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Former Blackheath Public Library

A Grade II Listed Building in Blackheath, Sandwell

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4769 / 52°28'36"N

Longitude: -2.0471 / 2°2'49"W

OS Eastings: 396894

OS Northings: 286557

OS Grid: SO968865

Mapcode National: GBR 4ZT.0G

Mapcode Global: VH9Z0.G0MH

Entry Name: Former Blackheath Public Library

Listing Date: 21 December 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1405927

Location: Sandwell, B65

County: Sandwell

Electoral Ward/Division: Blackheath

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Blackheath

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Rowley Regis

Church of England Diocese: Birmingham

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Summary

A former public library, built in 1909 for Rowley Regis Urban District Council, to the designs of Wills and Anderson.

Description

A former public library, built in 1909 for Rowley Regis Urban District Council, to the designs of Wills and Anderson.

MATERIALS: the building is of red brick laid in Flemish bond with a plinth, cornice and dressings of yellow terracotta and a plain tiled roof.

PLAN: the single-storey building, which is roughly rectangular on plan, is formed of three distinct ranges comprising, to Carnegie Road, a central, entrance range which is flanked by a rectangular on plan range to its right-hand side (the original ladies' room) and a square on plan range to its left-hand side (the original reading room).

EXTERIOR: of an Edwardian Baroque style, the entrance range to Carnegie Road is of three bays with a central, pedimented entrance porch, distyle in antis, with Ionic capitals to the inner columns and channelled rustication to the outer pilasters; the frieze is inscribed PUBLIC LIBRARY and the tympanum contains a cartouche. Set within a moulded architrave are half-glazed, wooden doors with a dentilled transom bar and segmental fanlight with bat-wing glazing bars. The flanking bays each contain a two-light window with channel-rusticated mullions and moulded architraves. Situated to the right-hand side of the entrance range, set at a slight angle to the road, is the former ladies' room. Of three bays, it has a central Venetian window, with apron, extending through the eaves line, with single-light windows with moulded architraves to the outer bays. The right-hand return has a two-light window with channel-rusticated mullion and moulded architrave. Both ranges have a moulded cornice of yellow terracotta. To the left-hand side of the entrance range, with its left-hand return fronting the Ross, is the original reading room. This range has a square lower stage and an octagonal upper stage with the Carnegie Road and Ross elevations both containing a single Venetian window, with apron, extending through the eaves line; the corner bays of the octagonal stage have fanlights with moulded architraves. All the windows to this range have scrolled keystones. Running around the top of this range is a dentilled and moulded cornice, above which is a balustrade with urns. The roof is surmounted by an octagonal lantern with wooden louvers and a domed roof with lead capping.

INTERIOR: the interior of the building is simply detailed with the main decorative element being the applied plasterwork to the ceilings. The entrance foyer ceiling has applied plaster mouldings forming three squares into which are set frosted roof lights with diamond-shaped glazing bars. Both the original reading room and ladies' room have deep, coved ceilings; the former reading room with octagonal-shaped mouldings and the former ladies' room with a rectangular-shaped moulding.

History

The former Blackheath Public Library was one of three public libraries opened in 1909 by Rowley Regis Urban District Council; the other two being Cradley Heath Public Library (listed Grade II) and Tividale Public Library (now demolished). A gift towards all three libraries was made by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation with Blackheath being offered £1,696 with the usual stipulation that the local council should provide the land on which it was to be built and pay for the future maintenance of the building. An open competition was organized to design the three new libraries, with Henry Hare appointed as assessor by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The winner was the practice of Herbert Wills (1864-1937) and John Anderson (1835-1915), with William Cooper being appointed as builder to Blackheath. Opened on 15 September 1909, Blackheath Public Library originally comprised a reading room with lending library, a news room, a ladies' room and a librarian's office. In c.1949 the interior of the library was remodelled with the addition of a children's section whilst the ladies' room became a reading room and the news room a reference room. Further internal remodelling took place in c.1959 when the children's section and reference room were removed and the office reduced in size to create increased circulation space in the foyer for the addition of a new lending desk; the reading room also changed use to accommodate the children's section. The library closed in 2011 following the opening of a new library in the town centre.


Reasons for Listing

The former Blackheath Public Library, built in 1909 to the designs of Wills and Anderson, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: as an accomplished public library in the Edwardian Baroque style, demonstrating the quality which some of the smaller endowed libraries of the late-Victorian and Edwardian period achieved as expressions of civic pride and public learning;

* Intactness: the building retains a complete exterior and, despite some small-scale internal alterations, the outline of its original plan.

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