Lower Norwood Free Public Library (1888 – 1969)

On Saturday July 28th 1888 the Norwood Free Public Library was opened by the Earl of Northbrook.  Mr Nettlefold purchased the site for 1000 pounds and it was quite an architectural addition to the neighbourhood.  The Library contained literature by the most eminent in literature – Homer, Scott, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens and Socrates.  In the basement there were lavatories, a large book shop, a heating chamber.  Over the front portion of the building was the librarian’s house.  There was a reference room, periodical and newspaper and reading room, both top lighted.  There was a ladies’ reading room and book department for the lending library capable of holding 23,000 books.  Nearly 5000 books had already been given to the library.  The floors of the building were wooden blocks and the ventilation and lighting had been carefully provided for.  The fittings had all been designed by the architect and the bookshelves were adjustable to any sized book.  Every book in the library would be shown on the indicator which was on the coaster and a special arrangement was that the librarian could see all that is going on throughout the whole of the entrance hall. At the end of the previous year the foundation stone was laid by Mr Nettlefold who had generously given the site and after a short time – thanks to the energy of the Commissioners, the ability of the architect and the skill of the builders – the library had been erected.  They had met that day to lay the foundation, not of bricks and mortar, but one of moral and intellectual improvement in the neighbourhood. The Honourable and Reverend Canon (Rector of Lambeth) as Chairman of the Free Libraries Commissioners said Norwood Library was not all paid for and hoped that the debt would soon be wiped out.  He then went on to say that this Free Library would be open from seven to ten on weekdays and it would also soon be open for a certain number of hours on Sundays.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette – Saturday 28 July 1888

This was the first library opened in Lambeth.  It was replaced in 1969 by a new building on Norwood High Street.