Goethe’s Italian Journey

Probably my favourite of the museums and locations I’ve visited in Rome on previous trips is the Keats-Shelley Museum by the Spanish Steps. It’s a quiet oasis of 18th century England amidst the crowds of tourists milling around the Piazza di Spagna. It’s a few years since I was there and I didn’t repeat the visit on this recent trip.

K S House

Keats Shelley House, Rome, on Second Floor with Landmark Trust Apartment Above

Spanish Steps in March

Crowds on the Spanish Steps – in early March


Babington’s English Tea Room by the Spanish Steps

But I did discover the existence of the Casa di Goethe in my LV Guide Bari, Milan, Naples, Rome 2012. So my final port of call in the City of Rome itself (after fortification at Canova) was a visit to the Casa di Goethe on the Via del Corso nearby. I wrote a little bit about Goethe earlier this year. Here is another place of peace and calm and amazingly right on the Via Del Corso.

via del corso

In September 1786, Goethe started out on the longest journey of his life. He was 37 when he achieved his dream of visiting Italy. He later wrote in his journal “Italienische Reise”, that he had spent the happiest period of his life there. On his arrival in Rome he stayed on the Via del Corso with his painter friend Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, scion of a dynasty of renowned artists. This huge apartment, which gives onto the Piazza Del Popolo, is still redolent of Goethe’s time here during his Grand Tour of 18th-century Italy. It has superbly painted coffered ceilings which are set off by the white of the walls. On display are writings, letters, annotations, and drawings, as well as the paintings of his friend Tischbein.

g in roman countryside

The most famous of them, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, was painted on this very spot in 1787, although the version seen here is only a copy, the original being in the Staedelsches Kunstmuseum in Frankfurt. It never fails to impress all the same. This sumptuous collection of artworks and documentary material gives us an idea of what the journey to Italy meant at the time for artists and cultivated travellers. The Casa di Goethe also offers temporary exhibitions that encourage German-Italian cultural relations. By appointment it’s possible to visit the Library which holds a number of first editions of Goethe’s work.” [LV Guide Rome 2012]


Welcome to the Casa!

This is the only German Museum on foreign soil and it was opened to the public in 1997 with support of the German Government and German cultural associations. Regular events are held here – readings, lectures, conferences, discussions and concerts – followed by gatherings and discussions in the library over a glass of wine. The Museum is also able to offer scholarships (sponsored by DaimlerChrysler) to literary figures, publishers, scientists, translators, and artists, allowing them to spend a few months in Rome collecting ideas and inspiration for their own work or finishing off projects. The work doesn’t have to be related to Goethe.


Goethe Library in Rome

The first few rooms are dedicated to the temporary exhibitions; currently Thomas Mann and his Italian novella Mario and the Magician. Displays relate to the historical and political background as it was written during the rise of Nazism and Fascism. The notes were all in German and as time was tight I didn’t spend much time in these rooms but moved on to the rooms occupied by Goethe at the front of the building.

ceiling 1

ceiling 2

ceiling 3

ceiling 4

Painted Coffered Ceilings

The restored painted wooden ceilings, which date back to Goethe’s time, contrast well with the pale walls which show off the displays and pictures. No furniture or furnishings dating back to Goethe’s time here. To me they are reminiscent of Swiss and German chalet decorations.

I was glad that I bought the excellent illustrated guide book. The first section, as in the rooms themselves, tells the story of Goethe’s time in Rome and Italy. There then follow pages of quotations by Goethe himself from his letters and his journal Italian Journey and by his friends and colleagues. Many of these quotations also accompany the room displays.

cast of jupiter

“I could not resist buying the cast of a colossal head of Jupiter . It now stands in a good light facing my bed, so that I can say prayers to him the first thing in the morning.” (Italian journey 25 December 1786

Piranesi print

Piranesi Print of the Caius Cestius Pyramid

“Water pipes, baths, theatres, amphitheatres, the stadium, temples! And then the palaces of the Ceasars , the graves of the great – with these images I have fed and strengthened my mind.” to Carl Ludwig von Knebel 17 November 1786

bust by trippel

1787 bust of J. W. v. Goethe by Alexander Trippel

In goethe's room

Goethe’s Room

G at window

Tischbein ‘s watercolour of Goethe at the window

1991 and 1992 were excellent years for the acquisition of many Goethe related papers, books and artefacts by the Casa including the Andy Warhol iconic contemporary adaptation of Tischbein ‘s portrait. Also some autographs of Goethe’s including a letter card written in his own hand and giving his rome address and the Goethe library of publisher Richard Dorn.


Screen Print and Acrylic on Linen 1982

At the very end of the guide book is a list of museums and memorials to Goethe in both Italy and in Germany. Amongst those listed is the grave of his son, August, in the Protestant Cemetery. Interestingly, even though he was an adult at death his father arranged for the following to be inscribed on his gravestone.

GOETHE FILIVS / PATRI / ANTEVERTENS / Obiit / Annor [VM] XL / MDCCCXXX (Goethe’s son / father / above / died / 40 years / 1830)

August Goethe



Birmingham Architectural, Historical and Modern Gems, 2

As I said already, the jewels and gems of Birmingham don’t stop in the Jewellery Quarter …

There is also the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which houses one of the best collections of fine and decorative art, historical artefacts and archaeological treasures in Britain today; all displayed in an elegant Grade II* listed building. The collection is particularly strong in Pre-Raphaelite art. There is also a permanent display of items from the Staffordshire Hoard. [Adapted from Art Fund Guide]


Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg (1862) one of my favourite Victorian paintings is in the care of BMAG

On Sunday afternoon we were on the trail of the gold and gems of the Staffordshire Hoard. No photography allowed.

Discovered in 2009 and acquired jointly with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent with assistance from the Art Fund, this treasure trove of 7th century Anglo-Saxon art features 4,000 pieces of gold and silver displaying intricate filigree and cloisonné work. Since October 2014 a new permanent gallery interprets the story of the hoard and its context within Anglo-Saxon history. Beyond the richness of the materials and the exquisite decoration, the hoard is significant because of its strictly masculine nature. These are exclusively military items created for Mercia’s best  fighters.” [Art Quarterly, winter 2014, p.31]

St Chad's and roads

St Chad’s Cathedral or Traffic Circle

Birmingham has two cathedrals both gems of their type. The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad is a little out of the immediate city centre but we could easily walk there. How many times did we remark to each – “Car is King in Birmingham”? Pedestrians must wait at lights, use underpasses and walkways and over-road links. The RC Cathedral appeared to be sited in the middle of the road. Access is not easy. However, we made it safely through its doors on Monday morning and into another world. A world of peace and calm and of glorious art. No photography was allowed but I had already taken this one before I saw the sign.

St Chad's

The Nave, St Chad’s Cathedral

A significant stopping-off point on Birmingham’s Pugin Trail the Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to built in the UK since the Reformation. The superb original internal decorations and fittings were made by skilled craftsmen re-introducing skills of the Medieval era.  John Hardman plate and windows; Herbert Minton tiles; William Warrington chancel window. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin also supplied original Medieval furnishings from his own collection including the stalls and pulpit. His rood screen was removed in 1967.

Only after dropping in to St Philip’s Cathedral on Sunday afternoon and deciding to stay for Evensong – more members of the choir than members of the congregation and followed by a brief organ recital – did I read this suggestion in my LV City Guide 2012 Birmingham, London, Dublin :

Birmingham Cathedral

St Philip’s Cathedral [source]

Sunday in Birmingham : Attend a service in 18th century Birmingham Cathedral which has a number of stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones. Colmore Row.”


Old Joint Stock Bar [source]

Opposite the Cathedral is the famous Birmingham pub The Old Joint Stock Pub and Theatre. Just a few paces from the Cathedral we decided to pay a visit. Unfortunately the theatre wasn’t open that evening but the island bar was impressive. Also from my LV Guide :


Julius Alfred Chatwin was primarily a designer of Birmingham churches … But there were exceptions to his church work and the opulent interiors of the Old Joint Stock, opposite St Philip’s Cathedral (in which he had a hand), showed that he could be moved to great things in the temporal sphere as well. Completed in 1864, the building first belonged to the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. It was converted into a pub in 1997. Under a glass domed ceiling, beside an island bar and with sumptuous interiors, this is one of the grandest pubs in the city. Upstairs is an 80-seat theatre, minimalist in decor, but the sort of facility few pubs can shout about.

ET ad

ET Mural

Tea Room Mural

On Monday we returned to The Art Gallery to the highly recommended Edwardian Tea Room for a light lunch before heading to our raison de visite The Library of Birmingham.

Few other tea rooms in the world can boast a stellar gathering as was here under the ornate ceiling and glass canopy in May 1998. The G8 Summit was being held in the city and for a short time a group that included Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair (and their interpreters) sat around a table commissioned from David Linley for the occasion, surrounded by a pick of the museum’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings hung here especially for the event. Even without the table and the paintings, The Edwardian Tea Room is still a grand setting for tea, coffee, snacks and lunches.” [LV Guide]

Wedding Cake

The Library Building Decorated on the Exterior to Represent Rings and Birmingham’s Jewellery Heritage

The Giant Wedding Cake, as the library is affectionately known, offers pre-bookable guided  tours to the building and its contents on Mondays at 2.15.  The building was officially opened by Malala Yousafzai in September 2013.

We took the glass lift up to the 9th floor from where we had long-reaching views of the city  and beyond from the Skyline Viewpoint. Also on the ninth floor is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.


Shakespeare in his Memorial Room

“This original feature from the city’s Victorian library was designed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. Since then
it has changed home twice, moving to Central Library when it was built in the early 1970s, and to the Library of Birmingham almost forty years later. It originally housed the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, which is still available at the Library of Birmingham. The Room is wood panelled with glass printed shelves inspired by the Elizabethan age with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by noted woodcarver Mr Barfield, and the brass and metal work is most likely crafted by Hardmans. The Shakespeare Memorial Room has been painstakingly reconstructed by local craftsmen A. Edmonds & Co. Ltd and the Victorian Cornice Company whorestored the elaborate ceiling. The books and memorabilia you see on the shelves are interesting items from the Library’s general collections (the Shakespeare collection outgrew the room as early as 1906).” [source]

70s library

The old Central Library seen through the rings

We then descended floor by floor visiting two gardens on our way down including the Secret Garden and The Discovery Terrace.

secret garden

The Secret Garden on the Seventh Floor

Lift and escalators

Looking down into the Library and the Book Rotunda

Book Rotunda

The Book Rotunda – Shades of The British Museum and Waterstones Book Shops

Children's Library

The Book Browse Fiction Library

Here is a Library buzzing with enthusiasm and offering its readers so much more than books (although I’d be happy with just the books). The What’s On programme that I picked up lists Exhibitions (we visited The Voices of War during our tour), Films, Music, Activities, Performances, Dance, Poetry and Workshops. Lucky Birmingham to have this facility in the heart of the city I hope the citizens make good use of it and what it offers.

Despite a packed two days and two half days we  are sure that there are many more Birmingham gems still to be visited!

The Leeds Library Summer Day Out In The Lake District

How can you tell you’re on a summer day trip to the Lake District? Yes, it teems with rain all day long. Still, we were not deterred as we waited for our coach to pick us up at Bramhope Church bus stop. We hoped the rain would cease but unfortunately it didn’t. Never mind our main aims were not to climb  the peaks nor to stride out across the fells but to make indoor visits to The Armitt Library in Ambleside in the morning and to Blackwell near Bowness in the afternoon.


How true! How true!


The Armitt Library was founded by the will of Mary Louise Armitt and the wishes of her two sisters, “to create a collection of books of scientific, literary and antiquarian value” for the “student and book-lover”, and eventually a small museum. It was opened in 1912, and embodied the old 1828 Ambleside Book Society, of which William Wordsworth had been a member, and the Ambleside Ruskin Library, founded by Hardiwcke Rawnsley in 1882 with the active support of John Ruskin. The Library is now in a purpose-built home just north of Ambleside on the Rydal Road.

In 1934 Beatrix Potter gave many of her watercolours and drawings of fungi, mosses and fossils to the  Armitt Library some of which are on display. She had become a member on her marriage to William Heelis in 1913 who was the Library’s solictor since 1912.”

Potter's work

Admiring Potter’s drawings and watercolours

The Armitt Museum houses so much more than just the original core book collection. Alongside the story of Beatrix Potter and the Lake District is a large collection of her exquisite drawings, the library of The Fell and Rock Climbing Club and a gallery devoted to the work of German artist Kurt Schwitters.

Edith Thomas

Portrait of Edith Thomas by Kurt Schwitters

Born in Hanover in 1887, he studied art at Dresden, but it was not until the Dada movement of 1916 that he finally liberated himself from conventional art. Schwitters took from Dada the freedom to use what materials he wanted to in his pictorial compositions … In 1937 for a variety of compelling reasons Schwitters left Hanover for Norway, never to return to his home again. The Norwegian experience was mixed … and in 1940 Schwitters and his son fled to Britain where they were both interned on the Isle of Man. Afterwards Schwitters lived in London until the end of the war in 1945, when he moved to Ambleside where he remained until his death in poverty and obscurity in 1948. Schwitters never received the recognition in Britain he had enjoyed in Europe, and his art did not sell. However, in 1947 he was fortunate enough to start his third Merzbau in a barn in Elterwater. Regrettably only a fragment was completed before his death, and this small monument to his genius can now be seen in the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle.” [Armitt Museum website]

Fell and Rock Collection

Books on an Alpine theme

After lunch in Windermere we continued to Blackwell the Arts and Crafts House overlooking Lake Windermere. This was my second visit to the house, my first being in 2002 which was not long after the house was opened to the public.


When the architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865 – 1945) built a holiday home overlooking Windermere for his client Sir Edward Holt, a brewer from Manchester, he created Blackwell, a masterpiece of twentieth-century design; a perfect example of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

Enjoy a lovingly crafted day out at one of the most enchanting historic houses in the Lake District. When you visit you are invited to relax and immerse yourself in all the beauty and craftsmanship of Blackwell. We encourage you to sit and soak up the atmosphere in Blackwell’s fireplace inglenooks, which have fine examples of tiles by Arts & Crafts designer William de Morgan. The inviting window seats offer stunning views of the surrounding Lake District scenery. You can appreciate the house as it was originally intended, without roped-off areas.

Window 1

Stained glass window

Window 2

Another stained glass window

Window seat

Window Seat

Blackwell retains many of its original decorative features, including a rare hessian wall-hanging in the Dining Room, leaf-shaped door handles, curious window catches, spectacular plasterwork, stained glass and carved wooden panelling by Simpsons of Kendal. The rooms contain furniture and objects by many of the leading Arts & Crafts designers and studios – metalwork by WAS Benson, ceramics by Pilkingtons and Ruskin Pottery and furniture by Morris & Co., Stanley Webb Davies, Ernest Gimson and Baillie Scott himself.”

Fireplace 1


Fireplace 2

Another Fireplace (My Favourite)

For more and better pictures of Blackwell see here a fellow Blog Poster’s visit to the House earlier this year.



Farewell to Armitt, Blackwell and Windermere, but not, alas, to rain … it followed us home.


Fashion Galore! and The Georgians Revealed

In addition to Uproar! at The Ben Uri Gallery I managed to fit in two further shows in London this week. On Monday (half price day) I accompanied a friend to see “Isabella Blow : Fashion Galore!” a spectacular exhibition of fashion and accessories from the collection of Isabella Blow at Somerset House.

British Library

And  on Tuesday I met my sister at The British Library to see “The Georgians Revealed : life, style and the making of Modern Britain”. A far cry from each you might think but not so! There was Ms Blow with her aristocratic background, her celebrity lifestyle, her fashion journalism  and her promotion and patronage of design and style and fashion in clothes and shoes and hats. And there were the Georgians apparently just as obsessed with the cult of celebrity, with their outrageous fashions, with the first newspapers and popular magazines and with their aristocrats living in homes just like the one Ms Blow grew up in.

Born Isabella Delves Broughton brought up at the family seat is Doddington Park, near Nantwich, Cheshire. She became fashion director of The Tatler. She worked at Vogue and was an innovative editor the Sunday Times Style magazine.  Blow is credited with discovering such designers as Alexander McQueen, milliner Philip Treacy and Hussein Chalayan, as well as models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant.


Postcard from Isabella Blow : Fashion Galore!

Sadly, I have the impression that Isabella Blow could not cope with the changes and developments of the mood of fashion in the 21st century and she took her own life on 7 May 2007. Bu the exhibition certainly reflects a passion for fashion and is filled with colour and style and flamboyance reflected through the work of the designers she collected and promoted in particular Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen.

Blow flyer

If I have one complaint about the exhibition, which was simply spectacular, it would be that the first few showcases illustrating Blow’s early life displayed scrapbooks and letters which everyone wanted to study closely and led to a jam of people at the start of the show which later easily dispersed.

Georgians large

The Georgians Revealed  marks the 300th anniversary of the accession of King George I in 1714 and reveals the unprecedented economic, social and cultural changes in Britain under the four successive kings of the House of Hanover. By 1830, when George IV died, every aspect of daily life had been transformed.

The show is divided into three broad areas illustrating their influences on :

1) Public places, private spaces

“New ideas of taste and politeness influenced much of Georgian life from the elegant new streets and squares to the entertainments enjoyed at home. London and the major provincial towns were transformed by classical architecture, providing new public buildings and comfortable homes for the elite and middle classes. Gardens and parks were radically redesigned. Formal parterres gave way to expansive lawns and exotically planted flowerbeds. In the home, luxury and comfort were to be had in refined new styles of interior decoration and a range of fashionable furniture made to order.

But the population of the British Isles tripled to some 24 million, there was disorder and want too. The poor often had just a single room to house a family, and popular public places, such as pleasure gardens and coffee houses, were also sites of bawdy entertainment, crime and scandal. Nevertheless, new middle class homes and gardens reflected the growing wealth and confidence of Georgian Britain and created a lifestyle to which many still aspire.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

2) Buying luxury, acquiring style

Georgian Fashion

“The East India Company was central to the import of luxury goods during much of the Georgian period. As Britain grew more powerful in the successive wars of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the company extended its monopoly over trade with the East Indies. Tea, coffee and sugar changed the lifestyles as well as the diets of the Georgians. British manufacturers enticed consumers with cheaper goods that copied those from abroad.

Shopping became a popular social activity. Advertising in newspapers, printed handbills and beautifully designed trade cards, encouraged spending on a wide range of luxuries. The fashion industry was born, as newspapers and magazines began regular commentaries on celebrity clothes and accessories. All who could afford it aspired to be fashionable.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

3) Pleasures of society, virtues of culture

“Sociability to the Georgians was central to daily life, inspiring a huge increase in public entertainments. Theatre was well established, playhouses became larger and new theatrical genres catered for a wider and more diverse audience. Assembly Rooms were built where gentile society could show off their dancing skills, take refreshments and gamble. Pleasure gardens and masquerades added spice to social gatherings. All these opportunities to see and be seen, and to be reported on in print, fed a new culture of celebrity.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]


Outside, in the British Library courtyard, is the Georgeobelisk a 6 metre high eye-catcher which evokes the playfulness of temporary theatrical constructions that were popular during the Georgian period to mark special occasions or important historical events.


I recommend both exhibitions if you can get to them!

Around the World in Christmas Gifts

Every gift received this Christmas has a special association for me: be it reading, travelling, visiting libraries, drinking tea or communicating via traditional pen and ink or modern internet methods.

ipad mini

I am now the rather nervous owner of an iPad Mini. I’m sure I will get used it and love using it but currently it sits pristine on its box whilst I still tap away at my laptop and snap away with my camera or iPod Touch.


I’ll be checking dates and tempted to book Landmark Trust stays every time I look at my Landmark Trust Calendar for 2014. There is Astley Castle on the front (and also on the back) cover.


Whilst at the Landmark St Mary’s Lane in Tewkesbury earlier this year I came across “Cotswold Follies and Fancies”. It’s a guide to the curious, whimsical and romantic buildings around the area. I’m happy to have a copy of my own to take with me next time I visit the Cotswolds.


In 2014 I have travel plans for another ATG walking holiday this time in Italy. We will be staying just one night in Rome but will be sure to hunt out at least one of its “Quiet Corners”. In 2015 I’m hoping to spend a bit longer in and around The Eternal City.

Fodors Maine

No plans yet to return to New England next year but if we do I have just the up-to-date guide to make planning easy in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Tea and spoons

Paris is one of my favourite destinations and this (academic) year one of my Swiss friends is working there in her Gap Year. She sent me lovely Mariage Freres loose tea in a tin and two pearl spoons from the shop where she’s working : Sabre. It would be lovely to visit her whilst she is there.

“The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea” – Henri Mariage [Founder]


On a visit to Paris in 2010 a Parisian friend and I visited The House of Victor Hugo in a quiet corner of the Place Des Vosges. We’re still hoping to make a rendez-vous together at his other former home (owned by the City of Paris) Hauteville House on Guernsey. In the meantime I have this ‘writer’s’ candle whose scent of bergamot-iris-hyacinth is reminiscent of Le Jardin D’Hugo.


My friend, fellow blogger and fellow online book group  moderator Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book read and recommended “Phantoms on the Bookshelves” this year. About it he says “Jacques Bonnet is more like the friendly face at your book group who will enthuse about managing to squeeze another bookcase into the corner of the living room.” I’m looking forward to reading Mr Bonnet’s book, translated from the French, very soon.

The Library

I understand that M. Bonnet writes about other libraries beside his own and some may be included in this coffee table book “The Library : a world history” which will find pride of place on Miladys table. I’ll be dipping into it all year and beyond.


Since joining The Leeds Library I have been a regular reader of The New Yorker so it was with great delight that I unwrapped a box of 100 cards taken from the covers of that magazine over ten decades. When I need to send a card I should find a date or subject suitable for almost every recipient. If I don’t find one in that box then I can turn to a gift box of 20 cards of designs by Frank Lloyd Wright for the American Liberty Magazine.

Lavendar bath

And at the end of the day I can relax in a Lavender Foaming Bath: “A new definition of calm.”

Many thanks to everyone who gave these gifts … and I hope you were at least half as pleased with what I gave you!

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.

The City that Built Chicago : The Hackley and Hume Houses in Muskegon, MI

On Saturday 7th September as we drove into Muskegon, a city of 38,000 in the State of Michigan more or less opposite Milwaukee on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, and drew to a stop outside the Hackley and Hume Houses I thought I had arrived in pre-revolutionary Russia!

The Hackley House

The Hackley House

Hume House

The Hume House

Look at the pictures and you will see what I mean. But I could get no satisfactory answer from the tour guide as to why the houses were built in this particular style. But otherwise we had a most interesting tour of both houses and were able to compare and contrast the house styles and the lives of their former inhabitants.

Our guide referred to Muskegon as the city that built Chicago due to its huge influence and reliance on the lumber (timber) trade.  Needless to say that was what Charles Hackley and Thomas Hume were involved in.

Hunts' Guide

Victorian love of ornament may have reached a new height in the 1888 home of Muskegon’s great benefactor and richest lumber baron, Charles Hackley. Together with the house of his partner next door and the elaborate, prominent carriage house they share, it forms a remarkable urban ensemble, almost Oriental (we thought it Russian) in its turretted silhouette and rich colors and textures. Houses of this size and splendor were usually made of brick or stone, but Hackley and Thomas Hume, his friend and business partner since 1875, built with the material that made their fortunes. It is said to have taken years for German woodcarvers to finish the Hackley House’s fanciful, fascinating carvings of birds, dragons, bats and a portrait of Hackley himself.”

Taken from Hunt’s Guide to West Michigan (above).

Carriage House

The Prominent Carriage House

Charles Hackley

Charles H. Hackley carved in wood

Bat carving

Bat Carving

Hackley Fireplace

The Hackley Carved Fireplace

Ornate Room

Ornate walls, ceiling and door in the Hackley House

Hackley Stairs

Staircase at The Hackley House

Wedding preparations

The Hume House was being Prepared to Show a Wedding Party

Charles Hackley was a generous benefactor to the city of Muskegon and many buildings and sites still survive today as evidence of this. We visited the park, the library and the art museum, all very near the houses, but there’s also a hospital, a school and other philanthropic institutions.

Hackley Library

The Hackley Library

Library poster

Welcome to The Hackley Library – the Hackley Park is behind

Hackley Library 1

Hackley Library 2

Inside The Hackley Library Today

Glass Floor

The first floor mezzanine has a glass floor to allow as much natural light into the building as possible.

Art Museum

The Muskegon Museum of Art

Outdoor Reading Pleasure : Public Benches in Chur and a Swiss Artist in England

The above title is my translation of the name of a little leaflet I picked up in Chur Station on Sunday. In German it’s “Lesegenuss in Grünen – offentliche Lesebänke in Chur”. Anything with “reading” in the heading is bound to catch my eye. So today, when the work was done I made myself a cheese salad sandwich and headed off on the train again into Chur to find out more …

Intro leaflet

In addition to the Lesebank-Project leaflet I’d picked up a handy folded map of the city. The nearest Lesebank to Chur Station is in Friedhof Daleu. A Friedhof is a cemetery. Never mind. It turned out to be a lovely quiet shady garden with benches and chairs and I soon spotted the (empty) Lesebank on one of the main avenues.

Your Reading Bench

Inside the box is a selection of books – possibly about 30 – fiction and non-fiction, for children and adults, with a contents list and a ‘visitors’ book for comments. The Lesebank is the joint project of the Bündner Volksbibliothek and the Kantonsbibliothek. Two local public libraries but I’m not too sure what the difference between them is. There are 6 of these Reading Benches throughout the city.

The Contents

I wasn’t about to start reading a novel in German as the person before me had (Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse) so I picked a small book called “The loveliest gardens and parks in Switzerland” to study whilst picnicking. I made a note of two gardens – both also cemeteries – in the Graubünden Canton.

Chur has several bookshops – all of which stocked at least a shelf or two of English language books – but nothing that I hadn’t either read already or fancied the look of.

57 Reichsgasse

From the reading bench I went in search of the birthplace [57 Reichsgasse] of the painter and founder member of our Royal Academy Angelica Kauffman. Although born in Chur she travelled in Switzerland and Italy with her father who was also an artist and to London at the age of 25. She was a close friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The ground floor of her former home is now a cafe and there is a little hanging shelf unit where a few cards and books and the cafe drinks list are displayed.

AK Born here

AK display

Here you can see a slideshow of Kauffman’s paintings – many of which are portraits – owned by public galleries throughout the UK including some National Trust properties. The Artist Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting, 1791 or 1794, [below] was acquired with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2002 for Nostell Priory, in West Yorkshire.

Nostell Priory

“Remembering the past … inspiring the future …” : 2nd Air Division (USAAF) Memorial Library

Yesterday I wrote about the libraries of Norwich, which I knew and loved. Within these libraries there was (and still is) an important post-war link with our American friends and allies. The ‘new’ library [the one opened in 1963] had a special space and a fountain as a dedicated memorial to the airmen of the United States Air Force who fought along with the British from UK bases during the Second World War.

2nd Air

Sadly the contents of that library and the fountain itself were destroyed by  the raging fire in 1994. This would have included the Roll of Honour and other precious documents and artefacts.

Memorial Library

‘They gave their tomorrow for our today’

The staff and trustees were not going to let a little thing like a devastating fire get in their way and immediately after the fire work began on planning the replacement and a bigger library has now replaced the old one in a place of honour within the Forum.

On this recent visit I took a closer look at the Memorial Library and its contents. Here is what it says about the library on the website :

During the Second World War the United States Eighth Air Force despatched 3,000 bombers and fighters on a day’s operations involving more than 20,000 airmen, flying from airfields in East Anglia; the largest air strike force ever committed to battle. At full strength the Second Air Division, one of the Eighth’s three divisions, controlled fourteen heavy bomber airfields in Norfolk and northeast Suffolk, and five fighter airfields. Ketteringham Hall served as the Division’s headquarters. Nearly 7,000 young Americans, in the Second Air Division lost their lives in the line of duty.
With peace, the Second Air Division chose to honour its casualties through a unique library in Norwich, a ‘living memorial’, not only a tribute to those Americans ‘who flying from bases in these parts gave their lives defending freedom’, but also an educational and friendship bridge between two nations.

Map of bases

Locations of the USAAF bases in Norfolk and Suffolk


New books and US magazines display

Display 1

Display 2

Other library displays

Birch trees

A number of American birch trees were given to the Trust by The Friends of the Memorial Library and planted just outside.

What a wonderful idea. I cannot think of a better living and ever-evolving memorial to those brave fighters who died in defence of freedom so far from home!

Libraries Old and Libraries New

This week I was back in the city of my birth, and where I grew up, Norwich. These days almost everything looks smaller than I remember from my childhood.

One of my earliest memories that lead to a lifetime’s love, and my career, was my first visit one Friday tea-time when I was about 5 to the local Norwich Public Library. It must have been summer as it was light and the whole family walked from where we lived, off St Stephen’s Road, to the library (opened in 1857) on the corner of Duke Street and St Andrew’s Street. It seemed a long way at the time but later I can remember running there with my sister and a neighbour ready for the Children’s Library opening time at 10am on each morning of one school summer holiday, ready to exchange our books.

The old Norwich public library

The Norwich public library that I knew and loved. Photo credit here.

The Queen Mother

In 1963 Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother opened a new public library in Norwich much nearer home for me! Photo credit here.

I was in the crush – on the front row – and I think somewhere in my ‘archive’ [shoe box] I have the newspaper snipping. Not a week went by for the rest of my time in Norwich when I didn’t visit that library at least once. I studied for exams there. Used the local history library for my Regional Essay and final year dissertation. I even worked there briefly between study and ‘proper’ job.


Norwich Public Library 1st August 1994

Amazingly, even though I had long since left Norwich to marry and bring up my family in far away Yorkshire, I was one of the last people to leave that library on the eve of the devastating fire that all but destroyed the building and its contents. I had even borrowed a book which I was happy to return by post to the temporary premises in Ber Street!

Norwich Forum

It took many years but eventually a new library was built and opened on the site. It is HUGE! So this is one library that is not smaller than I’d remembered in my childhood. The vast Norwich Forum which contains the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library opened in October 2003 and its building benefitted from The Millennium Lottery Project.


Southwark Wenlock

Southwark Wenlock at The Norwich Forum

This week’s exhibition was Norfolk: Our 2012 Story.

An exhibition to celebrate our local contribution to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Since the Olympic and Paralympic flames were handed from Beijing to London, Norfolk has embraced the 2012 opportunity. We have seen over four years of exciting projects, innovative programmes and celebrations large and small to ensure that these once-in-a-lifetime events will never be forgotten in our county.”

The Forum is open everyday (except Christmas day and Boxing Day) from 7am until 11.30pm. Along with the library there are cafes and a Pizza Express, the BBC Norwich studios, exhibition space and the Tourist Information Centre and shop.

It’s been declared that the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library has been named as the UK’s most popular library for the sixth year running!

There was another library in Norwich when I was growing up although I never went inside. The Norfolk and Norwich Subscription Library was instituted as a private library in 1784. It eventually closed in 1976. It’s stock was transferred to the Norwich School and forms the basis of its Local History Library.

The Library Restaurant

The Library, Norwich

I have now been in the N&N Subscription Library as these days it is a restaurant. We ate a very good meal there on Wednesday evening.

Library book marks

“Reading is to the mind what great food is to the body”