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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Torquay town Hall and Carnegie Library
Torquay Town hall and Carnegie Library c. 1913

Taken from Ward Lock's Guide to Torquay 1918:

"Torquay is in possession of a Free Public Library, largely through the munificence of Mr. Andrew Carnegie who gave £7,500 to cover the cost of the building. The Library, built in 1906, occupies one of the most commanding sites in the town, at Castle Circus.

Adjoining the Library are the imposing Municipal offices, opened in August 1913, the foundation stone having been laid two years before. This fine block of buildings, erected at a cost of some £30,000, is English renaissance in style. Above the main entrance in the centre rises a clock tower 200 feet in height. There is a grand hall on the second floor, capable of seating 1,200 with an additional 300 in the gallery. A feature of the hall is the excellent dancing floor. So far as the civic work is concerned, the accommodation is ample, there being an excellent council chamber, committee rooms, and offices for the staff.

Local materials were used almost entirely, the quarries at Barton, Beer, Ipplepen and Ashburton being freely drawn on, while local marbles figure largely in the internal decorations. During the war*, the Corporation gave up a large part of the municipal building and library for use as a hospital."

Andrew Carnegie was the son of a poor Scottish weaver. Brought to the United States by his family when he was 13 years old, he eventually became one of America's richest men. He believed that setting up free public libraries would provide opportunities for self-education and enable the poor to break free of their poverty. Between 1881 and 1917, Carnegie spent over $56 million dollars building 2,509 libraries throughout the English-speaking world. He donated the money in Torquay on condition that the Corporation gave the land for the building and added a further £1400 to his original gift for the purchase of books.

The architect was George Soudon Bridgman, a descendent of an old Torbay family who was responsible for many important architectural projects in the area.

The Library opened to the public in October 1907 with a stock of almost 7000 books. Unlike modern libraries in which the public have direct access to books, borrowers chose from an indicator board showing the books which were available that day.

*i.e.1914 - 1918.  Queen Mary made a visit to the hospital which was run by the Red Cross.


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