Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date first listed:
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Statutory Address:
Statutory Address:

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

Oxford (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SP 51513 06523


612/0/10094 PARKS ROAD 01-SEP-03 New Bodleian Library BROAD STREET New Bodleian Library

II Library and book stack, with porter's lodge. 1935-46, by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, with roof-level addition of 1968 by Robert Potter. Steel frame clad in Bladon rubble stone with Clipsham stone dressings and aluminium alloy windows. 3-storey outer block, one room deep, encasing central rectangular 11-storey book stack, 3 storeys of which are below ground and extend to the edges of the surrounding service driveway. Flat roofs. EXTERIOR: Broad Street front has 8-bay central block set back from road frontage, the left-hand (westernmost) bay narrower and lighting a staircase. Ground floor articulated with blind arcade of plain ashlar pilasters supporting entablature and cartouches with heraldic devices, enclosing recesses with wide multi-paned windows and top-opening lights. First floor has tall multi-paned windows with top-opening lights, each with plain stone lintels and stepped jambs, linked by raised cill band. Rubble soldier course below slender projecting parapet coping. Second floor, recessed, has 14 closely-set multi-paned windows, and single staircase window to left, divided by raised ashlar panels with moulded drops and with soldier course above plain stone lintels. Ashlar cornice. To the left, a two-bay projection to the street line continues the ground floor arcade detail. The left-hand bay of this projection has an open vehicular entrance below two low storeys, each with two low but wide multi-paned casement windows. The right-hand bay has three multi-paned ground floor windows, a tripartite multi-paned first-floor window with metal-railed balcony carried on moulded brackets and a similar but smaller tripartite window to the recessed second-floor. The return maintains the articulation of the central block, has two windows to the ground and first floors, and three to the second floor. To the right of the central block, a curved corner with a single tall thin multi-paned staircase window leads to the recessed entrance bay, the stout moulded wooden doors framed by pilasters similar to those of the central block arcade, but here carrying an elaborate Artisan Mannerist broken pediment containing a bust of Sir Thomas Bodley (inspired by his monument in Merton College) below a secondary decorative curved pediment. Two first and two second-floor windows similar to those in the central block. A second curved corner leads in turn to the Parks Road front. Only the balustraded parapet of the central book stack, and the tops of the plain windows and horizontal roof-line of the 1968 Indian Institute Library addition in front of it, are readily visible from the street. The 21 tall slender windows of the book stack can be seen only from a higher level. The Parks Road front, 11 bays wide, continues the architectural detail of the Broad Street front but is symmetrically arranged about a central entrance framed by pilasters and with an open pediment containing a heraldic cartouche. The central 5 bays project slightly, and the second floor in this section is brought out flush and crowned with a balustraded parapet, echoed by the similar parapet of the book stack set back above. The second floor windows to either end of this central section have aprons. The secondary elevations to the north and west have details similar in character and quality to the main fronts but slightly less elaborately decorated. Broad service entrance to west front. Discreet fire doors have been added recently at the base of the staircases at either end of the north front. INTERIOR: The outer block, one room deep is divided from the book stack by a continuous corridor, with staircases with decorative metal rails at the four corners. Most corridor and staircase walls retain a dado of Taynton stone with rough plaster above, originally unpainted. Some remains of the original decorative rubber floors survive, notably at second-floor level, and there remains one area of fragments of the original cork facing to the treads and risers of the stairs. The tiny oval vestibule within the ceremonial Broad Street entrance retains carved decoration but the doorway opposite the entrance has been blocked. The main entrance hall and the eastern corridor, from which it is divided by blocky piers, also retain a carved frieze. The internal layout of the outer block was designed to be flexible: it was originally anticipated that more space might be required for book stacks - in practice, more space has been required for reading rooms. This has been achieved with minimal structural intervention. The chief public rooms are on the first floor. The main reading room to the north retains its jazzy inlaid wooden ceiling, its mahogany bookcases, its reading desks, light fittings and clock. The issue desk has been slightly modified and extended. The reading room has been extended into the adjacent former gallery, where the flat multi-paned roof lights have been blocked. The former map room to the east has been subdivided. Throughout the building much of the original joinery remains, and is of a high standard throughout, even in less public areas. The central book stack has a frame of T-plan vertical and double C-plan horizontal structural steels, visible at the lowest levels, with concrete floors and six internal staircases, clad in steel panels (and now encased in breeze blocks for fire protection reasons). Original steel fittings, including map presses and several carrels, the latter included at the insistence of a minority group on the original design committee. Ingenious paternoster book conveyor, running continuously through the 11 vertical storeys of the book stack and then turning and running horizontally along a subterranean tunnel leading to the main Bodleian Library. HISTORY: the building was a response to the shortage of book storage space felt by the Bodleian Library: designing a new block, capable of housing 5 million volumes but within close reach of the centrally located reading rooms, opposite the very heart of historic Oxford, posed a major challenge for the architect. Scott's response was to design a part-sunken library in his characteristic 'middle line' idiom which fused modern and traditional elements. As 'The Builder' remarked in August 1940, 'the building will appeal as a nice blend of traditional Oxford with modern tendencies, in which the choice of local Bladon stone with Clipsham dressings considerably assists'. Scott had previously designed the University Library for Cambridge (1931-34). The New Bodleian's builders were Benfield & Loxley of Oxford. The Indian Institute Library on the top floor was added in 1966-68 to the designs of Robert Potter.

SOURCES: Architect & Building News, 15 May 1936, 179-186 and 30 August 1940, 143-50; The Architects' Journal, 22 August 1940, 149-153; Architecture Illustrated, August 1947, 98-112; The Builder, 15 May 1936, 982-3; 23 August 1940, 180-189; and 17 January 1947, 75-82.


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

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Books and journals
'The Builder' in 23 August, (1940), 180-9
'Architect and Building News' in 15 May, (1936)
'Architect and Building News' in 30 August, (1940), 143-50
'The Builder' in 15 May, (1936), 982-3
'The Builder' in 17 January, (1947), 75-82
'The Architects Journal' in 22 August, (1940), 149-153
'Architecture Illustrated' in August, (1947), 98-112


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

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