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© Mr Dennis Carr

IoE Number: 466036
Location: NUMBERS 16-20 INCLUDING LEEDS LIBRARY (18), 16-20 COMMERCIAL STREET (north side)
  LEEDS, LEEDS, WEST YORKSHIRE
Photographer: Mr Dennis Carr
Date Photographed: 26 August 2007
Date listed: 19 October 1951
Date of last amendment: 19 October 1951
Grade II*

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LEEDSSE3033NWCOMMERCIAL STREET714-1/76/126(North side)

LEEDS SE3033NW COMMERCIAL STREET 714-1/76/126 (North side) 19/10/51 Nos.16-20 (Consecutive) including Leeds Library (No.18) GV II* Private library premises above shops. 1808. By Thomas Johnson; alterations 1821-36 by RD Chantrell, entrance moved and New Room by Thomas Ambler added 1879-81, alterations c1900. 3 storeys and basement, 6 first-floor windows; ground-floor shops, first-floor library rising in part through the 2nd-floor level. Greek Revival style. Rusticated arcaded ground floor of 5 segmental arches divided by piers, the central archway leading to the Library entrance hall. Above each pier is an Ionic pilaster extending through 2 storeys and supporting entablature, heavy eaves cornice and blocking course. 5 tall 24-pane sash windows with glazing bars on 1st floor have moulded architraves, moulded cornices and panelled sills. 2nd floor: 5 square 12-pane sashes in moulded architraves. Narrow round-arch passageway on left with tall narrow sash above. INTERIOR: library: the entrance hall (No.18) has tiled floor, reception desk and book lift, door to basement beneath staircase of 3 straight flights with cast-iron balustrade of scrolled openwork panels with wooden handrail and brass lamp base; walls of hall and staircase lined with possibly later black and yellow tiling, (although wall or floor tiling was approved in 1881, see 'The Leeds Library' p.85). First-floor level marked by fine plasterwork frieze, 2 niches with pilasters and impost moulding, banded rustication to walls, decorative frieze with plaques alternating with squat pilasters, coved ceiling and lantern. Glazed double doors with flanking lights also by Ambler open into the original library room of 1808: walls lined with probably original shelving have fluted pilasters to casing, later shelving inserted above; blocked west door shelved on both sides 1881; some free-standing shelving units have wheels and are possibly original; reeded moulding to ceiling cornice. Gallery: east side and spiral stair with cast-iron balustrading of slender rails and semicircles by RD Chantrell, 1821; north and west sides 1836, same architect, in both cases the carpentry was by Norton and Shuttleworth (including wooden brackets supporting north wall gallery) and the ironwork by T Nelson; the 2 'sunlight' gaslight fittings with large (now painted) reflector plates and ventilators in the ceiling were supplied by the Leeds New Gas Company in 1853 and are a rare survival; extra shelving was installed in 1870, including the spaces above the windows in the gallery; the staff counter has panelled sides and curved corners and probably predates the 1880 reordering of the building; the west spiral stair was added in 1990. Shelving in the 2nd-floor 'Smoke Room' (earlier the Bindery) has a similar moulding to that in the main room. The New Room lies to the north and is parallel with the original library room; 2 pairs of panelled cast-iron doors lead from the main range into this extension which includes the Committee room/librarian's office at the east end and a book hoist and stone stair from the basement at the west; original features include shelving, panelled doors, and marble fireplace and fittings to the Librarian's office which retains the original coved ceiling with egg-and-dart moulding partly removed from the main section when the gallery was installed in 1900: CR Chorley, architect, ironwork with scrolled and wavy rails and spiked ball finials by James Allen and Son, the original stairs replaced in 1906 by the wooden stair with fine turned column on vase style balusters with ball finials. Other features of interest include: basement book store below early C19 front range: stone walls, arches supporting projection beneath street to south, doorway and window with side-sliding sash on the north, probably the original entrance to one of the row of basement houses along the rear of the ground-floor shops; timber cross beams; fire-proof floor construction to warehouse and upper floor New Room range, original roof structure visible at west end, outer roof structure of New Room, of cast-iron with tension straps and copper wires fastening the slates. HISTORICAL NOTE: the Leeds Library was founded in 1768 behind the bookshop in Kirkgate of Joseph Ogle, the first librarian. Joseph Priestley was its first secretary and second president. In 1781 the books were transferred to new premises in the former town house of Sir James and Sir Henry Ibbetson, also in Kirkgate. In 1806 it was decided to buy the plot of land 'in the new road about to be constructed from Briggate to Albion Street' where the present building stands. The Library retains its important archive relating to its history, building plans and construction. (The Leeds Library 1768-1968: Privately printed: 1968-; Thoresby Society; Miscellanea: Beckwith, F: The Beginnings of the Leeds Library: PART II).

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