Day Tripper – To Liverpool Library

Central Library

On Thursday I spent the day with a friend in Liverpool. We met at Lime Street Station and spent the morning over coffee in the cafe and admiring the ‘new’ Liverpool Public Library re-opened in May after a massive renovation project. It’s a job well done! I wanted to visit ever since I saw this blog post and the super pictures. I don’t really have much to add text-wise. We travelled up to the top and the very windy roof terrace and then inspected the building and departments as we descended. The Hornby and Oak Rooms reminded me of my own dear Leeds Library. Going into the major reference space – The Picton Library – was just like entering the old British Museum Reading Room. And the glass dome on the roof reminded me of The Reichstag in Berlin.

View towards River Mersey

View eastward

Views from the Roof Terrace

Glass Dome

The Glass Dome Exterior

Liverpool Record Office

The Open Plan Liverpool Record Office has Beatles memorabilia and other documents on display

Picton Room

The Picton Reading Room

Picton Reading Room

Detail of the Reading Room – quality fixtures and fittings

This magnificent building and reading room was built in 1875 -79. Sir James Allanson Picton was the Chairman of the Libraries Committee, architect and author of the famous “Memorials of Liverpool”.

Based on the rotunda of the British Museum in London, the Picton reading room is 100′ in diameter and 56′ high, and was designed by Cornelius Sherlock, Corporation Surveyor, at a cost of £20,000 with seating for 200 readers.

The circular structure was nicknamed “Picton’s Gasometer” although ironically it was the first public building in Liverpool to be lit by electric lighting when opened in 1879.


Hornby Room

The Oak Room with Audubon Display

The Oak Room was the last addition to the Picton and was opened in 1914 as a special library for the rarest books in the building. 

It houses some 4000 books but pride of place must be the Birds of America by John James Audubon, purchased with a donation from William Brown’s partner in America, Joseph Shipley.


Hornby Library

Detail of The Hornby Room

The Hornby Library was the donation of a wealthy Liverpool merchant, Hugh Frederick Hornby.

He bequeathed his collection of books, prints and autographs to the City in 1899 together with £10,000 for a building to house it.

The building is full of Edwardian opulence with ten alcoves to display the many rare bindings and a gallery above. It was designed by the Corporation Architect Thomas Shelmerdine and was opened in 1906.



The Liverpolitan Magazine, 1932

But it’s not all restored Victorian – there’s an exciting modern children’s library in the former Picton Hall below The Reading Room.

Children's library

The Children’s Department

Library Dome

View of the Dome from the Ground Floor

Read more about the library and its services here. Well done, Liverpool, you have a public library worthy of your UNESCO World Heritage Site status.


4 comments on “Day Tripper – To Liverpool Library

  1. ms6282 says:

    Great pictures Barbara. I’m glad you were’nt disappointed. I believe the new library in Birmingham is very good too. Another one to add to the long list of places to visit

    • Thanks, Mick. Not at all disappointed. Yes, Birmingham definitely on my list. My son was at Birmingham University which would have made it a natural visit but he has now moved up to Sheffield. But I’ll get there one day. The Forum in Norwich is now coming under stiff competition.

  2. Fran says:

    Lovely to see the old has been retained, and now enhanced with new additions. The history of our libraries and their benefactors is so rich.

    • That was just what impressed me too, Fran. I know lots of libraries in this country are closing but new means are being sought to retain the old and develop new and innovative ways of keeping them going. We have a lot to be thankful for in this department – past and present.

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