A part-time service was run between 1922 and 1939 from St. Martin Church Hall, 19 Brook Road, Bitterne. The district has been served subsequently by the Cobbett Road Library, opened in 1939 (see below), and Eastern Library which was officially opened in September 1963. Built to serve the existing Bitterne community and the fast expanding Harefield and Thornhill areas, Eastern Library was the first permanent library to be built after the World War Two. It has since been renamed Bitterne Library.
Burgess Road Library was opened by the mayor, Alderman G.A. Waller, in May 1935. It was the first library in Southampton to feature a specially designed and equipped children's department. The library was built mainly to cater for the new housing estates in the Swaythling area.
From 2016, the Burgess Road Library was run by The Burgess Road Library Action Group, in partnership with Christ Church Southampton, a locally based charity.
The following successive sites have been occupied:
(1) From 1889 to 1893 the town’s first public library was at 76a St. Mary Street: on the west side immediately north of South Front. The building was originally the tap bar and music hall of the Kingsland Tavern. The library occupied two rooms in the upper floor; the lower floor was a stable yard. The library moved to new premises in London Road in 1893 and since then the building has been used for a variety of purposes.
(2) The town's first purpose-built public library was opened in 1893 and stood on the corner of London Road and Cumberland Place. It was built to replace the temporary public library established in St Mary's Street in 1889. It was replaced by the Central Library in the Civic Centre in the 1930s. It was then used as a store by the Ordnance Survey. It was destroyed by bombing in World War Two.
(3) The art block on the northern side of the Civic Centre was the last part of the complex to be completed. It was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in 1939. The new block contained the library in the east wing, the art gallery on the upper floor and the School of Art in the west wing and lower ground floor.
See main article, Cobbett Road Library, for more information and pictures.
Cobbett Road Library was opened in May 1939. The land was supplied by local residents the Rev. F.C. and Miss G. Vaughan-Jenkins. Tennis courts had previously occupied the site. The building is a fine example of 1930s architecture. It was given a distinct nautical feel (e.g. port-hole style windows) to reflect Southampton's maritime heritage.
From 2016, Cobbett Road Library was run by Social Care in Action, Unexpected Places and Friends of Cobbett Road Library.
Plans for Lordshill Library were drawn up in 1974 and the library building was completed in 1977. Unfortunately, because the County Council had no money for books or staff, the library could not be opened immediately. Instead, the building was used as a meeting hall and for church services. The library was eventually opened in July 1978.
See main article on Lordshill Library for more pictures, including one of the library in its early days.
Maybush Library was situated in Wimpson Lane near to the Maybush public house. It was built in 1951 and was opened by the mayor, Mrs M. Cutler, in 1952. It was a pre-fabricated structure and was intended only to be a temporary library until a larger permanent library could be built in the area. It was closed down in 1965 and demolished to make way for extensions to the Ordnance Survey’s new headquarters. A children's service was continued in St. Peter's Church Hall off Romsey Road for a time.
Millbrook library, opened in 1974, was originally solely a children’s library housed in a temporary building. A small adult section was added in 1982. In 1994 the library moved into nearby vacant shop premises in Cumbrian Way. It was replaced in 2012 by the Millbrook Community library in Mansel Park Pavillion, Evenload Road.
From 2016, Millbrook Community Library became part of the Sure Start service at Solent NHS Trust Pickles Coppice Children’s Centre.
See main article Portswood Library for more pictures.
Portswood Library was built in 1915 on land that had previously been part of the Portswood House estate. The estate, which included the west side of Portswood Road from Highfield Lane to Brookvale Road, was sold off in 1913. Most of this area was bought up for shops and for the Palladium Cinema, which was the first building to be erected on the site. Sidney Kimber, who was then a member of the Public Library Committee, bought the site next to the cinema for the new library, which was duly built in 1915.
The building on the corner of Shirley Road and Grove Road was originally the offices of the Shirley and Freemantle Urban District Council (SFUDC), a body which came into being in 1894 as the successor to the Shirley and Freemantle Board of Health. The SFUDC was a very short-lived body - it was abolished in 1895 when Shirley and Freemantle became part of Southampton. The building was then used as Shirley Library until 1969 when a new library in Redcar Street was built.
Thornhill Library was originally situated in the main shopping parade on Hinkler Road. It was opened, primarily as a children's library, in 1968. After 30 years on this site it moved to larger premises, also in Hinkler Road, in 1998. In 2012 it was replaced by the new Thornhill Community Library.
From 2016, Thornhill Community Library was run by a newly formed local charity group.
Weston Library opened in 1974 in a small temporary building in Weston Lane. In 2000, after the building was damaged by a stolen car crashing into it, the library moved into the renovated and adapted premises of a former chip shop in Weston Lane. As of August 2016, this site is now being re-developed (following building collapse) and a library run by the YMCA will be part of the development.
In 1920 the council purchased Alston Villa, a large residential property on the corner of Portsmouth Road and Oak Road, with the intention of converting it into a public library.
The house was not really big enough for this purpose, but the open garden to the north of the house may have been the significant factor in its purchase, offering a site for the extension that would soon be necessary. The library was opened in October 1921. The planned purpose-built extension was built a few years later on the corner of Portsmouth Road and Oak Road. The original house still exists and is still part of the library.
In August 2016 the library moved to a new site in the Centenary Quay development in Woolston.
‘The Development of Public Libraries in Southampton, 1887-1921’, by Richard Preston in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 15, Summer 2009, p3-22. (HS/h)
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