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NEWTON ABBOT FREE LIBRARY AND JOHN PASSMORE EDWARDS

 

From The Teignmouth Post

Friday 4 January 1901

MR. PASSMORE EDWARDS AND NEWTON ABBOT

OFFER OF A FREE LIBRARY

"Mr. Passmore Edwards has offered to present to Newton Abbot, a home for a free library as a memorial to his mother, who was born in the town. It was originally Mr. Passmore Edwards' intention to present a hospital to the town, but he paid a visit to Newton  quite unknown to the inhabitants, and found that an excellent little hospital had just been provided. There the matter ended for a time.

Recently, Mr. H. T. Parker, a well-known member of the Newton Abbot Council, attended the consecration of the Devonian Lodge of Freemasons in London, at which the Lord chancellor was elected Worshipful Master. Mr. Parker had the pleasure of sitting opposite Mr. Passmore Edwards at the banquet, and in the course of conversation, the great philanthropist mentioned that it had been his intention to build an institution there in memory of his mother, but that apparently the need for such a place had been met. With ready wit, Mr. Parker suggested that there were other directions in which the town might be benefited.

On his return from London, Mr. Parker laid the facts before the Devon Lodge of Freemasons at Newton Abbot, and the brethren were naturally delighted at the possibility of the town benefiting from Mr. Passmore Edwards' liberality.

Consequently, a small committee of well-known townsmen, including Mr. Underhay, the Worshipful Master, Mr. Parker, Mr. Hambly, hon.sec. and Mr. G. H. Hearder, was appointed to open negotiations with Mr. Passmore Edwards. The correspondence thus opened has resulted in Mr. Passmore Edwards offering to give the town a Free Library Institution similar to those he has presented to Truro and other towns in Cornwall.

 

Newton Abbot Free Library

Passmore Edwards Public Library and Technical School, Newton Abbot

c. 1905

 

When the gift was confirmed, the Council proposed that a Technical School should be built with the Library and a site was chosen at the junction of Highweek Street and Market Street, the foundation stone being laid on 9 October 1902.

The chosen architect was Cornishman Silvanus Trevail and construction was completed in 1904. But in 1903, Mr. Trevail shot himself in a train while passing through a tunnel near Bodmin Road Station. The final work on the Library and School was completed by his assistant, Alfred Cornelius of Teignmouth who took over Trevail's practice in Truro. The completed building follows the original design except for the omission of a clock turret which was to have been placed at the corner of the building above the main entrance. The cost of the Library, which was opened in 1904 by the Right Hon. Redvers Buller, V.C., was £2,290 excluding the initial stock of books.

The interior of the original library was very different from a modern library interior. Readers did not have open access to the  books but were required to select from a listing of available volumes   at the Librarian's desk; they then waited patiently while assistants fetched the item of their choice from the store room. It was the function of the Librarian to raise money or collect new  books by appealing to individuals and institutions and the original stock was quite small - nonetheless, over 30,000 borrowing transactions were recorded during 1904/1905 - the first year of the Library's existence.

 

 
 
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