Public Not Private – Why Our Library Matters

“The corner of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road may be looked upon as the central point of North Kensington” – Quote from “Notting Hill in Bygone Day’s” by Florence Gladstone published in 1924. We believe that this insightful observation is as true today as it was when it was first written 0ver 90 years ago.

The North Kensington Library, located on the aforementioned corner of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road, was funded and built through the generosity of local people and was first opened to the public, exactly 125 years ago, in 1891. Since then, the library has provided an important space where poor, working class people could get an education and progress in life.

Local residents have subsequently been using the North Kensington Library for vital educational, social, community, spiritual, and just plain ‘living’ purposes. As a consequence of this relationship between the library and and it’s users, the actual building, as well as the library service itself has become part of the DNA of the local community and a much loved and valued institution that we do not wish to surrender.

Over time, users of the North Kensington Library have come to understand it’s cultural significance and the intrinsic value that the building now represents to our community. People love it’s exact location, it’s social and personal history, it’s classical red brick architecture, it’s wide, welcoming entrance hallway and it’s towering, semi-regal staircase.

Local residents have long enjoyed the fantastic space and freedom the building provides and it’s wonderful high ceilings and the quality of light that floods the building from it’s ornate and well positioned windows. There is an undeniable air of spaciousness and lack of formal constriction that helps give the library building it’s unique character. And let us not forget, too, the most excellent and spacious Children’s Library situated in the basement of the existing building that has provided a safe, calm and unique nurturing educational atmosphere for generations of local youngsters. Many memories of growing up were formed here and these also need to be respected.

Supporters of this fine building do not wish for all this history and heritage to be simply swept aside and it really should not be a surprise to the RBKC Council, or parents of NHPS pupils, that current library users wish to resist being moved, without consultation or choice, into a semi-hidden, newly constructed, over developed, ‘multiplex’ afterthought with none of the gravitas or eminence of our current library building.

It is impossible to actually quantify what the library has yielded to the local community in terms of providing a base and grounding for free educational study and how the fruits of this labour have provided many generations of men and women from North Kensington with the opportunity to progress in their lives. We wish that the Council recognise the significant contribution that the North Kensington library has made to the educational advancement of the local community and that they honour this invaluable 125 year old history by ensuring that the building remains accessible to all.

In addition, supporters of the North Kensington Library believe that the library building has come to signify education to people who were not receiving any when it first opened and that to change the use of the building from public to private educational is a betrayal of the heritage of the aspirations of the local community.

We believe that this wonderful and much loved building, funded from public donations, represents the history, heritage and cultural importance of the area and has contributed enormously to the character of North Kensington. It should remain in public hands and benefit the many and not just the few. We therefore do not believe that our library should be handed over to Notting Hill Prep School with the unpalatable consequence that this historic building can in future be accessed only by the children of the rich and privileged.

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