Withington Library

Withington Library stands at the junction of Wilmslow Road and Wellington Road. Before this purpose-built library, there was a lending library as far back as 1861 in an upstairs room in Withington Public Hall, a small building which stands on Burton Road. This had 1,200 books in 1895  - a
Withington Library
considerable number at that time. 

Fletcher Moss, of the Old Parsonage, Didsbury, campaigned for a library for Withington during his time as alderman. Nothing resulted. The following quote from Fletcher Moss's Fifty Years Public Work in Didsbury indicates the state-of-mind of some at the time:
"In 1895 and several succeeding years, I moved a resolution for the adoption of the Public Libraries Act and was always sat upon by the conservative majority. Mr Joe Lunn (Conservative builder) of Withington told us that there was a library in Withington in an upper room somewhere behind the White Lion and all the folk that ever went into it were a few women a week. What was the good of having another library?"

On 13th October 1911, a library service was set up by the City Council in a house on the site of the present building. This had a stock of 1,861 books, as well as a newsroom. It soon became clear that a more substantial service in a purpose-built building was required (details here and below from Manchester Library Services: Seventy Years of Withington Library 1927-1997.)

The present building was designed by Henry Price (1867-1944), a council architect who also designed, at an earlier date, Withington Baths. The library is one of the many "Carnegie libraries" in the UK, partly financed by a fund set up by the Scottish-
Withington Library - Cuploa
American industrialist, Andrew Carnegie (the donation was £5,000, from a total cost of £15,500). The building is in an unusual neoclassical style and is well designed for the tight corner site, with a very attractive and well-proportioned frontage (see above) including a hexagonal cupola in the entrance hall (see left).

The building was opened in 1927 by the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine (Treasurer of the Carnegie UK Trust and President of the Library Association) who then borrowed the first book, a copy of James Tait's Medieval Manchester and the Beginnings of Lancashire (1904). Inside the library, there is a plaque recording the opening event (see below). Initially, trees were planted at the front of the building. However, in a few weeks they had disappeared and were never recovered. 

Withington Library - plaque
A one-time librarian, Miss Starkey, used to encourage Robert Donat, before he became the famous actor and film-star, to use the library to improve his chances in the profession by practising reading. Withington library was one of the first in Manchester to have a young people's reading room. You had to be at least 9 years old and in Standard 3 to join. There was a specially-appointed librarian for young people available at certain times. If you qualified to join, she would give you a ticket saying when you could use the library to read books, but not to borrow them.