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Brierley Hill Technical Institute and Library, Moor Street

September 16, 2023 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

An extraordinary opportunity to view the inside of this landmark building in Brierley Hill.  The building served for 70 years as the town’s library and also housed Brierley Hill Technical Institute and Art School. Recent social media posts illustrate the many happy memories this building holds.  This may be the last opportunity to see the inside of the building before a new use is found.

1904 tour

To whet your appetite here is a transcription of a 1904 newspaper article which describes the building at its opening.  The rooms and features are still recognisable today:

The new buildings are imposing block, and constitute the finest erection in the urban district.

The only regret felt is that the structure is not erected in High Street, but, as was stated at the time the negotiations for a site were in progress, it was impossible to obtain land in the main street at anything like the cost which it was proposed to spend in this direction. In one instance a sum of £3,000 for an acceptable site was mentioned, but this, as well as one or two other offers, were deemed to be far beyond the means at dispose, and eventually the Bell Street and Moor Street site was adopted.

The buildings give the appearance of great strength and durability, and are rich in ornamentation and most pleasing to the eye.

They have an elevation to Moor Street, on the technical side, of 95 feet, whilst the free library elevation to Bell Street extends for a length of 54 feet.

The whole of the exterior walls are of best red Ketley bricks and terra cotta, also supplied by the Ketley Brick Company.

The entrance to the technical school is in Moor Street and that to the free library in Bell Street.

The richly-ornamented terra-cotta around the respective doorways constitutes one of the striking features of the structure.

There are heavy semi-circular arches supported by ornate buildings, and surmounting each entrance is an ornamental niche, that over the free library containing a shield upon which is described “Libri,” and over the technical institute is a similar figure grasping a shield with the inscription “Art.” These figures were modelled by Mr. A. Gibbons, master of the art classes, and Mr. A. Oakden, his assistant.

The corner of the building is nicely rounded off by a circular window in each of the two storeys, and above rises a fine terra-cotta dome of imposing proportions.

The roof of slate is bounded by an ornamental parapet wall, and a turret of oak springs from the centre. The foul air from all the rooms is carried to the turret by shafts.

Inside the main entrance in Moor Street is a vestibule spanned by an elliptical arch leading into the corridor from which access is gain to the rooms on the ground floor.

The first of these – a small one – is directly on the left, and is set apart for the private use of the master for interviews with intending pupils, and other purposes.

The floors of the corridors are of Terasso paving, and the sides from the vestibule, also up the staircase and upper corridors are lined with a dado of fancy glazed tiles of green tints, manufactured by Messrs Gibbons, Hinton and Co., by who part were given as a contribution to the building. A special feature, too, has been made of the plastering, to which reference has previously been made in our columns as the work has proceeded.

The ceilings and cornices are finished with beautiful mouldings, this work being most commendably done by Mr. V. Lydiatt, Dudley.

The room directly in front of the Moor Street entrance was originally intended as a cloak room for students, but has now been devoted to clay-moulding, for which no other room was available, and cloak room accommodation will be made elsewhere.

To the right is the laboratory, 41ft by 25ft, which will be fitted up by Messrs W. and J. George, Ltd., Birmingham with the latest and most approved apparatus for chemical, physical and metallurgical experiments.

Adjoining is the lecture theatre, where class instruction in science, languages, etc, will be given. Returning along the corridor and beyond the vestibule, there is on the left a dark room, which is let to the Brierley Hill Camera Club.

The other portions of the technical side are upstairs, reached by two wide flights of stone steps, bounded by an artistic iron balustrade.

At the top of the first flight of steps is a semi circular topped window with coloured glass, 17ft high by 9ft wide, the large centre panel bearing the emblem of painting.

On reaching the upper storey there is a ladies’ retiring room, two art rooms run along the portion of the structure facing Moor Street, and there is a third spacious room above the lecture theatre.

At the junction of the two streets is the committee room, 30ft by 25ft, where in the future the monthly meetings of the Urban Council and Free Library Committee will be held. It is intended to have this room elaborately fitted as a Council Chamber.

Descending the stairs, a door to the right admits to the reading room of the free library, and from this by way of the vestibule inside the entrance doors the lending library is reached, both rooms being spacious and light, and, like those of the technical school, lofty and richly-ornated in cornicing and mouldings.

The entrance doors to the Free Library and Technical Insitute are of Spanish mahogany.

Messrs. Skelding and Co., Dudley, have laid the electric light fittings throughout and a gas service is also laid on. Under the lecture theatre is a chamber containing a low pressure heating apparatus supplied by Messrs. Jones and Attwood, Stourbridge.

Commemorative Tablets

Three brass commemorative tablets were erected in the building, one in the Technical Institute and two in the Free Library.

That in the Institute was inscribed as follows:-

“This tablet commemorates the opening on the 15th day of February, 1904, of the Brierley Hill Technical Institute by County Alderman John Addison, who was chairman of the Technical Instruction Committee from its foundation in 1891 to 1903.”

In the vestibule of the free library the tablet bears the following:-

“This public library was erected by the munificence of Andrew Carnegie, Esq., L.L.D., of Skibo Castle, N.B. ; opened 15th February, 1904.”

The third tablet, which is in the reading room of the library contains an inscription as appended:-

“This tablet commemorates the opening on the 15th day of February, 1904, of this Public Library and Reading Room by Mark Rollinson, Esquire, Chairman of the Free Library Committee.”

The key which was presented to Mr. Mark Rollinson contained the following inscription:-

“Presented to Mark Rollinson, Esq., by J. L. Harpur, architect, February 15th, 10904, on the occasion of the opening of the new Free Library, Brierley Hill.”

The inscription on the key presented to Mr Addison, who opened the Technical Institute, was in similar terms.

The Cost

It is not possible to give more than an approximate estimate of the cost which the buildings will entail, but roughly the round figure of £7,000 will not be far from the sum involved.

The principal contributions are: Mr Carnegie’s munificent gift of £2,000, the executors of John Hall (from whom the site was acquired) £130, the Earl of Dudley, £100, Mr W. H. Foster £100, Mr. E. E. Cooper £50, the Ketley Brick Company £50, Messrs Gibbons, Hinton and Co., tiles to value of £20, Mr Alfred Marsh, £20, Messrs John Hall’s Glazed Brick Works Limited, materials valued at £20 etc.

The Staffordshire Country Council gave a building grant of £800, and in addition a sum of £300 to the provision of furniture, apparatus, etc, in the Technical Institute. Both these grants are, however, subject to alteration, and in the event of the ultimate cost being an increase on the original estimate, these amounts will, it is believed, be raised to one-third each of the actual expenditure on the technical instate building. The bazaar which was held last year with the primary object of raising the money required for the site yielded, with donations, a sum of nearly £600, and these items, together with subscriptions of small value to those above enumerated, provide a sum of about £4,000. The balance required for the outlay will be the subject of a public load.

County Express 20 Feb 1914



September 16, 2023
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
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Tim Sunter
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Technical Insitute and Library
Moor Street
Brierley Hill, West Midlands United Kingdom
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