Hertford Library

Hertford Library

Hertford Library is quite an old building built in 1888 from red brick below traditional timber and plaster framing. Some of the panels have carvings and plaster pargetting.

On the left of the building is a small water fountain constructed from stones rescued from the old Saxon church that stood close to this spot. There is also a memorial on the wall to those who fell in various wars.

In its way it is quite an attractive building. But its end is nigh. As part of the Riverside Yards Development Plan the library will be moved to Dolphin Yard. This is a new development on the banks of the River Lea and hopefully due to be completed by the end of 2011.

During my time as Town Centre Manager I was often asked what was to become of this old building. It is a Grade 2 listed structure so thankfully it can’t be pulled down. But it has one huge disadvantage. It is has about six different levels accessed by an ornate stone staircase or series of more modern steps. No one really knows what will happen to it but whoever does take it over has to face the problems of access for those with disabilities.

Update: November 2016. The building now houses a design agency who have made no alterations to the interior or exterior construction apart from a polite sign requesting library users not to post books through their letterbox.

The new Library is open but the front door is accessed down Dolphin Yard in Maidenhead Street and not on the river frontage as I remember it was originally planned. As at December 2016 many of the sections still do not have category signage on the book cases or any Dewey reference number.

King George V Telephone kiosk

K6 Jubilee Telephone Kiosk next to the Library building

On the right of the building you can see an old fashioned red telephone kiosk.

This too has a Grade 2 listing. It is a K6 Jubilee pattern designed in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott during the reign Of King George V.

Similarly I have no idea what will happen to this once the library moves. As at July 2018 it remains.

There can’t be many of these type of telephone boxes left in the UK as we all have mobile phones

I hope this one stays if only to explain to our children and grandchildren how we made a call in the old days. You put your pennies in the slot, dialled a number and if the person at the other end answered you pressed ‘Button A’. If the line was engaged or they didn’t answer you pressed ‘Button B’ and got your money back.

The end for the telephone kiosk?

Sadly the demise of these type of phone boxes always seen in British films up to the 1970’s was hastened by the increase in vandalism – not to mention mobile phones.

Some enterprising communities have made some use of their own boxes. A village in Gloucestershire has turned theirs into a lending library; and now in London they have been sprayed green and are somewhere to charge your mobile.

An American entrepreneur bought a large volume to convert to shower cubicles in swimming pools.

Few of us in the UK can not have heard of the swingeing cuts in public services. One such cut has been made to the opening hours of our own library. I thought what a good idea to convert the telephone box into a part time library which can be open during the hours that the main one is closed. I pondered this for a while until I realised that it would take a kiosk with an interior the size of Dr Who’s Tardis to accommodate the number of books we would all want to read.

Today (14 December 2016) there is an interesting article on BBC News Business Page about the large interest in collecting red telephone boxes, thus preserving a unique feature of British commercial life.

A unique use of a telephone box during an election (seen on BBC April 2021)

More articles on Hertford:

Hertford the county town, Folly Island, Hidden Hertford, Old Barge Pub, Brewing in Hertford, Easter, Fore Street, Eccentric Clergy, Hertford Library, Hertford 1861, Tunnels of Hertford, Sarah Stout, Closed pubs