Old Carnegie LibraryOld Carnegie Library

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History of the building

Old Carnegie Hall
The Centenary of Coedpoeth Library by Dylan Hughes and Paul Jeorrett

The early years of the 20th century were a period of great change for the community of Coedpoeth, then part of Bersham Parish.

Amongst the issues dealt with by Bersham Parish Council at their meeting in February 1904 were matters pertaining to the National Telephone Company, which was considering the establishment of a call office in Coedpoeth, and the intention of the Tramway Company to extend their line to the village. The Parish Council also discussed the proposed Free Library and agreed that the architect should be Mr William Moss. The description was as follows: “The plan showed that the front of the Library will face Nant-road. The entrance hall will be seven feet wide. On the ground floor there will be a refreshment room and game room. The top rooms will consist of reading room, cloak room and Council room. There will also be a caretaker’s house adjoining”.

The work was to be paid for by a grant of £1,500 from Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, who funded 660 new libraries in the UK and Ireland between 1881 and 1917.

Four builders tendered for the work and it was given to Mr Samuel Moss in April 1904. It was anticipated that the building work would be completed by October 1904 at a cost of £1,200. The Free Library Committee also agreed to the provision of two baths within the library building at an additional cost of £45 to fulfill their duty under the Baths and Washhouses Act. A precept of one penny in the pound was ordered “for library purposes” and it was estimated that this would produce £66 7s 8d towards the running costs.

The name of Moss is synonymous with the establishment of Coedpoeth Library with William Moss as architect, Samuel Moss as the builder and (another) Samuel Moss, the local M.P., was instrumental in arranging the grant from Andrew Carnegie. The latter was at the time the Liberal Member of Parliament for East Denbighshire which he represented between 1897 and 1906. He was born in 1858, the second son of Enoch Moss of Broad Oak, Rossett and trained as a barrister at law becoming a JP in 1893. His main residences were at Hough Green in Chester and Accre Hall in Llandegla. He became a County Court Judge in 1906 and died in 1918.

On October 1st 1904 The Wrexham Advertizer was able to report: “The erection of the Free Public Library is almost completed. The building, built with local Penygelli quarries stone, Minera lime and Carnarvon slates bedded in Portland cement, presents and attractive appearance on which the inhabitants gaze with admiration. As you enter the building to the left of you is a large game-room in which a superior billiard table in intended to be placed. On the right is a refreshment-room, where refreshments will be obtainable during the opening hours of the library. On the same floor further on is a council room where Parish Council and other small meetings will be held. There is also on the same floor caretaker’s kitchen, and scullery. On the second floor, there are two good sized rooms, viz, the parish room and the reading-room. Dividing these two rooms is a sliding partition, thus enabling the room to be used as a lecture room. On the second floor are also cloak room, lavatory, lumber room, baths and two bedrooms”.

In deciding on the fixtures and fittings, the members of the Free Library Committee visited the free libraries of Hawarden and Chester. Furniture was to include pitch pine shelves. The Wrexham Gas Light Company were contracted to supply incandescent burners at a cost of £20 12s 6d

The Parish Council decided that the duties of caretaker should be combined for the Parish Hall and the Library at a salary of 6s per week. The Librarian’s weekly salary was fixed at 12s “with house, fire and light”. The Librarian was also to receive the takings from the refreshment room although there were strict limitations to the catering as no chips, green peas or fried fish were to be supplied. Families with children under 10 were precluded from applying on the grounds of “efficiency and quietness”. Despite this stipulation, there were 46 applications for the posts of librarian and caretaker.

The official opening of the Free Library was advertised in The Wrexham Advertizer for Saturday December 10th 1904:-

BERSHAM PARISH COUNCIL FREE LIBRARY, COEDPOETH
 
THE ABOVE WILL BE OPENED
BY
SAMUEL MOSS, Eeq., M.P.

ON MONDAY NEXT, DEC. 12TH, 1904
At 2 o’clock p.m.
When the Public are respectfully invited to attend

The Council will be pleased to receive Gifts of
Books, Periodicals or Pictures for the Library.

T. WILCOXON, Clerk

The opening ceremony took place on Monday, December 12th 1904 and Councillor Thomas Roberts, chairman of the Parish Council, presided over the proceedings. He asked Mr W. Moss, the architect of the buildings, to present a silver key to Mr Samuel Moss, the local Member of Parliament. In turn Samuel Moss unlocked the door and declared the Library open to the public to loud cheers. He expressed the hope that it might be a blessing to the people of Coedpoeth. Mr Joseph Wilcoxon, the clerk to the Parish Council, presented the chairman with a mallet and asked him to fix a tablet to the wall bearing the inscription “Bersham Parish Council. This Library was erected with a gift of £1,500 given by Andrew Carnegie, Esquire, Skibo Castle, and opened this day by Samuel Moss, Esquire, M.P.” In his speech to the assembled crowd, Samuel Moss M.P. declared that education was “the foremost question of the day” and he hoped that the great number of colliers in the district would use the Library

The first register of borrowers showed that the Library clearly served the working people of the district and that, of the first 20 registered members, half of them gave their occupation as coal miners. The first name to appear in the register is that of John Francis, collier, of 6 Caradog Road. Also included in the list of initial members were a painter, bootmaker, blacksmith, banksman, builder, grocer, estate agent, butcher and colliery owner. Only ratepayers could become members; others had to be guaranteed by a ratepayer “as a voucher for the character of the applicant”.

The Library also maintained a Visitors’ Book between 1905 and 1930. One of earliest comments was “hope the young people will make use of this place” and another remarked “this is the place for working men to utilise their time.”

In 1906, a printed catalogue was produced (and printed by T. Carrington of the local Star Press) and sold for 3d (pre-decimal) pence. The Library contained a host of well-known authors – George Eliot, Mrs Gaskell, Daniel Defoe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lewis Carroll and Daniel Owen. There were also contemporary science books, including a number of books on coal mining and mine surveying. Historical books included the local books by A.N. Palmer (after whom the local studies centre at Wrexham Museum is named), Pennant’s Tours in Wales and an early book by Winston Churchill entitled Men, Mines and Animals of South Africa.

The printed Catalogue also contained the rules and regulations of the Library. There were lengthy opening hours with the Reading Room open every day (except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day) between 10am and 10pm. The Reference Department was open between 10am and 8.30pm although the Lending Department had far shorter opening times (11am – 1pm and 6.00pm – 7.30pm). The books could only be collected from the shelves by the Librarian. A reader’s ticket was valid for 12 months at a cost of 1d and there were fines of 2d per week for any books that were not returned to the library on time. Unfortunately, children under 14 were not allowed to use the Library, a complete contrast to the situation in 2004.

Authors:
Dylan Hughes, Libraries Officer, Wrexham County Borough Council
Paul Jeorrett, User Services Manager, Information and Student Services, NEWI (now Glyndwr University).