National Libraries Week 2020: Compton Road, Crossgates and Garforth Libraries

PESKY KIDS, ESCAPES FROM TINY TERRACES AND ECHOING FOOTSTEPS…

Compton Road Library

Compton Road Library opened in 1927 at a cost of £11,332 most of this met with money from the Carnegie Trust, and just like Bramley it has a very similar layout and was built with identical materials.  The building was designed to adapt easily to community needs and nearly 100 years later it has lived up to this, while extended to accommodate The Compton Centre Community Hub, still there stands Carnegie’s legacy and a free community library for all.

Undated, Entrance and garden from Compton Road. The library opened in 1927, it was designed so that the building could be extended if the demand increased over time. On the left the Cowper Works (Magneto manufacturers) would be demolished to provide an extension site. The extension was not added until the 1950s (c) Leeds Libraries, http://www.leodis.net

Where I first learnt an interest in books in the late 50s and early 60s. I sat there as a junior member, reading mainly Thomas the Tank Engine books and over the years progressed to other areas.  I read the whole Sherlock Holmes books on loan from here, read about the history of sport and about many other topics.  I always remember the smell of polish from the largely uncovered wooden floor and I’m brought back to the library even today whenever I smell polished floors anywhere. – Dave, www.leodis.net

Undated, View of the adult lending library, looking from the counter to the end of the room. The trays of tickets on the counter (Browne issue system) indicate a large number of books on loan. On the right the library catalogue can be seen (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

In the early 60`s when we were kids we`d often go into this library just to wander around. It wasn`t as posh as the one on York Road. We were never members of this library, but we`d just go in, my brother and I, and wander around watching everyone – while the woman behind the desk watched US over her specs as she knew we weren`t members. Around tea time there would always be a group of men in trilby hats and flat caps sat at desks with newspapers perched up in front of them – same way piano music would be placed sort of – they were reading the evening paper. They would always be hush hush at you, every time you put your foot on the floor – hush hush. Many times we got thrown out for squeaky shoes or for whispering. We got fed up after some time and we`d dare each other to drop a book on the floor and make everyone jump – then say sorry, sorry, sorry. When they got sick of us we stopped going in – and started just opening the door and shouting “HEY!” at top of our voices at them all! It was hysterical to see them all jump out their skins, and by time woman was round counter we were off up Harehills Lane, hardly able to run for laughing. If our mother had known she`d have given us a right hidin! – Frances, www.leodis.net

Crossgates Library

Opened by the Earl of Harewood, Crossgates library was purposely built to serve a great area of housing with a potentially large reading public, the book stock counted 23,000 on opening.  By the time the library was ready the Second World War had begun (September 1939) however the opening ceremony went ahead on December 14th 1939.  The building was a show piece, designed by architect C. Castelow it won the RIBA bronze medal and was judged to be the best building in the West Yorkshire area from 1939-1951.

Undated, View of the adult lending library which opened in December 1939. This looks down the library to counters and entrance (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

Loved the old place. Silent but squeaky :). You could spend many a happy hour in there. Nowhere equivalent today methinks. – Dawn, www.leodis.net

Undated, View of childrens library with entrance and counter on the left. A quiet reading area in the centre is an arrangement of circular bench seats. The walls are decorated with murals (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

I began visiting the Library when I was 5 years old in 1939. My mother took me there every two weeks from our home in Swillington Common. It was the highlight of my life-that and visits to the Regal and Ritz cinemas. I would sit in the circular area in the middle and I think there was a brightly lit fixture in the centre which may have been a heater. This to me was luxury after our tiny terrace house with gas lights. I always loved reading and hoped that my mother would take her time selecting her books so that I could sit with mine in the warmth and comfort for as long as possible. We continued to use the library until we left for Australia in 1950. I am still an avid reader and library user so thank you Crossgates. – Margaret, 2009, www.leodis.net

Garforth Library

The very first public library in Garforth was started in the late 19th Century in the Working Men’s Club and Institute.  The West Riding County Library Service took over in the 1920s and the library was rehoused in a local school. By 1939 the library had moved again, this time to the Welfare Hall but as book issues continued to rise the space became inadequate and in 1943 shop premises were found in Main Street and fitted out as a library.  Again shortage of space became an issue and a local butcher provided rooms formerly used as living accommodation and here the library stayed until 1969 when a new purpose built library was created in its existing location.  Due to the enactment of the 1972 Local Government Act the West Riding County was abolished and on the 1st April 1974, Garforth became part of the city of Leeds and the County of West Yorkshire with the library becoming a part of Leeds Libraries

C1969. Interior view of the ground floor of Garforth Library in Lidgett Lane. It opened in February 1969 and was run by West Riding County Library Service. Non-fiction books are arranged around the walls following the Dewey Decimal Classification System. The adult fiction is housed in free standing bookcases and categorised according to theme eg. ‘Romance’, ‘Crime’ and ‘Science Fiction’. The counter can be seen in the background, right of centre and behind it there are a group of 6 desks with 4 seats at each for study. This is the reference area (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis,net

A wonderful place in the 1970s and 1980s. You went through the main entrance to a large wooden reception desk and handed in your library tickets, these were made of orange cardboard.  Each book in the library had a cardboard ticket in the front of it and when you borrowed it the ticket would be removed and placed inside your orange ticket and kept by the library in an index system to say which books you had borrowed. The inside of the book would be date stamped in ink.  All was very still and quiet there, a place to discover a book and read it, but with no loud noises or sudden movements; my footsteps would echo on the metal open slats of the staircase which led upstairs to the children’s section. This was I shaped with bookshelves and cushioned benches and had everything from picture books to Penelope Lively to Enid Blyton; I basically worked my way through it.  When I grew older I borrowed books from the ground floor.  As you entered the library, to the left was a newspaper/reference area.  It was all metal and glass as I remember and probably very modern in the 1970s! – Deborah, 2010, www.leodis.net

*****

You will still find many of the authors listed above in our libraries today and just as Margaret found Crossgates to be a warm haven away from her small terraced home, libraries continue to provide safe free spaces for all, members or not. 

Comments have been edited for length/clarity, full quotes can be found on the www.leodis.net website. Contact the Local and Family History department on 0113 37 86982 or via localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk to learn more about our local history resources, or to contribute your memories about Leeds’ local libraries.

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