The Beginning

The South Chingford Community Library came into existence in the Spring of Olympic Year 2012. 

In 2011, Waltham Forest Council was tasked with making major budget savings over the following years. As part of these, the South Chingford Branch Library, used by local residents over many years, was scheduled for closure. 

During the summer of 2011, a petition was raised against the library closure. More significantly, library visitors were canvassed on their willingness to volunteer to run a replacement community library. This action was spearheaded by Councillor Jemma Hemsted of Valley Ward. Closure was confirmed later in the year, and the old library closed its doors to the public for the final time on Friday 2nd December. A meeting took place at Waltham Forest Town Hall on the following Monday, with councillors and potential volunteers in attendance, where brave volunteers first stepped forward to form a steering group to begin planning the Community Library.

                 The former South Chingford Branch Library

A major consideration was finding a suitable site for such an enterprise. By coincidence, a further aspect of  of the financial savings was the closure at the end of the summer of the Waltham Forest Direct shop at 265 Chingford Mount Road, just around the corner from the old library, but in a much more central position for passing shoppers. The Council kindly made this building available for the new library. Members of the local community with longer memories will recall this as the site of Rossi's Ice Cream shop, a delightful establishment which had a counter which served directly to the passing public on the pavement, and which also had a wide variety of toys on offer when you ventured inside.

SCCL shopfront

      Shopfront of the new South Chingford Community Library

I believe the tiled area of pavement outside the shop may be the last remaining legacy of Rossi's. Sadly, no ice cream remains.

 The early part of 2012 was a period of feverish activity, preparing for a scheduled opening in April. The visual signs of this were the appearance in the new library of equipment and furniture (much of this also kindly provided by the Council), including shelving from the old library, computers, and some 8000 books.  We are also grateful for funding provided from Valley and Larkswood Wards to defray the initial expenses. Some of us learnt new skills, like book sorting and arranging.  Behind the scenes, much planning was also taking place. We are particularly grateful to Bettina Aruoture of the Council's Community Engagement Team, for her continued efforts and advice in all matters associated with the our interaction with the Council, which are ongoing from the very start of the creation of the new library.

Finally, on Saturday April 14th 2012, opening day arrived!

Opening Day

 The weather was kind, and a packed expectant crowd gathered inside the library to await the arrival of our invited guests. Among the special guests we were pleased to welcome in the morning  were our local MP, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,  the (then) Mayor of Waltham Forest, Councillor Geoffrey Walker, with deputy Mayoress Patricia Arnold, and  Naomi Newstead, candidate in the upcoming London Assembly election. We were delighted also to see Bettina, Jemma, and her colleagues Councillor Michael Lewis from Chingford Green Ward, Councillor Peter Herrington from Endlebury Ward, and Councillor Nick Buckmaster from Larkswood Ward.

A flavour of the days events may be gleaned from a series of pictures:

Greg Pope, chair of the library steering group, welcomes the guests to the library opening


Iain Duncan Smith makes an encouraging reply

A "thank you" to Patricia Arnold


and thank you Bettina for your ongoing assistance

 The Mayor, Councillor Geoffrey Walker cuts the ribbon to formally open the library 
(picture courtesy of Waltham Forest Guardian)


Fortunately, some of the volunteers can already read


and on this one occasion, we even got fed!


Jemma, Naomi, and Iain Duncan Smith explore the facilities of the community library


Iain Duncan Smith visited reception and signed the visitors book before departure

Following events of the morning, there was a brief lull in proceedings, allowing volunteers and visitors alike to catch their breath, before excitement built once more, in anticipation of the arrival of our final special guest; Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Events continued as follows:


Greg greets Boris at the Library entrance

Greg chats to Boris

and proceeds to describe how the library has been set up


We all enjoyed Boris's visit - he showed great interest and was very encouraging


before leaving, Boris signed our Visitors' Book and promised us a donation of books


and so the day ended, and we could wish our guests farewell

I think all who attended the day will agree that it was a great success, and an enjoyable time was had by all. The purpose of formally declaring the library open was well and truly achieved.

To conclude, we wish to express our thanks to Petra Cafe of 50 Chingford Mount Road for providing the excellent catering on the day without charge.

return to reception