This is the main reading room at Gladstone’s library, a residential library in Hawarden, Chester. http://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/ I went there recently with my friend Gilly. Ever since Gilly mentioned this place I have wanted to see it. She had described it as a haven for readers and people interested in writing and ideas. I love books and was intrigued also by the idea of a residential library (living in a library – it sounds like a theme for a children’s book “At night, as the building settled down and moonbeams cast their spell through the windows, a soft whispering sounded among the bookshelves…”). Nothing quite prepared me for the scale of the place (click on the picture above to see a bigger version - it is best seen at a larger size). And we never imagined we would be trusted to look around and take pictures.
You can read all about the history and evolution library by clicking on this link, but in essence it was founded by the Victorian statesman William Ewart Gladstone, and following his death in 1898, became a tribute to his life and work and a resource for study and creative pursuit. There is a core collection of some thousands of his own books, all still available to readers. Since his death the library has grown substantially and now holds around 250,000 books. And yes, you really can can stay there. Bedrooms are simply but very pleasing – library wallpaper and Roberts radios! http://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/bedroompictures/
If you’re getting the impression that this is my kind of place, you are right. I loved it. Gilly and I felt like children in a sweet shop wandering around. Sadly it is rather far for me to visit regularly, but as the rates are very reasonable, even before the student discount, I plan to return and stay there. I have decided that I will come here to spend a week working on final year papers for the degree. Hawarden itself is a lovely town with very nice places to walk and explore and I can think of nothing more conducive to some serious reflection than a spell away from everyday distractions in a place as beautiful as this.
Perhaps this will be my bay?