Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden

Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden

hawarden_old_gladstone_libraryThis is Britain’s only Prime Ministerial library, founded by four-times Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Among the 150,000 printed items on the shelves are the books he gave to the library. Readers sometimes come across his notes in the margins!

The library began in a temporary building of corrugated iron (pictured right, courtesy of the Gladstone family), nicknamed the “Tin Tabernacle” after its resemblance to the iron chapels and churches known by that name. It stood in the vicinity of today’s library car park. Gladstone bought the land in 1889 and the building opened in 1894.

He was eager to share his personal collection with others, especially those wanting to learn but unable to afford books of their own. His daughter Mary Drew said he wished to “bring together books who had no readers with readers who had no books”. Aided only by his valet and one of his daughters, Gladstone – then well into his 80s – wheeled 32,000 books the 1.2km (0.75 mile) between his home at Hawarden Castle and the new library. He arranged the books on the shelves using his own catalogue system.

hawarden_gladstone_library_reading_roomFollowing his death in 1898, a public appeal raised £9,000 for a permanent library building. It was designed by John Douglas of Chester, whose other works include the city’s Eastgate Clock and the Sessions House in Northop. It was opened by Earl Spencer on 14 October 1902 as the National Memorial to WE Gladstone.

The Gladstone family fulfilled the founder’s vision by funding the addition of a residential wing, which welcomed its first guest in June 1906. WE Gladstone’s statue was erected in the library grounds in 1925.

Today the library welcomes visitors from across the globe. Its priority is to build and nurture a wide network of writers and thinkers, to maintain Gladstone’s legacy of engagement with social, moral and spiritual questions. It has 26 boutique-style bedrooms and hosts various residential courses and literary events. The Food for Thought bistro is open to non-residents.

To see inside the historic Reading Rooms (pictured left, courtesy of Gladstone's library), you can take a brief tour at set times each day of the week. Follow the link below for more information about the library.

Postcode: CH5 3DF    View Location Map

Website of Gladstone’s Library