Levenshulme Old Library


Levenshulme Library was opened in 1904 as one of many Carnegie Free libraries, with an endowment of £2,500. £500 was raised locally via a ‘penny on the pound’ levied by the old Levenshulme Urban District Council. Since then it served as our local library until 2016, when a new library was opened as part of the new Arcadia Leisure Centre, following an active community campaign to retain a local library service. Notable users of the library include the famous architect Lord Foster, who has described how he first developed his love of architecture in the building.
Early postcard circa 1905

Quoting from the Manchester Evening news in 2010: Lord Norman, 73, who was educated at Burnage Grammar School, has designed some of the world’s most iconic buildings. His portfolio includes London’s famous ‘Gherkin’, the new Wembley stadium, the Berlin Reichstag and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Lord Foster, who moved to Levenshulme as a child, said he was indebted to his local library. “The pictures [of Levenshulme library]are to remind myself of the debt I owe to the library. If it hadn’t been for the library, I probably wouldn’t have gone to university. I discovered a whole world of literature and also a world of architecture, like the original books of Corbusier.”


The building fell into dis-use in early 2016, and remained empty for 2 years until LOLCIO was finally able to re-open it as a new arts and culture centre. We researched the original endowment and that has provided us with our inspiration. In our letter to the council  requesting an asset transfer we said:

“LOLCIO have consulted widely on our vision for a centre that can serve not only residents of Levenshulme but the whole of Manchester can be proud of. With a strong focus on community based arts, culture, wellbeing and in particular raising the aspirations and opportunities of young people. We feel our vision is wholeheartedly in keeping with the spirit of the original endowment of the building to Levenshulme by Andrew Carnegie.”

As said in a newspaper report in 1904, when the building was first gifted to Levenshulme Urban District Council:

“There is no more useful and generous means of distributing wealth than bearing the expense of providing and disseminating knowledge…One of the latest additions to his wonderful scheme of providing these ‘storehouses of knowledge’ is at Levenshulme.”

Below are photographs and papers relating to the Levenshulme Carnegie Library. First opened in December 1904.

The Library in 1907
Brass plaque celebrating its opening (now missing from the library)
At a total cost of £3,113, 7 shillings and 8 old pence.
Foundation stone
Newspaper article about the opening of the library
Invite to Andrew Carnegie to the opening (he couldn’t make it…)
Original stained glass still in the building.
And still some of the original tiling left…
Early catalogues of books held at the library
And bringing us up to date…
Community occupation of the library to save it from closing approx 2013
Demonstration against the cuts outside the building at the same time
A successful campaign leads to a new Baths and Library for Levenshulme opening in 2016… …now what to do about the old library building?
Here’s a poster from one of our fundraiser events from May 2015. And the campaign paid off, as in Spring 2018 the building re-opened, under the management of LOLCIO, with a bright new future. Here’s to the next 100 years.

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