Above: Horbury Library, Westfield Road. Picture by Helen Bickerdike, May 2016.
On 1st February 1904, the Clerk of Horbury Urban District Council was instructed to apply to the Local Government Board for permission to build a public free library on land adjacent to the newly opened Town Hall. A grant of £2,000 was obtained from the Carnegie Foundation along with money raised locally. The foundation stone was laid by Cllr. A. Horsfield J.P. on the 4th January 1905 and is shown below:
On Wednesday 14th February 1906, the great and the good gathered to witness the opening ceremony. The "Wakefield Express" described the construction materials:1
"The wall stones are mainly of the best white Delph stone, and the Ashlar from Crossland Moor, which is very durable. Best Westmorland blue slates cover the roof. The furnishing, glazed partitions and principal inner doors are of French polished oak and partially glazed with French embossed brilliant art plate glass."
A description of the internal layout painted the following picture:
"A large hall extends from the entrance lobby almost from the front to the rear of the building. On the left side of the entrance is the general news-room (45ft 6in by 27ft), a portion being screened off for ladies. There is accommodation for 62 gentlemen and 20 lady readers. The other principal rooms are all on the right-hand side of the entrance, and are the lending library (24ft by 28ft), reference library (15ft by 9ft), reference room (23ft 6in by 12ft) and librarian’s room (9ft by 8ft). The reference room will accommodate 16 readers. The lending library has shelving accommodation for 10,000 volumes and the reference library for 3,000 volumes."
The design of the new library was the work of architect Mr. B. Watson, of Batley. Contracts for the construction were undertaken by Henry Fallas & Sons of Horbury (stonemasons), Jeffery & Peace of Batley (joiners), John Townsend of Horbury (plumber), Beckwith Bros. of Brighouse (heating), W. Pletts of Wakefield (plasterer), Helliwell & Co. of Brighouse (pattern glazing), Clegg Bros. of Dewsbury (furnishers), John Hancock of Horbury (painter) and John Atkinson of Leeds (slater).
According to the "Wakefield Express" report1, the opening ceremony unfolded like this:
"First, Cllr. A. Neil, as chairman of the library committee, requested Cllr Horsfield, as chairman of the Council, to open the library and hand it over to the ratepayers of Horbury. Mr. Watson, the architect next handed Mr. Horsfield a silver gilt key, which bore the inscription, “Presented by the architect and builders on the opening of the Carnegie Free Library, Horbury, to Arthur Horsfield JP, February 14th 1906”. Mr Horsfield accordingly unlocked the door and expressed pleasure at opening the institution."
Presiding over the proceedings was Cllr. Neil, supported by Cllr. Horsfield, the Mayor of Ossett, Cllr. J. H. Nettleton, Cllr. J. Harrop, Mr. Trevor Edwards, Mr. Watson (architect) and Mr. J. Charlesworth (hon. secretary). Cllr. Thornton gave his top ten thoughts about free libraries:
1. A free library is of use to young students in science and literature.
2. As an instrument to help form a habit of reading for young people from 14 to 21, the age when habit and character are largely determined.
3. As a democratic institution to spread knowledge and some culture amongst the people.
4. As an adjunct and absolute necessity to the great educational system now being elaborated.
5. Because the education persons voluntarily seek for themselves is the best, the most lasting and brings the greatest pleasure.
6. Because biographical reading, such as the books of Stuiles [name not clear] and others, are great incentives to practical advancement on practical lines.
7. Because reading is one of the most delightful and advantageous of pleasures, being put by Lord Avebury in a foremost place in his ‘Pleasures of Life’.
8. Because as an educational factor for industrial workers, who will never rise above the ordinary level, but can be improved in general information by reading.
9. Because our British literature, the richest and best in the world, and of invaluable and intrinsic worth, ought to be made available for the use of the people.
10. Because the influence of books is only comparable to the influence of living men. The present is and the future will be, built upon the past, and a good library is a storehouse of the knowledge and wisdom, the trials and failures, the advances and the recessions, the battles and the victories, of the bygone times, so that he who runs may read.”
Cllr. Thornton went on to say that £406 17s public money spent on education in Horbury in 1880, contrasted with £2,198 16s 3d spent to the year ending 31st March 1905, logically involved the provision of a library where young people could have a means of improving their knowledge and a means of pleasure.
Above: Some of the wall plaques and floor displays at Horbury Library, including the two plaques to commemorate the town's War Savings campaigns for 1943 and 1944. Pictures by Helen Bickerdike, May 2016.
The first Librarian was James Kirkpatrick, who was also a tobacconist. The reading room was open daily from 9am until 9.30 pm and the lending library was open Mondays and Wednesdays from 6.30pm until 8.30pm and Saturday afternoons, 2pm until 5pm. Evidently malicious damage to a library book could result in 6 months imprisonment “with or without hard labour.”
Following the official opening there was a celebratory reception in the Co-operative Hall, hosted by Cllr. and Mrs. Horsfield. The "Wakefield Express" described the party:
"The arrangements were all on an excellent scale and nothing that could conduce to the pleasure of the guests was omitted. Cllr. Horsfield once more showed himself a genial host and his wife a graceful hostess. The place was tastefully decorated and in the big room an orchestral band played on the platform, screened amid greenery. A Leeds humourist and Mr. Alf Fallas entertained the company. The refreshment arrangements were in the hands of Mr. Hagenbach, the well-known Wakefield caterer. Downstairs, there was a smoke-room, the liquid refreshment here being supplied by Mr. A. Moodie, Wakefield. Judging by the snatches of conversation, everyone, upstairs and downstairs, was having a good time."
Cllr. Neil proposed a vote of thanks to Cllr. and Mrs. Horsfield for their generous hospitality. Cllr. Sykes seconded, also reminding everyone “…how acceptable financial contributions to the library would be.”
Proposing a vote of thanks to Mr. Charlesworth (hon secretary of the committee), Cllr. Harrop gave him praise for his ability and energy, calling him “…the heart and soul of the committee.” Cllr. Harrop then said he would give a cheque for £30 and Mr. Poppleton would give £2 6s. In reply Mr. Charlesworth announced that the committee would spend about £100 on books, once their finances were straightened out. He ended by urging schoolmasters to “…encourage a love of reading in their scholars.”
On the 6th September 1921, the Council acknowledged an anonymous donation of £20 which enabled the Library Committee to buy 29 volumes of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”.
On the 19th December 1940, the Public Library Committee decided that if members of H. M. Forces did not make more use of the Reading Room it would close at 7.30pm instead of 9pm.2
In 2000, the Friends of Horbury Library were awarded a grant of nearly £5,000 to create a community archive. It was to include old photographs and documents about Horbury and district.
In 2005, to celebrate the centenary of the library, a tapestry was unveiled; three years earlier, Janet Taylor-White had been asked to create it. Helped by an army of over 70 local stitchers, the tapestry depicts scenes of Horbury life. Measuring 8ft by 4ft, the tapestry took a team of 20 many weeks to piece together. The finished result was framed and is on permanent display in the library.
Above: The interior of Horbury Library after recent refurbishment in 2013. The newly refurbished library was opened by local cabinet member for Libraries Cllr. Dave Dagger. The Library was repainted, and fitted with new furniture, lighting, blinds and carpets to provide a light and airy atmosphere. The children's section boasts comfy seating and a junior study area, whilst adults can relax on sofas, read or browse the internet, and benefit from a new self-service book issue machine.
What is a Carnegie Library?
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was born to humble beginnings in Dunfermline. Eldest son of Will and Margaret Carnegie, he emigrated to America, along with his parents and younger brother Tom in 1848, after cottage weaving was overtaken by industrialisation. Will and his father-in-law, Thomas Morrison, were members of the Chartist movement who believed conditions would improve when the masses took over. The movement failed. Andrew was 13 years old when the family arrived in New York. They finally settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania - a suburb of Pittsburgh, where they had friends and family.
Andrew first worked in a cotton mill, earning $1.20 per week. A year later he was hired as a messenger for a local telegraph company where he taught himself to use the equipment. With this skill he landed a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad and was promoted to superintendent by the age of 24. Not just ambitious, young Carnegie was a voracious reader and he took advantage of the generosity of an Allegheny citizen, Colonel James Anderson, who opened his library to local working boys - a rare opportunity in those days. Through the years, books provided most of Andrew Carnegie’s education, remaining invaluable as he rapidly progressed through his career.
By the time he was 30, he had amassed business interests in iron works, steamers on the Great Lakes, railroads and oil wells. He was subsequently involved in steel production and built the Carnegie Steel Corporation into the largest steel manufacturing company in the world.
“It was from my own early experience that I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive…as the founding of a public library.”
He is best known though for his philanthropic tendencies which began around 1870. His gifts of free public library buildings began in his native Dunfermline and ultimately extended throughout the English-speaking world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In total, he endowed 2,509 public libraries, including Horbury.
“Whatever agencies for good may rise or fall in the future, it seems certain that the Free Library is destined to stand and become a never-ceasing foundation of good to all the inhabitants”
1. "Wakefield Express", Saturday 17th February 1906.
2. Horbury Library on the Wakefield Council web page.
3. Carnegie Corporation of New York
Helen Bickerdike, May 2016