The Public Library – Crow Lane, Newton

The first library in Newton-in-Makerfield was, we believe, the one in connection with the Mechanics Institute held at the Printing Works. It contained some 400 volumes, which had a fair number of readers. Adult members paid 2s. 6d per quarter, 1s 6d. to the library, and 1s to the newsroom; junior members paid 1s. 3d. per quarter, 9d to the library and 6d to the newsroom. In the first quarter (April, May, June, 1853) there were 41 members. In 1868 the now extensive library in connection with the Viaduct Institute, with its collection of over 6,000 volumes and its numerous membership, was started, the subscription at present being one penny per week to the Institute, which includes the library and newsroom and outside recreations.Upon the stocking of the public library, these volumes were offered for sale to the committee; but so low a price, in the estimation of the Institute committee, was tendered for them, that they decided not to sell, and so the library is continued for the benefit of the companys work-people. The public library is called “free” in the sense that it is open to the public without entrance fee or subscription; but, its maintenance being provided by a penny rate, every householder paying 5s. in rent pays at the rate of 9d. a year towards this maintenance, and others a smaller or larger amount according to the assessment of the houses in which they live.

The following particulars of the proceedings which led to the building of the library were given, on the opening day, by Mr. T. Ormand, J.P., a gentleman of whom we hope to say a good word in the right place:

The question of a public library came before the Council in 1902. Application was made to Mr. Carnegie, who finally offered 4,000 on three conditions:-

(1) that they at once adopt the Libraries Acts ;
(2) that they forthwith levy a penny rate for the purpose of stocking the library;
(3) that a site be given free of cost to the ratepayers.

The Council very properly laid the matter before Lord Newton with a view, if possible, to see if he would give a site for the building. His lordship suggested it would he better to ascertain the feeling of the public, and a public meeting held in November 1903, which unanimously recommended the Council to accept the offer of Mr. Carnegie. The Council then thought it would be better to take a poll of the ratepayers, and there was a decided majority in favour of the adoption of the acts and the acceptance of Mr. Carnegies offer. Lord Newton, on being communicated with, very generously offered, free of all cost, the site upon which that beautiful building had been erected. It was at first thought they could combine with it a technical school, but many things were in the way, and had they waited for it they would have waited a considerable time for a library.

Lord NEWTON . An Imperialist without Guile. MP for Newton. Educated Eton. Oxford. MP 1886 to 1898 when he went to House of Lords after the death of his father. Depicting speaking in Parliament.
After Lord Newton had so generously given the site, they invited competitive designs for a building to cost, including furniture, not more than ?4,000. The designs were adjudicated upon by an assessor, and ultimately the design of Mr. Myrtle Smith, a London architect, was accepted, and Mr. Harry Fairclough, of Warrington, was the contractor. The cost of the building had been well within the estimate; it had cost nearly ?4,000, and the committee intended to spend the balance in purchasing a suitable bronze tablet to commemorate that days ceremony. The penny rate levied four years ago had realised ?1,015. out of this ?600 had been spent in purchasing hooks. They had ?400 left to purchase other volumes. On the shelves and around the library were 1,239 novels. That was not a big proportion, only 30 per cent of the total number of volumes. There were 772 volumes of history and biography, 143 relating to poetry and the drama, 539 science and art works, and 850 general literature. In the Reference Library they had no fewer than 500 volumes. – Earlestown Guardian.

The library was opened by Lord Newton (the donor of the site) on July 22nd, 1909, in the presence of a number of invited guests who followed his lordship into the building, and an assembly of uninvited ratepayers who, on account of lack of room, were prevented from entering by the police until after the preliminaries and speechifying were over. His lordship then unlocked the door with a golden key, presented to him by Mr. Ormand as chairman of the Library Committee – a beautiful piece of workmanship supplied by the well-known firm of Elkington, and ornamented with the arms of the Council and a miniature view of the library; after which the company proceeded to the newsroom, where the opening ceremony was completed. After Councillor Ormands statement, as given above, Lord Newton, having thanked the committee for meeting his convenience in fixing the date of the ceremony, in the course of a long speech, made the following points :-

Andrew Carnegie
Mr. Carnegie had made his gift on a most ingenious method, by which the taint of charity was removed. . . . He believed it was in Lancashire that free libraries first started, the first being established in Salford in 1550, Liverpool, Manchester, and Warrington following suit in 1852, and it might be said they led the way in this particular movement. These libraries had always been distinguished for the intelligence with which they had been administered. . . . He was only too glad to bring his humble tribute to bear in recognition of the unselfish use Mr. Carnegie had made of his vast wealth. .. . Their library was now established on a firm foundation, and the question before them was, How are you going to use it? . . . What he would venture with all submission to suggest to the committee and librarian was that they should firmly resist popular pressure. It was not the task of a library committee to humbly follow in the wake of public opinion with regard to literature; it was their duty to elevate and stimulate the popular taste in that direction. . . . The object of that library was not to give pleasure to the idle and frivolous by providing them with sensational literature, it was not merely to supply reference works for the purpose of technical instruction, but to develop the general culture and to improve the literary taste of the community, and to enable everyone?rich and poor alike?to enjoy one of the greatest pleasures of life, that of reading what was really worth reading.

Councillor W. Thompson moved a vote of thanks to Lord Newton for his generous free gift of the site for the library and for his kindness in making a special journey from London to open it. Councillor W. Collingwood seconded the motion, mentioning the general characteristic of the population of the township as a community of workers who would take advantage of such opportunities as they had to use the library. The Rev. James Allatt moved a vote of thanks to Mr. Carnegie. He hoped the library would become the depository of books and even manuscripts relating to the history of this part of the county, from the time of Oswald, “the kingly saint and saintly king,” onward, and serve to inspire noble thoughts and generous activities for the public welfare. (We have pleasure in giving the Rev. J. Allatts excellent address in its entirety): Dir. Chairman, Lord Newton, Ladies and Gentlemen,?A conspiracy of kindness has placed me in a position to which I am in no wise entitled ; but, knowing how indulgent all present will be towards many and great deficiencies, I respond to the chairmans call, though not with a cheerful zeal. It was not my good fortune to be born in Newton-in-Makerfield, but, having lived in it for forty-six years, I will endorse what has already been said, that it is an all-round pleasure to have Lord Newton personally present on an occasion so full of interest to the whole community as the opening of this Public Library.

“There is no strip of country more rich in historic associations than that which is included within the ancient Fee of Makerfield ; and we may cherish the hope that this library will attract to itself books, pamphlets, old engravings, and even manuscripts?all more or less buried in obscurity?to illuminate the story of bygone days, from the time when?as I hold?St. Oswald fell at Winwick, in the defence of faith and fatherland, on a spot near to which a church, bearing his name, has stood for centuries, and still stands, to commemorate the short heroic life of one who has been justly called “a kingly saint and a saintly king.”

The resolution which I have the honour to propose is, “That the best thanks of the Council, on behalf of the inhabitants of the district, be and are hereby tendered to Dr. Andrew Carnegie for his munificence in providing ?4,000 with which to erect and furnish the library.”

In the limited time at our disposal, the spoken words must necessarily be few and in a sense formal, but they are charged through and through with the spirit of sincerity. The gift is indeed magnificent and is fully appreciated, and our thanks are heartfelt and true.

The time was when such institutions as this had to he vigorously championed and defended against all manner of charges; but that time has so far passed away that we need not dwell upon it. The well-known saying of Carlyle that the true university of these days is a collection of books, has taken hold of the popular mind and made a favourable impression on others. Education is one of the things that are never finished, and libraries are now the school-books of the grown-ups.

We begin here with a selection of 4,000 volumes, and the catalogue will be issued slightly below cost price with the hope that a copy may find a place in every house, so that all may know what treasures of wisdom and knowledge are within their reach. The catalogue itself is meant to be a means of grace, for, notwithstanding all that has been accomplished, if these books be not widely read, twere all alike as if we had them not. This library contains as yet books in English only; but what a literature that is! With all our national conceit, we have not fully measured its meaning and worth. Mr. Matthew Arnold?a most competent witness?quotes with manifest approval a remark of Lord Macaulay, that ” the literature now extant in the English language is of far greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together.”

It seems to me that this Public Library may not inaptly be likened to one of those buildings seen near our ports and known as elevators. Their function is to raise the precious grain which numerous ships have borne from far-distant places and distribute it among those who are eager to receive it, that they may eat and live and grow thereby.

Opening Ceremony
The readers will have access to the best possible society and come under the most uplifting and refining influences, no matter how humble and obscure their earthly lot may be. And whenever one grows tired and weary, these chosen friends and companions can be quietly “shut up” without danger of giving offence, which is more than can be said of any other friend or teacher. They are at all times ready to cheer us, as one has said, with that true friendship which never deceived hope nor deserted sorrow.

Lord Beaconsfield, in one of the happiest of his felicitous phrases, once said on an occasion similar to this, “Knowledge is like the mystic ladder in the patriarchs dream. Its base rests on the primeval earth, its crest is lost in the shadowy splendour of the empyrean ; while the great authors who for traditionary ages have held the chain of science and philosophy, of poesy and erudition, are its angels ascending and descending the sacred scale, and maintaining, as it were, the communication between man and heaven.” Walking with wise men one becomes wise and learns that while he must have bread to live, he liveth not by bread alone but by communion with the highest.

A large section of this library, as of others, is occupied with works of fiction, and there is probably nothing so enervating to the mind as indiscriminate novel reading. Lord Newton has already struck a much-needed note of warning on this subject. It is certainly nowhere more true than it is in this department that we pursue our pleasures more and enjoy them less. Mrs. Humphrey Ward has, in effect, told us that, apart from the previous mastery of some stiff book or other, it is quite impossible to get at the best which a good novel is capable of yielding. When a writer of fiction speaks out so plainly, the advice is worthy of all attention. But it may be permitted me to say by way of apology that those who will use this Public Library will necessarily be engaged day by day in hard manual labour. The tired workers, whether through toil of hand or brain, fulfil the conditions of the accomplished author, and, if here they are enabled to enter into the fairyland of romance when the drudgery of the day is over, they at any rate have earned the right of entrance, and may be expected to come forth the better equipped for the duties of the morrow. (Lord Newton, “Hear, hear.”)

The Lending Department has received careful attention and generous treatment, because through it the library goes to the fire-side of the people, and may create a taste for wholesome reading in the home life and among the children and young people. It is impossible to estimate the influence for good in years to come of a library for the people and supported by the people.

To-day we in this room and thousands outside unite without distinction of sect or party to send our own Public Library on its beneficent mission with a hearty God-speed. May it long serve to inspire noble thoughts and call forth generous activities for the public good and fill the hearts of many with a dauntless courage for the right!

“Through the age?s one increasing purpose runs, And the thoughts of men are widened by the process of the suns.
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth?”

Councillor Borron seconded the vote of thanks to Mr. Carnegie and said he would take the liberty of acknowledging the debt of gratitude to Mr. Allatt for the great trouble he had taken, along with the librarian, in selecting the books. Mr. Ormand moved, and Mr. Collingwood seconded, a vote of thanks to the chairman, who suitably responded.


The style was selected to harmonise with the adjoining Technical School, the materials used in the front being Accrington facing bricks and Darley Dale stone. The front is enclosed by massive iron entrance gates and substantial railings upon stone-topped brickwork. A flight of six broad stone steps leads to the swing entrance doors, over which appear the words, “Public Library,” and above a sculptured representation of the Maker-field crest. The building is one-storied, designed on modern lines for facility of access and easiness of supervision. The entrance opens into an octagonal hall, top-lighted, from which access is obtained to all the public rooms. A ladies room, accommodating sixteen readers, is provided at the entrance on the right. A commodious, well-lighted news and magazine room occupies the rest of the right-hand half of the building, on the north and west walls of which are slopes for twenty-one newspapers; the tables will accommodate thirty-four readers. This room is well lighted by large windows in the west and south walls. On the left, at the entrance, is the librarians and committee room, adjoining which is the lending room with a long recessed counter and book-shelves arranged at right angles. On the partition wall, opposite this counter, is the brass plate recording Mr. Carnegies gift: –

Urban District of Newton in Makerfield. PUBLIC LIBRARY.

The Library
At the south-east part of the building is the reference room, accommodating twenty readers. In the basement are a staff room and a book store or filing room for newspapers. The building is heated by hot water.


The stock comprises some 7,000 volumes, and includes the chief works on all important subjects. In the selection, the professions and trades of the neighbourhood have been fully considered. The books are fully classified on the Dewey decimal classification system, which brings all books of a subject together, and no pains have been spared to make the catalogue thoroughly up-to-date in every respect. This work has been carried out by the librarian, Mr. S. G. Corlett, F.L.A., who was educated at the Kings (Cathedral) School, Gloucester, spent eight years as head assistant at Gloucester Public Library, and was appointed to our library previous to its opening in July, 1909. A striking feature of this department is the Graham indicator, which, for fiction only, shows all the authors in alphabetical order, the number of their works following in sequence. It shows all books in at a glance, and saves the borrower much time and trouble. The reference portion of the library contains an excellent collection of volumes, including engineering and kindred subjects. A good local collection has also been formed and is being continually increased, particulars of which will be found in the card catalogue in the room.


The excavations were commenced on the 2oth January, 1908. The Public Libraries Acts were adopted on the 27th March, 1905. The Librarian was appointed on the 25th August, 19o8. The building was opened on the 22nd July, 1909. The Lending Department was opened on the 26th July, 1909. The Catalogue was published on December 24th, 1911. During the year ending July 31st, 1915, 28,917 volumes and 550 borrowers cards were issued, the total cards in force being 1,234. In the reference department 2,622 volumes were consulted, which total does not include books replaced by borrowers.

The Library & Technical School
LIBRARY COMMITTEE, 1916.-Councillors C. B. F. Borron, J.P. (chairman of committee), E. L. Bent, J.P. (chairman of the Council), T. Airey, W. Collingwood, J.P., W. Davies, C. McGregor Duncan, C. W. Emmett, J. Frawley, W. Goslin, C.C., J. Higham, Dr. W. Latham, S. Marsh, J. W. Pennington, L. E. Pilkington, J.P., C.C., D. J. Wightlnan, Rev. H. C. Moor, M.A., Rev. T. L. Climer ; Messrs. A. Brown, C, Cole, A. Peake, J.P., F. F. Ramage, J. W. Thorpe ; Mrs. C. W. Emmett and Mrs. W. Goslin, and Miss S. E. Watkins ; Secretary to the committee, Mr. C. Cole ; Librarian, Mr. S. G. Corlett ; Assistant, Miss Hilda Seddon.

Ffrom the 1916 Vol II, J H Lane, History of Newton in Makerfield, Transcribed by Steven Dowd ©2004


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