Reading table in Norfolk and Norwich Subscription Library 1954. Photo: J Moore.
Friday, October 31, 2014
A landmark in a Norwich library’s history is set to be celebrated with a series of events.
Norfolk and Norwich Subscription Library 1954. Photo: J Moore.
The Library Restaurant, in Guildhall Hill, is today housed in the building of the city’s former Norfolk and Norwich Subscription Library, one of the oldest subscription libraries in England.
The old library was affected by a serious fire in 1898 but was restored and reopened in 1914, and the 100th anniversary of the building’s reopening is being marked with literary and culinary events running from Saturday until Thursday.
The Library Restaurant is part of the trio of Raffles restaurants in the city owned by Jayne and Nigel Raffles. The restaurant pays tribute to the building’s history through its name, and still features many of the library’s original fixtures including its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
“We are so lucky to be the tenants of our building and we feel very privileged every day because it is such a unique, beautiful building and we want to share it with everyone” Mrs Raffles said.
She said the celebrations were made possible thanks to the support of many organisations and authors from the city’s literary scene.
“This great collaboration has made us both realise why Norwich has been given UNESCO City of Literature‟ status,” said Mrs Raffles, who has also blended a house Library 100‟ wine for the occasion.
Giving a flavour of what is in store over the next few days, Mr and Mrs Raffles said: “We intend to encourage readers and lovers of all things literary to visit us for the celebrations. We are really excited to have fiction author Elly Griffiths, children’s author Douglas Vallgran and illustrator Karl Newson joining us, all of whom have recently been nominated for the EDP/Jarrold East Anglian Book Awards.
“We are even hoping some of the previous subscription library members may pay us a visit and join us in the celebrations.”
The celebrations start with a weekend of family events followed by everything from a reminiscence session to a literary lunch to a quiz evening.
• Full details of the celebrations can be found at http://library100.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/libraryfestnch or via the Twitter hashtag #Library100
HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
According to heritage organisation Norwich HEART, Norfolk and Norwich Subscription Library functioned from 1784 until 1976.
It was at first called The Norwich Public Library.
It was housed in a room at St Andrew’s Hall and moved to the Guildhall Hill building in 1837.
The Norwich Public Library and the Norfolk and Norwich Literary Institution merged in 1886 to become the Norfolk and Norwich Public Subscription Library based at Guildhall Hill.
There was a serious fire at the building in 1898 and the inside of the library had to reconstructed.
The library closed in 1976 and the books were presented to the Norwich School.
The Grade II-listed building then housed an advice centre, and it is now The Library Restaurant.
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Wait a minute – wasn’t this something to do with the courts in the Guildhall? I seem to remember going in here to pay fines and it was all partitioned up.
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