“*Public Library for the parish of St George’s, Hanover Square. 1892-4 by A J Bolton.”

Above: the library’s back entrance in Eccleston Place, parallel to Buckingham Palace Road.

From The Builder of July 25, 1891:

COMPETITION FOR A PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR THE PARISH OF ST. GEORGE’S, HANOVER-SQUARE.

The Public Library Commissioners for the parish of St. George’s, Hanover-square, under the chairmanship of Mr. Antrobus, evidently consider themselves a most gifted body of men. The difficulties which beset a professional assessor in the preparation of conditions for a competition trouble them no more than the assessment of the merits of the six sets of designs which were submitted in this limited competition, and upon the relative merits of which the Commissioners thought themselves fully competent to decide without any professional assistance…

…The site is a parallelogram in shape, bounded at the ends by Buckingham Palace-road and Eccleston-street, but no rights of light exist over the land on each side.

Considering the assessors who made the award it is not surprising that Mr. A.T. Bolton’s design, under motto “Utility,” should have been placed first, but it is hardly an award that will commend itself to those who have the best interests of architecture at heart…

The ground plan of Mr. A.T. Bolton’s design shows in the centre of Buckingham Palace-road frontage the main library entrance, leading to a vestibule, with hall beyond. The ladies’ news-room, with lavatory accommodation, is placed on the left, between the main entrance and the librarian’s private entrance, which is placed at the west side. On the east side of the main entrance, the news-room is placed, and this top-lighted at the back. The lending and the reference libraries are at the back, facing Eccleston-street, with an early workmen’s room placed between; but whether this is meant for a passage way from the library to the porch in the back street or not, is not apparent from the drawings. The librarian’s office certainly occupies a central position; but, with this exception, the plan does not seem a particularly good one: the rooms are not a good shape, and the access to the reference library is badly planned. The front part is carried up, and the first floor shows a museum with committee-room, and lavatory accommodation adjacent. The lending library is carried up to the first floor, and the staircase is lighted from a dome overhead. The reference library is also similarly lighted from a dome. The second floor shows librarian’s dwelling-house, more or less conveniently arranged, which is reached by a separate staircase from the private entrance already mentioned. The elevations are very severe in their treatment, and might fairly be termed crude. Mr. Bolton differs from most of the other competitors in using the whole of the site and obtaining the necessary light from the roof instead of from areas…

It would be interesting to both the competitors and the public to know the reasons that the Commissioners had for selecting the design “Utility,” and rejecting a really able design such as “St. George” on red shield undoubtedly is.”

*Historic England: “…In this case the library also makes a strong contribution, with Nos. 126-158 and No. 162 Buckingham Palace Road, to the architectural value of the group as a whole…”

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