Central Library - Bishop Street

Bishop Street Library in 1908, three years after it opened.

Bishop Street Library in 1908, three years after it opened.

By the beginning of the 20th century the growth of both book stock and users had grown to the extent that the Libraries Committee was strongly recommending a new building. In 1902, Andrew Carnegie offered Leicester Corporation £12,000 to build a new Municipal Library. Scottish born Carnegie was the owner of the biggest Iron and steel works in the USA and a multi-millionaire who was noted for his generous funding of new libraries on both sides of the Atlantic. The Corporation accepted his offer and a site for the new building was chosen on the corner of Bishop Street and Bowling Green Street.

Bishop Street Library interior 1924

Bishop Street Library interior 1924

The library was designed by Edward Burgess and built by Clark & Garrett of Willow Street. The new library was opened on Monday 8 May 1905 by Andrew Carnegie himself. The opening ceremony took place at 3pm in the Reference Library on the first floor, presided over by the Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Stephen Hilton.

Mr Carnegie was presented with three volumes of the Records of the Borough of Leicester which had been specially bound for the occasion "in full myrtle green crushed Levant morocco, sewn flexibly with silk, with antique gold edges. Tooled and lettered in gold’. Edward Burgess also presented Mr Carnegie with a gold key. The library was opened to the public the next day.

In recent years the building in Bishop Street was home to the Reference Library and is now the main Central Library in Leicester.