly detailed glazed double doors opening into the reference library. To the right is a pinboard, attached to the brick wall of the staff area with a solid wooden door at the right-hand end and clerestory glazing over. The library retains the original perimeter bookcases set into the glazing and also the majority of the fixed shelving attached to the wall separating the lending library from the staff area. There are solid timber double doors at the left-hand end and a single door at the right-hand end of the wall, with clerestory glazing over. The glazed quiet room has a single, central glazed door with a circular clock above it. The side walls have clerestory glazing above pinboards. The central courtyard is fully glazed with indented aluminium fascia. The glazing incorporates glass louvres and a glazed door in both the north and south sides to allow access. In the centre of the courtyard is a square, raised concrete planter, surrounded by a pavement of blue bricks. In the north-east corner of the planter is a slender, square concrete column on which is set a bronze head of an ancient Roman sculpted by Murray McCheyne. Throughout the staff area the solid timber doors with thin metal door pulls and opposing finger plates remain. The WCs and janitor's room in the staff area retain the original white-glazed square tiles.

EXCLUSIONS: Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas)Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the metal shutter in the I.T. room (former quiet room), the modern radiators which have been added, and the modern door opening and security mechanisms fitted to, and associated with, the library doors opening off the entrance vestibule are not of special architectural or historic interest.

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