The former borough library of Stafford, originally known as the 'New Free Library', which was designed by the Liverpool architects Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thornely in 1912 and extended in 1962 by the borough architect.
Reasons for Designation
The Former Borough Library, The Green, Stafford, is listed at Grade II for the following reasons:
* Architectural quality: this relatively small municipal building by the noted practice of Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thornely has considerable power and makes a distinctive contribution to the group of buildings at the centre of Stafford;
* Intact survival: with the exception of the later addition of 1962, which caused the removal of the original rear wall, the building retains a large part of its original fabric, both internally and to the exterior. This includes the plan and many of the details and fittings of the original design;
* Group value: the library forms a group with several other listed buildings in central Stafford, including No. 4 and No. 6 The Green; The Former King Edward VI School; Nos. 7-10 Bridge Street and the Picture House, Bridge Street (all listed at Grade II).
Stafford Borough Library was housed throughout the later C19 in the Borough Hall. This was at first a reading room, but a reference library and lending library were established in the former dining room of the Hall in 1882. The present building, originally known as the 'New Free Library', was designed by the Liverpool architects Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thornely in 1912 and opened in 1914. It was partially funded by the charity of Andrew Carnegie, although apparently before the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust had been founded in 1913. Its foundation stone was laid by the Mayor of Stafford, Cllr. C W Miller on 19th February, 1913. It housed the lending and reference libraries and a reading room. It also became the location of the collection of ethnographic, zoological and geological specimens formed by Clement Lindley Wragge of Oakamoor, Staffordshire, which moved here from the Borough Hall.
Open access to the shelved books was allowed from 1929 and an art gallery was opened in the building in 1934. An extension was added to the south-eastern end in 1962, apparently to the Borough Architect's design. The building ceased to operate as a library in 1998 and was then used as Stafford Performing Arts Centre. In 2011 the building was sold by the borough to a developer and planning permission was granted to turn it into a restaurant in 2013, but this was not implemented and at the time of survey (June 2015) the building was vacant and for sale.
The former borough library of Stafford, originally known as the 'New Free Library', which was designed by the Liverpool architects Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thornely in 1912. The extension of 1962 by the borough architect is excluded.
MATERIALS: red brick, laid in Garden-wall bond, with ashlar dressings and a slate and felt roof.
PLAN: the building is placed on an island site, still known as 'The Green', bounded by Newport Road, Lichfield Road and Bailey Street and with its principal entrance facing north, where it can be seen along Bridge Street. The building has two storeys and a basement. The original building is V-shaped, with the entrance hall and staircase at the flattened point. Reading rooms, to the ground floor, and the lecture room and museum room, at first floor level, are set along the angled flanks of the building. To the centre at ground floor level is the hall for the former issue desk and stacks. The extension of 1962 is excluded from the listing (this is L-shaped and extends the space of the central area and also supplies gallery rooms to each floor along Lichfield Road).
EXTERIOR: the north front is slightly concave and has three bays. At its centre is the entrance which has a projecting semi-circular porch with two fluted, Tuscan columns and similar pilasters to either side. The porch entablature has triglyphs and paterae. Above this is a semi-domed roof with a pair of putti to the apex holding a crown, a shield and swags. The glazed double doors have lattice-patterned glazing bars. At either side are panels with elaborate surrounds, inscribed 'NOTICES'. To the top of the wall is a plain entablature, which continues around the building, and above the cornice is a deep stone band with a pierced balustrade rising at the centre. A wheelchair ramp has been added to the right of the porch.
The north-eastern flank, facing Lichfield Street, has six symmetrical bays at right with four projecting bays to their centre. The ground-floor windows have stone surrounds with aprons and aedicular surrounds and original margin glazing. Above the four central bays is a deep cornice and stone panel inscribed 'PUBLIC FREE LIBRARY'.
Above this is a parapet with lattice balustrade. The two recessed bays at either side are similar, save that they have a blocking course instead of a parapet and first floor windows. At left of this arrangement is a further, original bay which is recessed again and has no entablature. To left of this is the extension of 1962 (which is not included in the listing) which has a recessed porch entrance to its right, with steps rising to glazed doors and five vertical staircase lights above. To left of this are three bays with a horizontal slit window to the top of the wall of both the ground and first floors, and large, green slate tiles covering the first floor walling.
The west face, onto Bailey Street, has four bays at its centre, flanked by recessed bays. The treatment on this flank is simpler that on the north-east flank facing Lichfield Street, but essentially similar. The windows have margin glazing and heads of gauged bricks. The recessed bay at left has three staircase lights, consisting of a blank window at ground floor level and a short rectangular mezzanine window above and an oval light set at the level of the entablature. To the right is the rear of the 1962 addition (excluded), which has horizontal strip windows to the ground floor and a door at far right. This adjoins the earlier, single-storey wing of the neighbouring Baptist church.
INTERIOR: The entrance hall has a staircase to its western side which rises in three flights to the first floor. It has a metal balustrade with lattice pattern and a wooden handrail. To the east wall is the foundation stone, which records the fact that it was laid by the Mayor of Stafford, Councillor Miller in February 1913. The central area of the ground floor is a trapezoid on plan, lit by two circular skylights. At the wider, southern end of this are two Tuscan columns and to either side are original glazed hardwood screens, divided by evenly-spaced, square pilasters. Doors in these screens lead to the reading rooms, one of which has fitted bookcases to its southern end. Ceilings have panels bordered by reed and ribbon decoration and there is a fireplace with a Neo-classical grate at the southern end of the eastern rooms. A cast metal spiral staircase is placed at the western corner of the original building.
The first floor has a lobby at the head of the stairs, with pilasters to the walls, from which doors lead to two principal rooms: that on the west side of the building has the words 'LECTURE HALL' painted over the door. At its southern end is a stage with a panelled front, approached by a small, winder staircase. The ceiling is a segmental barrel vault, with panels to the centre and skylights to the sides. Over the stage is a coat of arms including the Stafford knot. A high dado rail has vertical planking below it, and this may be to do with the room's second function - also painted above the door - 'CHILDREN'S ROOM'. The eastern room on this floor is essentially the same in design, but without the stage. It has the words 'ART GALLERY' painted over the door (presumably dating from the changes in the 1930s) and was probably the exhibition room for the Wragge collection before this.
Pursuant to s1 (5) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the extension of c.1962, to the south-east of the library building, is not of special architectural or historic interest.