Bromley House Library
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'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything'
is one of Nottingham's best features. Despite its location in a well-trodden area of the city centre, it manages to stay hidden in plain sight. It is well-known for its creaky spiral staircase, towering bookshelves (a collection of over 50,000 books!), delightful winding hallways, and its tranquil atmosphere.
The library is housed over three floors of an old Georgian building. It was founded in the early nineteenth century and holds an impressive collection of rare manuscripts, early printed books, and works by new authors that may be unavailable in conventional public libraries. The collections are kept in good condition by a large group of volunteers who carefully provide conservation work each week.
The library also owns one of the last walled gardens in Nottingham (only two remain), which has been described by the library as a 'magical secret garden.' The garden is officially opened every spring with a party for members and the general public.
The first floor contains the main entrance, the Standfast Library Collection, and a coffee kitchen for members.
The Standfast room is an interesting little space where the time runs about 5 minutes slower than Greenwich Mean Time due to a meridian line running through it, which was formerly used to set the clocks. The large grandfather clock next to the room is still set to this time ('Nottingham Time').
The second floor is accessed by the photogenic spiral staircase and contains the beautiful main gallery (pictured above), the George Green Reading Room, and corridors full of towering bookshelves. At this time, the library is only accessible by staircases, but improved accessibility is in the works for the future.
Normally, the library has an active schedule of workshops, groups, exhibitions, artists in residence, tours for the public, a lively lecture series, and garden parties, which sadly have all been paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic (at the time of writing this article). Hopefully, these events will be up and running again when it is safe to do so, but for the moment the library website provides spotlights on the treasures of the library, a variable blog, and virtual activities (such as an upcoming virtual garden party later in September). See What's On
to keep updated on changes to the schedule as the pandemic situation evolves.
In 2019 the library underwent extensive renovations to its attic space, which formerly was a large unadorned space full of jumbled bookshelves. The renovations have transformed the space into a warm and inviting children's library, two reading rooms with exposed beams and sunlit windows, and an area dedicated to the library's history as an early, pioneering photography studio.
The library itself is a joy to photograph, but the attics of the library actually served as the first photography studio
in the Midlands with the first photograph taken at Bromley House in September 1841. The attics were last used as a studio in 1955, but the library continues to hold a strong connection with photography. There is a photography group for members, professional photographers take part in exhibitions and Artist in Residence schemes, and the library holds photographic archives.
The best way to appreciate the library is to become a member or join one of the public tours, which are normally offered on a timely basis. However, due to Covid-19, at the time of writing this article, the library is only open to booked appointments by members. Only one member is allowed in the reading rooms at a time, which is actually a benefit for those seeking a solitary reading space and one that surely will be short-lived. Tours and visits by non-members are closed currently, but will resume as soon as possible. The website
will provide updated information in regard to reopening and COVID restrictions.
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