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Carnegie Library, Pontypool

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NPRN593
Map ReferenceSO20SE
Grid ReferenceSO2825000835
Unitary (Local) AuthorityTorfaen
Old CountyMonmouthshire
CommunityPontymoile
Type Of SiteLIBRARY
PeriodPost Medieval
Description
In November 1904, at the request of the Pontypool Urban District Council Andrew Carnegie pledged £2,000 in order to erect a free public library in Pontypool subject to the adoption of the Free Libraries Act and the free provision of a site, as part of his wider philanthropic work to establish libraries throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and the West Indies. In July 1905, it was decided to approach Mr J. C. Hanbury with respect to the site, and in December of that year Hanbury offered a site located opposite the Town Hall on Commercial Street on land previously part of Pontypool Park (NPRN 266095). By January 1906, the Urban District Council were able to accept Carnegie's offer and engaged the services of the architects Messrs. Spear and Bevan of Cardiff. Mr W. H. Campbell of Pontypool was hired to build the library at a cost of £1,889. Notably, in digging the foundations for the library a wall was discovered around 7ft (2.13m) from the surface which was thought to have belonged to a previously unknown mansion. The wall was around 4ft (1.22m) thick and when knocked through a spacious room was discovered along with two coins. The library was opened by Hanbury on 21 September 1908, who also donated a further sum of money for `the committee to deal with as they thought best as regarded the buying of books, papers, magazines, etc? (Evening Express, 22.09.1908). The original lay-out of the building consisted of a general reading room, a reference library, a lending library, a ladies? reading room, a committee room and a small lecture hall.

The library is a two-storey Edwardian Baroque structure constructed of glazed red brick and Portland limestone on a plinth of coursed rock-faced Pennant limestone under a hipped slate roof, with a single-storey rear wing, a brick chimney to the south and a central domed ventilator. The facade is divided into three bays by broad pilasters, the central two topped with console caps under square capitals supporting a plain brick gablet. The recessed entrance is in the central bay through a round headed doorway under a two-light segmental fanlight containing stained glass showing an open book within a wreath. The left and right ground-floor bays have large round-headed mullion-and-transom windows. The second-story central bay contains a tripartite window with a stone frame topped with a segmental pediment under which is a stone apron reading `PUBLIC LIBRARY? flanked by the letters 19 and 08 arranged vertically. The outer second-storey bays have paired two-light windows separated by a large stone mullion with a console cap. The windows contain small diamond-shaped blue and green stained-glass accents.

Internally, there is a large hall leading to a stair with wrought-iron railings. This hall is divided from the reading rooms by arcades of segmental arches and panelled square columns. The reading room to the left has Tuscan pilasters and a panelled roof. The upper rooms, housing an office and the reference library, have Art Nouveau-style stained glass.

(Sources: John Newman, The Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire (London: Penguin Books, 2000), 479; Cade Listed Buildings Database, 18809; Welsh Newspapers Online: `Free Library for Pontypool?, Evening Express, 28.11.1904; `Pontypool: U.D.C. Meeting?, County Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser, 29.07.1905; `Pontypool Free Library: Mr J. C. Hanbury Generously Offers a Site?, Weekly Mail, 23.12.1905; `Find at Pontypool?, Evening Express, 4.10.1907; `Pontypool's New Library?, 22.9.1908)
A.N. Coward, RCAHMW, 07.12.2018