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Tyne and Wear HER(7567): Gateshead, Prince Consort Road, Gateshead Central Library - Details

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Gateshead, Prince Consort Road, Gateshead Central Library







Extant Building

In 1916 the Carnegie Trust of Dunfermline offered Gateshead a grant of £15,000 for a new public library (John Johnstone's library on Swinburne Street was now too small). In 1918 Arthur Stockwell was appointed as architect. Initial designs were costed above the grant, even though it was raised to £16,500. Stockwell died. In 1925/6 a reduced design was executed by David Ditchburn with a top-up loan of £6,500 from the government. The Public Library echoes the design of its neighbour the Shipley Art Gallery. Ionic portico with two ranges capped with small domes and one-storey wings. It was operated on the open-access system. It was extended in red brick by Leslie Berry, Borough Architect in 1975/6 and remains the town's main library {Taylor and Lovie, 2004}. Local List entry - Gateshead Central Library was born in 1925 following a long gestation period. It superseded the first public library on Swinburne Street, with grant assistance from the Carnegie Trust and central government. Although the original appointed architect was the same as for the Shipley, he died during the prevarications, and a new architect was thence forced to interpret his drawings to provide a reduced scheme that the budget would allow. The Edwardian Baroque architectural language is manifestly shared with that of the aforementioned art gallery. This is particularly apparent at the entrance, where a grand portico is raised on 2 ionic columns rather than 4, the little brother of its stately neighbour. Again, the slender balusters of the parapet and the cascading steps spilling out onto the pavement echo those nearby, but the copper domes are a unique feature, harmoniously crowning the piers of the portico. Various decorative motifs are employed, including egg and dart, and dentil mouldings, Two orange brick wings feature high level metal windows, opening inwards on brackets, in order to accommodate the shelving within. As at the Shipley, also, large glazed panels were incorporated into the roof, in order to provide ample, diffuse light suitable for the purpose of the building. The interior is of great interest as many original features remain, including much of the original shelving and a book hoist cupboard, as well as deeply moulded dentilled cornices, floral iron ceiling grilles, and historic lamp brackets. A strong room, a fine object of its time is still extant in the basement, which was mainly used for storage and a committee room but was designated as an air-raid shelter during the war. The plan form is now much altered, especially with the extension in the 1970s, which transferred the main entrance to the northern end of the building. When it was opened it consisted of the main lending library, a reference library, a reading room, and a children’s library, which was so small that no books could be issued during story time! The building is an essential chapter in the cultural history of Gateshead, as well as being part of an architecturally distinguished civic grouping at Shipcote, including the Shipley Gallery, the former Education Offices, the Shipcote Baths and the former Borough Treasurer’s department. MATERIALS Sandstone, brick, slate, glazing ARCHITECT Arthur Stockwell / David Ditchburn Ext.: Leslie Berry BUILDERS: Pringles Fittings: North of England School Furnishing Co. DATES 6/4/1926 (opened) 1976 (Extension) During WWII an air raid shelter was built on the site. LOCAL LIST




S. Taylor and D. Lover, 2004, Gateshead - Architecture in a Changing English Urban Landscape, p 31; Gateshead Council Local List; Grace McCombie, 2009, Newcastle and Gateshead - Pevsner Architectural Guide, p. 34; Gateshead Council Local List X20/LL/196;

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