Kettering Library

This beautiful Grade II listed building opened in 1904 to great fanfare. Thousands attended the opening ceremony. Special trains brought guests from Scotland for the day. It was opened in person by the famous Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who had designed and paid for it as part of his long-term plan to give away most of his enormous wealth by the end of his life. Carnegie was born in Scotland and had grown up in poverty. He felt his life was saved by access to books. Kettering Library was one of many built by Carnegie throughout the English-speaking world as a thank you for his education, and one of 660 in the UK and Ireland.

His £8,450 donation to the town for its creation would be more than £250,000 in today’s money. The library was much wanted by the people of Kettering. As part of the promise to build they had to promise to use and support it. The land on which it was built was donated by a group of townspeople, and today it is still serving its original purpose as a centre of the community and source of information.

Its Arts and Crafts style design was based upon a central lending desk with oversight throughout the ground floor, called a panopticon. It originally comprised its own children’s wing to the left  of the main area. It has vaulted and ventilated ceilings, and beautiful mullioned and transomed casement windows. Materials used were relatively local: red Sandstock bricks from Hemel Hempstead, stone from Edith Weston Quarry in Rutland, and Collyweston slate. It was described at the time as “a jewelled casket of learning,” and was a source of pride for the town, as it should be now.

Researched by Alice Caswell

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