Hove Library

Thousands of A4 yellow posters appeared as a protest around town last year after the council unveiled plans to move Hove’s wonderful library from a delightful purpose-built building to the nearby town hall. The Church Road library was donated to the town by Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born American steel baron. Chris Hawtree, master deliverer of posters and founder of the Friends of Hove Library, tells me that the fight is not yet over.

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on 25th November 1835. Soon after moving to the USA with his family, he worked as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill. By 1865 he had established the Carnegie Steel Company which he later sold for $480 million. Throughout his life, he contributed massively to various charitable causes. In 1881, he began building libraries throughout the English-speaking world. By 1917, the termination of the program, Carnegie had spent over $56 million on a staggering 2,509 libraries. Before his death on 11th August 1919, Carnegie had given away over $350 million!

Hove’s Grade II Listed library opened in 1908. The semi-circular lending library was designed to allow free access to the books with maximum staff supervision. The Wolseley Room, a first floor addition, was paid for by Lady Wolseley to house her local studies archive and the papers of her father, Lord Wolseley. Originally a cupola (small roof dome) graced the building but I’m told that a buddleia growing inside it caused havoc with the brickwork. Had it been stemmed in time, the cupola would have survived.

The council did finally drop its plans to move the library. Amazingly, they now want to mix books for borrowing with the reference section, angering the 4,500 strong Friends of Hove Library. As I like to keep my column separate to my work in politics, I’ll leave it to the reader to see which party is causing the trouble and why. Chris recently told me, “Any successful library, large or small, acquires its own character, so much so that each reader feels as if it is a house of one’s own. The Carnegie Library does that marvellously. Its distinct, separate rooms – and skilful use of daylight throughout – provide everybody with a second home.” We discussed what makes the library great and what could be done to make it better. Watch this space for the announcement of the campaign to reinstate the long-lost cupola.