Sunday, 24 January 2021

Wells Library

 I recently had a very vague memory of visiting the library as a child at locations in both the market square and the old blue school at the bottom of Chamberlain street so I thought I should do some research to see if I could find anything about these locations. The Wells Journal is available on the British Newspaper Archive, and after a lot of searching I found the following.

Way back in 1900, it was noted by a visiting speaker at the Annual Meeting of the Wells Student Association that there was no free public library in the town. (WJ, 15 February 1900). 

A letter by EWW Goold, (WJ, 10 January 1930) noted that the County Rural Libraries Scheme provided a small number of books to a library at the Central School, but this was not widely publicized. In the same issue it was reported that the Corporation was considering a library in conjunction with the County and the East Room [of the town hall] be used for this purpose. The county would provide the books, the council would be responsible for accommodation, storage and distribution. The library opened on 21 February 1930 and would be open every Friday from 6-8pm. (WJ, 07 March 1930).

The library proved very popular in its first year, outgrowing its original space and was moved to the Small Hall in April 1931. (WJ, 06 March 1931 and 20 March 1931). In 1938 it moved again to the former rating office on the ground floor (WJ 06 May 1938). It should be noted that it had been run by volunteers, and that was now managed largely by Toc H

It remained in the town hall for twenty years. By 1957 some 80,000 books were being borrowed a year and library could only shelve 2000 (WJ, 13 September 1957). There were also plans to renovate the town hall, so other premises were sought. A number were considered, and after much bickering the front rooms of the two upper floors of the former Bekynton Cafe, 21-23 Market Place, were leased from the Church Commissioners, despite the difficulty this might present to elderly clients. The new facility was opened in April 1959. (WJ, 1 May 1959)

In 1966 the journal reports that the owner of the building would not extend the lease. City council likely to buy the former boys section of the Blue school and let part of it to the county for the library. (WJ 25 November 1966). The library had moved to the old Blue school by March 1967 on a temporary basis until the new library opened in Union Street in 1968.

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