Saltash Library

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1474413
Date first listed:
17-Feb-2021
Statutory Address:
Callington Road, Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6DX

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Callington Road, Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6DX

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

District:
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Saltash
National Grid Reference:
SX4230359037

Summary

Public library, 1961-1963, Royston Summers of Cornwall County Council Architect’s Department under FK Hicklin.

Reasons for Designation

Saltash Library, designed in 1961 by Royston Summers of the County Architect’s Department under FK Hicklin, and opened in 1963, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a striking and well-articulated example of post-war library design; * it is an accomplished early-career design by Royston Summers; * as a significant example within the public buildings designed by the County Architect’s Department under FK Hicklin from 1959-1966; * for its place within the architectural styles of the time, particularly its reference to Le Corbusier’s Palace of Justice at Chandigarh; * for its use of different-textured concrete, possibly produced using china-clay waste from around St Austell, designed to harmonise with the Cornish landscape.

Historic interest: * as one of a group of five new libraries planned by the local authority to enhance public services in the county.

History

The first library in Saltash under the County Council’s free branch library scheme was formed in 1926 and was housed in the YMCA, moving to North Road School in 1931 and then the school room at the Church of St Nicholas and St Faith. In 1949 the library moved to Church House, and had an annual issue of around 5,000 books (significantly less than at Torpoint which had both a smaller library and smaller population). However, aligned with the opening of the Tamar road bridge in October 1961, and with the Saltash population rising as a consequence, local residents began calling out for a new library, stating that not only did the children’s library need updating but that the service should offer value for money, reflecting a recent rise in rates.

In 1963 a new Civic Centre scheme for the Longstone area of Saltash was announced, and a new branch of the Cornwall County Library was the first part of the scheme to be progressed. Alongside the library, the scheme was to comprise a new guildhall, police station, county health clinic, council offices and council chamber. The library was to house up to 15,000 books (including 1,000 for children, and a 750-volume student library) and apart from staff rooms and toilets, was designed as one open space with a double-height reading room. An outdoor reading area was also to be provided. The design of the library and the guildhall was intended to produce buildings of monumental, civic scale and dominate the scheme, forming its principal unifying axis. Access across the scheme was carefully planned, with a ‘family feel’ around the library, and pedestrian access across a bridge over a pool at the front. The library was eventually the only part of the Civic Centre scheme to be constructed.

The colours and materials used on the exterior of the library were designed to harmonise with the Cornish landscape: pale-grey concrete and white, rough rendering. Inside it was warm and inviting, including richly coloured fabrics for the chairs and Nigerian walnut for shelves, tables and balustrades. The ‘butterfly’ design of the roof was also a noted feature. Saltash Library was one of a series of five new branch libraries to be built by the council in the 1960s (the others were at St Austell, Newquay, Torpoint, and Helston) all designed by the County Architect’s Department under FK Hicklin, who recruited newly-qualified architects as job architects – at Saltash he was joined by Royston Summers. The new library was opened on 10 December 1963 by the Chairman of Cornwall County Council, Alderman KG Foster. It was built by S Carthew & Sons of Downderry and on opening had cost £20,000.

A single-storey extension was built on the rear in 1992 (excluded from the listing). Ownership was passed from the County Council to Saltash Town Council in 2019; the library remains in use.

Details

Public library, 1961-1963, Royston Summers of Cornwall County Council Architect’s Department under FK Hicklin.

MATERIALS: reinforced-concrete frame construction with shuttered, rendered and rough-cast finishes. Slim-profile aluminium framed windows. Internally some original Nigerian walnut joinery survives.

PLAN: the library is rectangular in plan and orientated facing west, with the north and south elevations slightly cranked inwards. Service rooms lie to the south and there is a mezzanine gallery to the east.

EXTERIOR: the library is designed in a Brutalist style, based on the proportions of the human figure of Le Corbusier’s modular system. It references Le Corbusier’s Palace of Justice at Chandigarh (completed in 1956). The butterfly (or Y-shaped) roof has deep convex eaves which rise higher at the front. The principal double-height elevation faces west, and has aluminium framed, full-height glazing set back from the building line. The glazing is visually divided by slender shuttered-concrete piers, dividing the elevation into five irregular bays, with fin-like protruding end walls north and south finished with rough-cast concrete. The two piers to the north are oval in section and stand like columns separate from the front elevation. The entrance bay lies off-centre, flanked by flat-section concrete piers and a canopy. To the right again is the staircase bay and the southernmost bay has a high-level horizontal window; the wall here is rendered. The vertical elements rise to the upward-sweeping canopy of the roof, which has a white painted finish underneath. The window glazing system on the front elevation is a regular, alternating pattern of vertical rows of squares and rectangles; the entrance door and its surround appear to be replacements and a further door has been inserted five bays from the left.

The north and south elevations are cranked inwards and meet slightly off-centre and below the roof valley; a full height canted window marks this meeting point on each elevation – that to the south contains a doorway. On the south elevation there is also an L-shaped window to the first floor and a horizontal window on the ground floor. The rear elevation (east) has a canopy formed by the roof and the end walls again protrude to north and south. The full-height glazing here is largely obscured by a single-storey extension (excluded from the listing), although the gallery glazing survives.

INTERIOR: the library is entered on its west side into the double-height reception area. Opposite the entrance is the mezzanine, which is supported on shuttered-concrete H-frames and cantilevered at the ends. Below the mezzanine is the main reception desk, the children’s library and the original main stack area, which has an acoustic-tile ceiling. The mezzanine is accessed to the adjacent to the entrance, via a wide, dog-leg staircase with heavy Nigerian walnut balustrades. On all sides, the mezzanine has railed balustrades of the same timber; slim steel rails have been inserted and a steel railing added on top for further protection. At the far south of the building are the service rooms. All other fixtures and finishes appear to be later-C20 or C21.

Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the extension added to the east of Saltash Library in 1992 is not of special architectural or historic interest and is excluded from the listing.

Sources

Books and journals
Beacham, P, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Cornwall, (2014), 611
Harwood, E, Space, Hope and Brutalism, English Architecture 1945-79, (2015), 472, 667
Cruickshank, D, 'Modulor Man' in Architects' Journal, , Vol. 185, (4 March 1987), 28-30
Websites
RIBA Journal: Royston Summers (1931-2012) obituary, 1 October 2012 , accessed 02/02/2021 from https://www.ribaj.com/culture/obituary-royston-summers-1931-2012
RIBA Pix: Branch Library, Callington Road, Saltash, Cornwall , accessed 02/02/2021 from https://www.architecture.com/image-library/ribapix/image-information/poster/branch-library-callington-road-saltash-cornwall/posterid/RIBA51504.html
Saltash History and Heritage: Saltash Library , accessed 02/02/2021 from https://saltash.org/saltash-history/saltash-library.html
The Modern House: Royston Summers , accessed 02/02/2021 from https://www.themodernhouse.com/directory-of-architects-and-designers/royston-summers/
Other
‘County’s Most Modern Library Opened at Saltash’, in The Guardian, Thursday December 12 1963, p2
‘New Civic Centre Planned for Saltash’, in The Guardian, Thursday January 31 1963, p10
‘Saltash Mayor Opens New Library’, in The Western Morning News, Thursday September 22 1949, p5
‘Thoughts from Saltash: Better Library Needed’, in The Guardian, Thursday January 16 1958, p2

Legal

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

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

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