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Listed Building
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Ordnance survey map of FULLWELL CROSS LIBRARY
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Statutory Address:

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

Greater London Authority
Redbridge (London Borough)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 44535 90315



937/0/10054 HIGH STREET 23-APR-07 140 Fullwell Cross Library

II Library of 1958-68 by Frederick Gibberd, with 1990s refurbishment.

MATERIALS: Steel framing with concrete panels, with a concrete shell lantern with copper finish.

PLAN: The library and baths stand on High Street, Barkingside, a district centre serving a surrounding suburban area. The site is triangular in shape and adjacent to a busy roundabout. The entrances to the library and swimming pool are orientated towards a small rectangular civic square which is part of the scheme. On the W side the square opens onto High Street. The library is located to the N of the site. It is circular in plan responding to its location at the apex of the triangular-shaped plot.

EXTERIOR: Within the scheme, the library is the focal point. It is the smaller of the two structures, but its design is striking. It is a one-storey structure, with a circular plan, and has two distinct components. The first is a squat, flat-roofed, circular structure. This contains the functional area of the library. It is steel-framed, with concrete panels and clad with narrow rectangular vertically-orientated panels of reconstructed stone and blue brick at the base. Narrow, rectangular, vertically-orientated windows extend around the structure. The windows are wooden-framed and were purpose made. Some of these windows are arranged in a straight row along the centre of the curved walls. Most of the windows are longer and are arranged in a stepped rhythm around the facade. Large floor-to-ceiling glass doors and/or glass windows light the library to the west, overlooking High Street Barkingside, and to the south facing the swimming pool. Some follow the circular plan of the building and are flush with the wall. Others follow a straight line and are recessed. The library is also lit by rooflights set into the flat roof. This part of the building is characterised by clean lines and simple design. The second component of the building is a concrete shell lantern. This is centrally placed on the flat roof of the library. The roof lights, referred to above, are arranged in a radial pattern on the flat roof of the library around the lantern. The lantern is a sixteen-sided with a conical shell roof and a copper finish. Each cone is horizontally ribbed and kicks up and out as it terminates. Each contains a clerestory window consisting of four panes of narrow, rectangular, vertically-orientated glass. The windows, metal-framed and purpose-made, are separated to each side by concrete mullions.

INTERIOR: The footprint of the lantern is internally related to the footprint of the main lending library. Three lecture rooms, a doctor's surgery, a reading room, staff rooms, and a children's library encircle the main library floor. The circular wall of the main lending library is shelved and island bookcases are arranged in a radial pattern.

The library was refurbished in the early 1990s: the hardwood bookcases were replaced with metal ones; a membrane was applied to the clerestory windows to the South to prevent glare; the flat roof was repaired; an enquiries desk was placed in the centre of the lending library; the wall between the main lending library and the children's library was knocked and the door between the hall and children's library was locked so that the children's library is now accessed through the main library. The doctor's surgery was never used as such and is now used as a storeroom.

HISTORY: In 1958 it was agreed that Ilford Council should undertake a high-profile project involving the construction of an Olympic-sized swimming pool on a Greenfield site at Fullwell Cross. During the same year, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government suggested the appointment of a consultant architect to design and construct a library as well as the swimming pool. This suggestion followed a recent refusal of planning permission for the construction of a library at Barkingside. Subsequently Ilford Council entered into negotiations with Frederick Gibberd, who was to jointly prepare the scheme with the borough engineer H.J. Mulder (later succeeded by the borough architect H.C. Connell). However, at the outset Gibberd stated that he was to be responsible for the architectural quality. W.V. Zinn was engaged for structural engineering works and Wingfield, Boules and Partners for mechanical services.

Gibberd presented plans and a model for the library and swimming pool to Ilford Town Council in September 1959 and in 1960 the proposed design was featured in the annual preview issue of the Architectural Review. However, the scheme was subject to lengthy delays as changes were discussed. One agreed in 1962 involved the incorporation of a restaurant overlooking the pool. In 1963 it was decided to reduce the size of the pool because of the construction of an Olympic-sized pool at Crystal Palace and because of increasing cost estimates. In 1964 Ilford Council was amalgamated with the adjacent Woodford and Wanstead Councils to form the London Borough of Redbridge. As a result, it was suggested that a more favourable site might be found to serve the new, larger, functional area of the council. This suggestion was subsequently rejected. Construction on-site began in July 1965, was completed in February 1968 and Fullwell Cross Library and swimming pool were officially opened on 20 March 1968. The scheme was featured in the Architectural Journal during that year. The buildings were purpose-built as a library and swimming pool continue to function as such.

Frederick Gibberd (kt.1967, d.1984), architect and town planner, came to prominence as an architect with Pullman Court (1933-6), one of the first developments of flats in the International Modern style built in Britain. Later he was the Master Planner of Harlow New Town and architect of Heathrow Airport and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. He and his practice were also responsible for numerous urban design projects in England, power stations, commercial buildings, and the London mosque in Regent's Park. He also landscaped a number of reservoirs.

SOURCES: Oxford D.N.B. s.v. Gibberd, Frederick; E. Harwood, England: A Guide to Post-War Listed Buildings (2003); Pevsner, London 5: East (2005), 324-5; information supplied by London Borough of Redbridge.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: Fulwell Cross library and swimming pool were designed by Frederick Gibberd, who made a considerable contribution to the post-1945 reconstruction of England and to civic design. They were built in the 1960s at the same time as Gibberd's best-known building, Liverpool's Roman Catholic Cathedral, and this and the Fulwell Cross Library share some features. The Fulwell Cross buildings are separate but adjoining, and although conceived as a coherent community facility linked by hard landscaping the library is an architecturally adventurous structure in ways that the swimming pool is not. What makes the library stand out as a building of national interest is very much its external form, a low, circular concrete drum with simple yet varied fenestration, rising above the centre of which is a lantern with arched roof lights and conical - almost tent-like - shell roof with a green copper finish. The pool is less distinctive architecturally and while of some interest as part of Gibberd's overall conception, it is not considered of special interest.


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

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Books and journals
Harwood, E, England A Guide to Post War Listed Buildings, (2003)
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, O'Brien, C, The Buildings of England: London 5 East, (2005)


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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