Historic library building celebration

St Helens Central Library at the Gamble Building
St Helens Central Library at the Gamble Building

The historic building housing St Helens’ main library will host a day of events to mark 120 years since it was built.

The Gamble Building on Victoria Square will mark the milestone anniversary with a tea party, a talk and presentation, visits from school pupils and displays on Thursday November 3.

A reading room in the Gamble Building in about 1900

A reading room in the Gamble Building in about 1900

The building was opened in November 1896 and still contains the town’s Central Library and local history archives.

The landmark was the idea of the town’s first mayor, chemical magnate Sir David Gamble, who donated £30,000, a sum worth £3.57m today, to make the project a reality.

Huge crowds lined the streets to see the Earl of Derby visit St Helens and to witness Sir David handing the finished building over to the borough.

The 120th anniversary will be celebrated with a timeline wall display of features and people associated with the building and a case showing off to visitors the golden casket and freedom of the borough awarded to Sir David for his gift of the Gamble Institute.

School pupils will browse original photographs, news cuttings and plans of the building and the local history room will have a talk by Pauline HUrst about the Gamble family, including their famous relatives in America involved with giant firm Proctor and Gamble.

There will also be a tea party running throughout the day from 10am until 4pm.

The building was originally created as a technical school to provide the advanced qualifications people working in local industries needed.

It opened two years after plans were drawn up in 1894, with a library complete with ladies-only reading room on the ground floor, a basement devoted to manual training which included a complete metallurgical laboratory, and a first floor housing classrooms, lecture rooms and departments for cookery and laundry.

Art and chemical departments were included on the second floor.

The building remains a hub of learning and creativity today although some of its original Victorian rules, such as children under 12 being banned from entering the library or borrowing books there, are now long gone.

The institute also honours Sir David with a prominent marble bust of him visible in the main library.