I have been having a run of good luck on Ebay this week. My favourite item, which arrived in the post this morning, is a copy of Ernest Thompson Seton’s Old Silver Grizzle The Badger. What makes this slightly battered edition interesting to me is that on the front is a stained, green label printed with the words CLARENDON PARK LENDING LIBRARY. Which got me thinking about libraries in Clarendon Park.
Knighton branch library opened on Clarendon Park Road on 9th April 1896. In 1912 it contained upwards of 4,300 books (according to Kelly’s Directory), rising to 5,900 by 1928. Opening hours were then 6 – 9.30pm on weeknights and 3 - 9.30pm on Saturdays, reflecting the leisure hours of Clarendon Park working folk. The Chronicle reported in 1897 that Knighton library readers were more inclined to read “serious” books, especially theology and philosophy, and there were more adult readers than at other branches. It was abundantly supplied with daily papers and periodicals. 18,000 books were issued in the first year, making it a great success. A separate table was kept for ladies, and another for boys. Very sensible. Ladies and boys just don’t mix, do they?
Many towns and villages had private lending libraries, often operating from small shops. In Victorian times the cost of books was so high in proportion to incomes, that most people could not afford to buy them and so used a private lending library, at least until the municipal ones were established. Quite a few were organised by churches, such as St Philips in Evington, where the vicar “put by” 300 or so books and started one for the poor of his parish (no doubt of an improving nature). Some were established in village halls and schools. Some of these were free, and some were paid for by subscription or by individual book borrowed. Both kinds could have flourished in Clarendon Park, with its mix of wealthier middle class and very humble working class people.
None of which brings me much closer to finding out about Clarendon Park Lending Library. I’m pretty sure I came across a reference to it in a city directory at the county archive…..but I won’t get a chance to check until next week. Oh, and Catherine Hayes, of The Pebbles, Burmarsh circa 1982 with the red felt tip pen – you are a naughty girl for writing in your books! Regards, Elizabeth.