Saturday 16th May 1959

The foundation stone for the extension to Keighley Central Library was laid by Alderman John S. Bell, Chairman of the Libraries. Arts & Museum Committee of Keighley Borough Council, on 16th May 1959. The stone can still be viewed set in the wall of the library along North Street today.

The space to the left of the Library as you look across North Street from Town Hall Square was originally occupied by Lowfield House, a private residence (see the postcard top right). This house had belonged to George Smith when the Library was built in 1904. George Smith was the father of Sir Swire Smith who had been one of the driving forces behind getting the Library built in the first place, through his friendship with businessman and entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie.

Lowfield House and the adjacent house number 2 on Spencer Street were bought by Keighley Corporation in 1918 with the intention of extending the Library. For some years, 2 Spencer Street was used as the home of the serving Chief Librarian. Even with plans approved for a Children’s Library on the site in 1938, nothing happened for many years and the building was occupied as the offices of the Health Department of the West Riding County Council.

This arrangement came to an end in June 1955 and plans were drawn up to build a new single storey Library extension on the site. These plans were recognised as not ambitious enough and secondary plans were drawn up and approved in May 1957 for a two storey extension at a cost of £37,178. These then had to be scaled back again to a smaller plan at a cost of £26,811 which was approved by the Council in January 1958.

The Chief Librarian and Borough Architect drew up the final plans with the successful contractor for the work being Wm. Mallinson and Sons (Lockwood) Ltd. of Huddersfield. The natural stone used at the front was sourced from Matlock House Quarry in Huddersfield while the bricks at the rear were Messrs. Whittaker’s Burslem bricks.

It took almost two years for the work to be completed, with the extension formally opened by Alderman John S. Bell (who by this time was the Mayor of Keighley) on 25th March 1961. It comprised a Children’s Library, stackroom, work room, staff room, kitchen, stores, lecture hall, three study rooms and toilets. The opening ceremony was followed by afternoon tea in the Municipal Hall across the road.

Currently the building houses the Offices for City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s Early Childhood Services and Youth Services, and the Bereavement Services.

Keighley Library extension. The photograph of the foundation stone was taken by Tim Neal in 2019. The postcard of the Town Hall Square with the Library and Lowfield House in the background is from around 1910 and was donated by Laurence Brocklesby. The image of the newly-completed Library extension is from a booklet issued at the formal opening in 1961, which was donated by Liz Hornby in 2021.

Author: Admin Tim

Tim is a committee member of the Keighley and District Local History Society, with responsibilities for archiving the physical and digital collections, and managing some of the social media channels. He moved to Keighley about ten years ago and joined the Society to learn more about the area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.