The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History

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Updated:  28 November 2011 

Mr Wright, the Plymouth Borough Librarian, not only established himself as a local historian and poet but also as a librarian.  He contributed many articles to the Transactions of the Library Association and also started the branch library network by establishing Reading Rooms in outlying districts.  These had small libraries attached.  He also started supplying books to many of the elementary schools in the Borough, especially those under the control of the Plymouth School Board.

The Saint Budeaux Branch Library was opened by Devonport Corporation on Friday February 10th 1899.  It was located near the railway station.  The provision of such a facility was included in the Provisional Order permitting the amalgamation of Saint Budeaux into the Borough of Devonport.  As a result, the opening was conducted by the Mayor of Devonport, Councillor W Hornbrook.  The Library was open all day, which was claimed to be unusual for any branch library in Devon or Cornwall.  During the opening ceremony Councillor H Whitfeld commented that this facility 'would lessen the desire of the inhabitants of St Budeaux to go into Devonport'.

By December 1916, two years after the amalgamation of Plymouth, Devonport and East Stonehouse, there were branch libraries at

  • Duke Street, Devonport (the old Devonport Library);
  • Saint Mary Street, East Stonehouse;
  • Old Laira Road, Laira;
  • 77 Station Road, Keyham Barton;
  • Morice Town;
  • between 33/34 Wilton Street;
  • 40 Keyham Street, Weston Mill;
  • 10 Yeoman's Terrace, Wolseley Road, Saint Budeaux and
  • Peverell Park Road, Peverell.

The former fire station in Old Laira Road was converted into a new Branch Library and opened on Tuesday Match 10th 1925.  The Branch Librarian in 1935 was Mrs L M Westlake.

New premises at Saint Budeaux next to Saint Boniface Church were opened on Friday November 8th 1929.  The librarian in 1935 was Mr Alfred George Laws.

The North Prospect Branch Library is located in Greatlands Place, off Wolseley Road, Devonport, Plymouth.  It replaced the Ford Branch, which had been located in a private house in Station Road.  The new building was officially opened by the Deputy Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman G Scoble, on the evening of Tuesday September 19th 1933 with the words 'May those who use this building gather wisdom from its contents'.  It could hold, when fully stocked, some 6,000 books although it was started with just 1,000.  [1] 

Ham House was given to the City in 1947 and became the Ham Branch Library on Saturday October 2nd 1948.  It was officially opened on that day by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman H J Perry.  The first floor was the home of Mr Verley James Wallen and his family until the early 1960s, so his daughter, now Mrs Catherine Haggerty, states.  The part above the lending library was used as a store for some bound volumes of the Western Morning News and Western Evening Heralds.  It also housed some Victorian dolls that had been used in a display and some pretty horrible photographs of the Holocaust.  When the Wallen family left, the flat was let to a family called Searle.  After a considerable problem from vandalism it ceased to be used as a library in the 1970s and was divided into apartments and painted a garish pink, according to Mr Keith Perry, who lived nearby.  Miss E P Jacobs was the Branch Librarian in 1955.

A small Branch Library was opened at East Stonehouse in 1949.

Ernesettle Branch Library was originally located in a barn on the edge of Tamerton Foliot Creek, which became increasingly inconvenient.  In 1959 it was announced that it was to be moved to new building near the two local schools.  [2] 

The present Saint Budeaux Branch Library was opened on Saturday April 6th 1963.  Built by Messrs Selleck, Nicholls & Williams Ltd at a cost of some 35,000, it was the first of our new district libraries that would provide lending and reference facilities.  After speeches in the Saint Boniface Church Hall, the ceremonial party went across to the library building, where Sir James Cook, Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, declared the Library open in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman H G Mason.  Mr J Williams, a director of the contractors, presented Sir James with an inscribed pen as a memento of the occasion.  [3]

The Southway Branch Library opened by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Mr Walter Ainsworth, on Monday July 27th 1970.  The opening ceremony was held in the adjacent church hall.  The total cost of the project was in excess of 40,000, which included 25,000 new books, but the building itself cost only 15,000 of that.  The branch was intended to serve Glenholt, Derriford and Roborough as well as the Southway Estate.  [4]

Mr Best Harris retired on March 31st 1974, when local government reorganisation put the Plymouth Library Service under the wing of the County Library at Exeter.  Under the reorganisation, Mr V J Wallen, chief administrative assistant, became the Assistant Area Librarian for West Devon.  [5]

The prefabricated Plympton Branch Library was erected in 1964 but was burned down in September 2008.

The present Plymstock Branch Library was opened by the Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Mrs Vivien Pengelly, on May 8th 2009 as part of a 800,000 joint scheme with Spectrum Housing Association.  It combines the Library with 24 affordable homes and accommodation for visually impaired people.  Constructed by ROK, it is almost twice the size of the library it replaced and not only includes meeting rooms but also a small cafe.  It will feature a window especially designed for the Library by Mr Brian Luxford, a local stained glass artist, which will depict events from Plymstock's history.  [6]


[1]  "Libraries for New Areas: Building Opened at North Prospect", Western Morning News, Plymouth, September 20th 1933.

[2]  "Ernesettle library transfer plan", Western Morning News, Plymouth, September 18th 1959.

[3]  "35,000 branch library opens at St Budeaux", Western Morning News, Plymouth, April 8th 1963.

[4]  "Southway's new library opened", Western Morning News, Plymouth, July 25th 1970.

[5]  "Mr Best Harris Will Retire in March", Western Morning News, Plymouth, January 12th 1974.

[6]  "New library doubles in size", Plymouth People, Plymouth City Council, Spring 2009.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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