Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Tower Hamlets (London Borough)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 34007 81455


The following building shall be added:-

Whitechapel High Street TQ 3381 and 3481 No 77 14 and 15/6012 (Whitechapel Public Library)


Library. Opened 1892. Potts, Son and Hennings, architects, with funding from philanthropist Passmore Edwards and support from Canon Barnett. Red brick with terracotta quoining and dressings; slate Mansard roof. Free Jacobethan style. 3 storeys plus attic, and 3-window range. EXTERIOR: Ground floor has deep terra cotta plinth; keyed semi-circular arched doorway with winged cherubs to spandrels and flanked by fluted composite pilasters to central bay; 4-light chamfered mullioned and transomed windows, with octapanel leaded-lights to upper lights, the window to left has inserted entrance to Aldgate East Underground Station in lower part; Blue Plaque to Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918), poet and painter. First floor left bay has Renaissance-style frieze under similar 4- light window and plain terra cotta frieze with THE PASSMORE EDWARDS LIBRARY in relief under swan-necked pediment; central bay slightly advanced curved balcony on brackets all under pedimented 2-light window with Renaissance-style cherub and ornament to tympanum; right bay has Renaissance-style frieze advancing to base of oriel with brackets and similar 3-light window. Second floor has pair of sashes to each bay and continuous terra cotta moulded cornice, below shaped gable with sash over left bay, central tower with keyed round window set in swan-necked pediment with domed roof, and festooned panel over right bay. INTERIOR: Lobby has pictorial tile panel of "Whitechapel Hay Market, 1788". 1891 commemmorative cartouche to hall. Large ground-floor room to rear, forming later extension, has coffered ceiling, pilasters and piers framing each bay with egg and dart mouldings to top. Pair of spiral cast-iron staircases to offices over reading room. Open-well staircase with decorative iron balustrade. Half-glazed door and partition with octagonal leaded glazing to front first-floor room with wooden staircases to upper floors; arch-braced queen-post roof and ceiling lights to rear first-floor room. HISTORY: One of the earliest public libraries in London, Whitechapel was the first district in East London to vote for the establishment of a public library by referendum, for which Canon Barnett led the campaign. It was one of fifteen libraries in London funded by philanthropist Passmore Edwards and this building marks the first time this pair collaborated on a building. Various internal reconfigurations in early-C20 such as conversion to open access in 1922. Bomb damage in 1940 to second floor. Aldgate East Underground station entrance inserted in 1937.

Listed as a fine example of a Passmore Edwards library with rich Renaissance-style terracotta ornament, also having strong historic interest and associations with the adjacent Grade II* Whitechapel Art Gallery (q.v.), both buildings sharing benefactors Canon Barnett and Passmore Edwards, as well as the purpose of providing cultural and education resources for great social need in the late-Victorian East End of London.

Listing NGR: TQ3400781455


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Reference: IOE01/12099/06
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Richard Hodgson. Source Historic England Archive
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