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Bristol Central Library

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Bristol Central Library

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Bristol Central Library

In the annals of municipal cultural splendour, Bristol brooks few competitors, and for many, the jewel in its crown is the Central Library. The present building on College Green dates only from 1906, but this is very much a case of old wine in new bottles. It was originally founded in the early 17th century by a local merchant, Robert Redwood, who kindly donated a lodge in which to house it. Indeed, it was only the second public library to be established in England.

When a new Library was built on the same site in 1740, it shared its premises with the Bristol Library Society, an august institution whose subscribers included Sir Humphrey Davy and the poet Samuel Coleridge. At the heart of the current building is the Bristol Room, where bookcases, furniture and some ornate wooden carvings by Grinling Gibbons have been immaculately preserved from 18th-century days. There’s still plenty of time to book ahead for one of the centenary tours that the Library is offering this year.

Photo: Courtesy of Bristol Central Library


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Bristol Central Library, on College Green adjacent to the city's Anglican Cathedral, celebrates its centenary this year. Opened in June 1906, the Grade I listed building was designed by Charles Holden and it was voted as Bristol's most popular 20th century building in 2002. The building is a fine example of the Edwardian Free Style and it contains many architectural and historical gems. These include the Bristol Room which is a recreation of the earlier 18th century library and the glory of the room and one of the great treasures of Bristol is the elaborate overmantel to the fireplace which is by the renowned woodcarver, Grinling Gibbons.

Robert Harrison



My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry