North Walsham Library is ready to mark its 50th anniversary with a week of special events, children’s activities and celebrations.
And staff are keen to hear from any library users who have special memories of the building over the past half-century.
The distinctive building on New Road, in the shape of an eight-pointed star, cost £14,274 and was officially opened on May 23 1968.
It replaced a library service which had operated for many years in a former billiards room behind the King’s Arms pub in the town centre.
The new North Walsham library opened with a total 14,000 books including, for the first time, a children’s section with 2,000 titles. There was also a new reference section.
Two months after the opening, in July 1986, the North Walsham branch got its own mobile library vehicle to make four-weekly visits to surrounding north Norfolk villages. A van had previously operated from Norwich.
The new North Walsham librarian was Andrew Kett, who moved from Gloucestershire and his wife, Mrs R Kett, had responsibility for the mobile service with the driver/assistant Mr H Lester.
Full-time assistant to Mr Kett was Mrs Barbara Hankin and there were also three part-time assistants including Mrs Winnie Wallace, who did the job from 1950-1974, and Mrs E M Laws.
Within just a few weeks of the official opening adult membership was well over 3,000 and more than 460 children had joined.
The library was open from 10am daily except Sunday, closed for an hour every weekday lunchtime, and closed at 5pm except on Mondays and Thursdays – when it stayed open until 8pm – and Saturday which was a half day.
The building was officially opened by Mrs M A L Clifton Brown, chairman of the county council’s library committee, and special guests present included Mr J T E Jones, chairman of North Walsham Urban District Council, Dr F Lincoln Ralphs, county chief education officer, and Mr D P Mortlock, county librarian.
Other sites previously considered for the library had included part of the high school site on Park Avenue, and within the grounds of the council offices on New Road.
- North Walsham’s most famous schoolboy, Horatio Nelson, will be remembered in music, word and song in a special talk as part of the library’s half-centenary celebrations.
“Norfolk Hero – The Songs of Lord Nelson, The Victory and Trafalgar” will start the week’s events on the afternoon of Saturday May 19.
Singers and musicians from the local folk scene will perform traditional ballads, broadsides and tunes as well as shanties, monologues, and contemporary poems and songs.
The two-hour talk, a world premiere, follows previous talks at the library on traditional singers Walter Pardon of Knapton, Harry Cox of Catfield, Sam Larner of Winterton and Peter Bellamy, of Norwich.
Tickets are £5, include refreshments, and are available now from the library.
A display of old photographs and newspaper cuttings relating to the library will be on show all week and staff hope to use old-style rubber stamps for issuing books as well as membership cards in “wooden coffins”.
Paul Cosham, who has been manager at the library for three years, is especially keen for users to contribute their special memories to the display. Anyone willing should speak to a member of staff.
A special “bounce and rhyme” party for young children is planned during the week and other ideas under consideration are a children’s dress-up event and a book sale.
On Wednesday May 23, the actual anniversary date, there will be a special celebration for former staff and invited guests including the new mayor of North Walsham, local county councillor Eric Seward, county library manager Jan Holden and area manager Kerry Murray.
Contact the library on (01692) 402482 or at email@example.com
The opening of North Walsham Library on May 23 1968.