New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Arts & Crafts Architecture in Birmingham III: An Arts & Crafts (former) library

Posted March 4th, 2014 by Joe Turner with 11 Comments

On my way out of town through Longbridge last week I took a short detour down Leach Green Lane to take a look at the old Rednal Library, which I’d heard was built in an Arts and Crafts style. What I found was an amazing and original little building.

Rednal is right at the edge of the city boundary, Rednal Hill being one of the Lickey Hills, and the Bristol Road tram terminus arrived in the 1920s to ferry Brummies out to the Lickeys on day trips. The trams are of course long gone but the terminus building is still there – it was a Chinese restaurant last time I looked – and a short stretch of the line has been kept. Real urbanisation only came along here after the Second World War when the Rednal Hill council estate was built.

The library was there before all this. It is dated 1909, when the area was still under the control of Kings Norton & Northfield Urban District Council, and its size probably reflects the largely rural settlement that it was intended to serve. The foundation stone above the door confirms that, like many libraries in Birmingham and elsewhere, it was built with funds provided by the Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The land was given by the Cadburys, who played a significant role elsewhere in the Birmingham Arts and Crafts movement, and the architect was a Benjamin Bower, who does not appear to have many other buildings to his name.

The library was Grade II listed in 1982 and closed about 20 years ago (hopefully not a precursor for some of Birmingham’s other local branch libraries). It is now a private house. The occupants must have quite a reading room…


11 Responses to “Arts & Crafts Architecture in Birmingham III: An Arts & Crafts (former) library”

  1. Anna Robinson ne Nordhoff July 2, 2019

    A terrific comforting memory of my childhood . The atmosphere the smell the joy of the books. Books, I read every day and have passed this passion onto my children .


  2. John amess November 26, 2018

    Living in Leach Green Lane from 18 months old until I got married at the age of 21, over those years used the old library on lots of occasions and just loved the architecture both externally and inside, I am so pleased that it is still there and lived in bye a family that will care for it.
    I can also remember the old farmhouse almost opposite the library that only had oil lamps for lighting this was before the flats that were built some years later.
    Growing up and living in Leach green Lane with all it had to offer especially the Lickey Hills and all the green fields filled with wild flowers in summer it was so magical and I would not change my childhood in any way.
    Thanks for the photograph


    • Paula January 27, 2019

      Do you remember a shop on Leach Green Lane called Freckletons?


  3. Tony Muckle March 16, 2014

    It’s on my list of things to see when I’m next in town. What a nice example of an Arts & Crafts building .


  4. Tom Perfect March 10, 2014

    What a delightful little thing. The property appears to have been on the market not too long ago. Particulars, complete with a few interior photos, can be seen here: The wood panelling is divine.


  5. andrew sharp March 7, 2014

    spent lots of time here as a young fella in the 60 and 70, I remember going ther and reading cat in the hat books. a great old building and will definatly have a look next time im back in the uk.thanks for the story


  6. Lesley Rogers March 5, 2014

    For many years we lived in Leach Green Lane opposite to the library. As an avid reader, it was perfect place to live. I loved the library, the atmosphere inside was calming and peaceful. I am pleased that the present owner enjoys his home.


  7. Paul McElhinney March 5, 2014

    I used to visit this library as a young child. I recall that the furnishings were all very dark wood. There were large bookcases all around the room and central freestanding bookcases in the centre of the room. It had a proper old library atmosphere of near silence. Two librarians worked there. It’s a beautiful old building.


  8. Larry Ashurst March 5, 2014

    I live here. I’ve been here for 11 years now and love it. I openly say that it’s haunted, but it doesn’t bother me. If you add me as a friend on Facebook you can see inside in my pics. I do believe that Kings Norton Library is another Carnegie library and Bowers may have designed that. There’s another library in Bartley Green that is similar. You may not know, Tolkien used to come and read ere as a child. I often wonder if it’s his Hobbit’s house.There are tons of jobs to do maintenance wise. I’m going to try and get on top of them this year.


    • Inge Thornton March 5, 2014

      Hi Larry. I worked for Birmingham Libraries for 24 years, and would love to see your photos on FB. However, you seem to have your settings set so that I can’t send you a friend request. Perhaps you could send me one instead?


  9. Katie Hughes March 5, 2014

    I only live 10 mins away from here and never knew of it’s existence. I shall definitely be taking a trip down there to have a look. It looks like a lovely quaint building with lots of arts and crafts character.


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