The interior of the Bishop Wilson Memorial Library shows the bright red columns, blue painted canopy and yellow door frames, shelves and wall coverings.
The vibrant interior of the Bishop Wilson Memorial Library created to inspire children's imaginations. © Historic England
The vibrant interior of the Bishop Wilson Memorial Library created to inspire children's imaginations. © Historic England

Vibrant Post-War Primary School Library in Chelmsford Listed at Grade II

The Bishop Wilson Memorial Library in Chelmsford has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

The library (built 1983-1986) was created by eminent architect and academic Sir Colin St John Wilson who also designed the Grade I listed British Library in London and the Grade II* listed University of Oxford St Cross Building. It was built as a memorial to the architect’s father Henry Wilson, who was Bishop of Chelmsford from 1929 to 1950.

A remarkably vibrant interior

The building is part of the Bishops’ Church of England and Roman Catholic Primary School which was established to provide education for a growing population in the north east of Chelmsford during the 1980s.

The striking circular structure is reminiscent of older circular libraries, reading rooms and round churches. The red brick exterior conceals a remarkably vibrant and colourful interior.

Within the library, the door frame, desks, shelves and wall coverings are painted a brilliant yellow. Pairs of bright red columns support a blue-painted canopy which was purpose-built by a boat builder in Harwich. The canopy is pierced by circles arranged in the shape of zodiac constellations and a cylindrical lantern spills light through the canopy onto the reading desks.

Wilson’s vision was to inspire the primary school pupils’ imagination whilst meeting their educational needs.

The Bishop Wilson Memorial Library has inspired children for over 30 years with its vibrant and exciting learning space. Listing the library celebrates its importance to the story of Chelmsford and ensures that it is enjoyed by generations to come.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director (East of England) HIstoric England

Our wonderful library is a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of a busy school, where children can lose themselves in the many treasures of a good book. Its circular design gives a cosy feel yet it's big enough for a whole class - and the vibrant colours are perfect for our young children. It literally helps them to reach for the stars!

Greg Waters, Headmaster The Bishops' C of E and RC Primary School

Built at the same time as the British Library

The Bishop Wilson Memorial Library was under construction at the same time as the British Library. It is one of a number of library designs in which Wilson and his partner Mary Jane Long came to specialise and is perhaps the most successful example of Post-Modernism in post-war school design.

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