We take public libraries for granted these days, even though they are somewhat under threat, and it is hard to imagine a society without them. Wolverton did not get its first public library until 1939, a full 100 years after the new town was first established.
However Wolverton people did not sit back and wait for something to happen. Instead they too matters into their own hands and ensured that Wolverton’s reading public (by no means small) had access to books.
In typical Wolverton fashion this was a co-operative venture and the advertisement I show above, from a 1937 Coronation brochure, tells us that the Working Men’s Clubs were active in this area. The Scocial Club – the Bottom Club – here advertises a lending library of 2000 books. The Central C;ub – the Top Club – also had a library.
The oldest library in town dated from the earliest days when the Reading Room and Mechanics Institute was established and its successor, The Science and Art Institute, also maintained a library which could be accessed for a small membership fee.
At the time that the Bucks County Council set up its branch library at 122 Chruch Street, Wolverton already had three active lending libraries.
This to me is an excellent illustration of the ability of Wolverton people to take matters into their own hands.
The first library as such was the Reading Room, built very early in the 1840s jus beside the cana; bridge. This view shows you the site, although the building has been much enlarged and adapted over the course of 175 years. Originally it was a single storey and the canal bridge and the road was a lot lower in 1840. Later in the 1840d the building doubled up as a Wesleyan Chapel until the congregation acquired a purpose built chapel on Church Street.
A reading-room and library lighted by gas are also supplied free of charge by the Company. In the latter there are about 700 volumes, which have mostly been given; and the list of papers, &c. in the reading-room was as follows: Times, Daily News, Bell’s Life, Illustrated News, Punch, Besides the above there is a flying library of about 600 volumes for the clerks, porters, police, as also for their wives and families, residing at the various stations, consisting of books of all kinds, excepting on politics and on religious controversies. They are dispatched to the various stations, carriage free, in nineteen boxes given by the Company, each of which can contain from twenty to fifty volumes.
In 1864, after 20 years of planning, financial setbacks, political arguments and rejected designs, the Science and Art Institute opened for adult education activities. It also accommodated a substantial library. It was for many years the most important library in the town.