The Carnegie Free Library

Before its current home in Church Street our library was within the Town Hall.  Readers of a certain age will have memories of the lovely old library there. carnegie-free-libray-2 It was built with £3,000 donated by Andrew Carnegie.  Carnegie, 1835-1919, was a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist and one of the richest Americans ever.  During the last 18 years of his life he gave away 90% of his fortune – about $350 million (in 2015 share of GDP, $78.6 billion) to charities, foundations and universities.  2,509 Carnegie libraries were built around the world with his money, 660 of which were built in the U.K. and one of which was here in Rhyl.

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Andrew Carnegie. Photocredit : wikipedia

As long ago as the 1890s there were calls for a free library in Rhyl, as evidenced by letters to the local newspapers.  In 1902 it was heard that Mr Carnegie was giving money away for thousands of libraries.  In March 1905 the Rhyl Journal printed a letter from New York which confirmed that Rhyl would receive a sum of up to £3,000 to complete the library  building.  The newspaper also commented “The thanks of the town for the successful issue of the protracted and delicate negotiations with Mr Carnegie is largely due to Mr Rowlands* who has conducted the correspondence on the Council’s side with great skill”.  Not everyone was pleased though, as the £3,000 came with certain conditions resulting in a small rise in the rates -“some agreed and some did not like to face the trifling penny rate”.  There was organised opposition but the ratepayers eventually decided to accept the offer by a majority of 245.

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Laying the Foundation Stones of Rhyl’s Carnegie Free Library

The library was built as an extension to the Town Hall.  On a windy January afternoon in 1906 the foundation stones were laid by the High Sherriff of Flintshire, Mr W.J.P Storey, J.P. and Councillor J.W Jones J.P. (Chairman R.U.D.C.). both of whom received  a solid silver trowel and mallet.

The Library was opened in April, 1907.  At the opening ceremony Mr J. Herbert Lewis M.P. said” Henceforth every man and woman in the town of Rhyl, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, will own a library if not in their own houses, at least near their own doors”
Situated on the site of the old Police station and adjoining the Town Hall, the work was entirely in character – Penmaenmawr stone facing with Cefn stone quoins, heads, sills and strings. The library occupied the ground floor and comprised of a reading room, reference room, lending library, store room and Librarian’s room.  The first floor consisted of a stage, dressing rooms and conveniences.  The whole  of the new building was  heated with low pressure hot water apparatus and radiators and lit throughout by electricity.

*Mr Arthur Rowlands was the Town Clerk of Rhyl.

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2 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, Community, People

2 responses to “The Carnegie Free Library

  1. Sue Malings

    My Great Grandfather, Samuel Frederick Malings, was the Librarian at the Literary Institute and Reading Room in 1876. Can anyone tell me where this was situated?

  2. Hello Sue, I’ve checked “North Wales Directories” and in both 1874 and 1876 the directories list: “Literary Institute and Reading Room, 51a, High Street. Samuel Malings, Librarian.” I checked the years before and after but could see no further mention. Hope this helps.

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