CLEAN HANDS, A LOVE OF STAMPS, AND ONE FUTURE PRIME MINISTER…
To begin our celebration of local Leeds Libraries during National Libraries Week, we need to go back to 1868 when the Public Libraries act was adopted by Leeds; it didn’t take long to get organised and by 1870 branch libraries began opening in the buildings of infirmaries, mechanics institutes and schools. But it wasn’t until 1900 that we got our first purpose built library: the beautiful, and still in use, Armley Library on Town Street. Designed by Percy Robinson the library maintained a strict order from opening, no ticket, no admittance.
“I well remember getting my first library ticket, I’d had to get a form signed by my father for this honour, and I think there was a small payment to be made! I think I was 10 or 11 at the time, the war was on but this was my ‘Aladdin’s Cave’. It was here where my love of books was nurtured, and where I spent a great deal of time until I left the area in 1951 at the age of 18. My friend, Brian and I used to meet here every Monday evening to discuss our cycling exploits over the weekend and to plan for the next weekend.” – Jack, 2008, www.leodis.net
I joined this library when I was six years old (which means 1940!) My feet can still ‘feel’ the indentations in the steps which had to be climbed to get into the long foyer before entering the library and I well recall being sent home to wash my hands, having trailed my fingers along walls en-route. Home was about a mile away! Librarians are not as strict these days! I know of three (I’m sure there are more) much published authors who lived in the district and mention Armley Library in their ‘biographical notes’ – Barbara Taylor Bradford, Peter Robinson and Alan Bennett! – Jean, 2009, www.leodis.net
Me and my friends Janet, Lesley & Elizabeth all used this library, though not for the purpose of book reading…We used to go in there to keep warm in the winter & look for lads in the summer!!! We got thrown out many a time by the librarian who must have got sick and tired of us in the end because she banned us! If my mother had have found out she’d have killed me. Luckily she never did. (But finding the lads usually worked)!!! – Julie, 2013, www.leodis.net
Next up in our celebration of local Leeds libraries for National Libraries Week, we have Beeston Library (yes, we are doing this alphabetically: we are Librarians after all!). Beeston Library opened in the early 1970s on St Anthony’s Drive, replacing the original, small evening branch that operated from a schoolroom at Beeston Primary.
I attended Beeston School and remember when the library was there. It was in my classroom, entered by a door to the right of the building. I was a regular visitor to the library. It must have been a nightmare for the teacher to have her classroom used in that way. I was fascinated by the way the books appeared on shelves in the evenings. – Carole, 2016, www.leodis.net
I remember going to Hugh Gaitskill Middle School, with my younger sister Susan, shortly after it opened. It was officially opened by the then Minister of Education, one Mrs Margaret Thatcher. We used the library a lot as it was joined onto our School… One of the librarians had lots of lovely dark coloured curly hair – so we nicknamed her ‘Crystal Tips’. – Jacqueline, www.leodis.net
Finally in our nostalgic throwback to local Leeds Libraries, we’re focusing on Bramley Library – opened on Town Street in 1927 and still in use today, built with funds from the Carnegie Trust. Bramley Library quickly became a popular local community focus and is still well-used today.
What a marvellous library this was. From the age of ten I would study quietly about the subjects that were of interest to me, nature, biology, philately, photography. I enjoyed searching for names of the leaves from the trees and plants that I had collected from Bramley Fall Woods, and identifying them. How peaceful and relaxing it was to explore these interests, sitting at the table in the library. I loved searching the Stanley Gibbons Catalogues too, to check out the values of my stamp collection! Poetry books I took home to read and enjoyed reading them when I went to bed at night. They were very happy days in my life and memories that I will always treasure. – Mary, 2009, www.leodis.net
Spent many a happy hour in the childrens section, reading Enid Blyton etc, then off to my grandmas in bath view. – Patricia, 2010, www.leodis.net
So there we have our first instalment of library memories.; we like to think that our Library staff have mellowed somewhat over the years – we certainly no longer inspect your hands for specks of dirt. You can read more about one of our famous Leeds authors and his return visit to the library of his childhood in the West Leeds Dispatch.
Comments have been edited for length/clarity, full quotes can be found on the Leodis.net website. Contact the Local and Family History department on 0113 37 86982 or via firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our local history resources, or to contribute your memories about Leeds’ local libraries.