Discovering The Secrets of Bromley House Library
Despite the world becoming increasingly digitalised, our appreciation of good old paper and ink is gradually growing. The forces of technology are not deterring bibliophiles and bookworms from declaring their love for the treasured practice of browsing bookshelves and getting lost in print.
Literary legends Lord Byron, DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe all resided in Nottingham and the city’s spirit was fused into their words and rebellious ideologies. And it seems ink still runs in our veins: the strength of the city’s contemporary literary scene led to Nottingham being named UNESCO City of Literature in 2015.
So where in Nottingham can you find yourself surrounded by this love for literature? Along with exploring DH Lawrence’s Birthplace Museum, and Byron’s ancestral home – Newstead Abbey, there is a hidden gem in the city centre which acts as a mecca for book lovers. A hidden library, right from the pages of Harry Potter, with mahogany shelves, dusty tomes, labyrinthine rooms and thousands of beautiful books. Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce Bromley House Library…
Initially founded in 1816, it was in 1825 that the library settled into its home in an unobtrusive Georgian townhouse on Angel Row. Throughout the subsequent 193 years titles have changed, the collections have grown and many subscribers has passed through the doors, but Bromley has remained and blossomed.
Among its patrons was Nottingham scientist George Green, who studied at the library and now has a room named after him. Son a local miller, George did not receive a formal education but took to the books like duck to water and soon gained a reputation for his self-taught genius. Today his mathematical formulas are still widely regarded and his story can be discovered in the science centre at Green’s Windmill on the edge of the city centre.
The building brims with classic charm, with cosy reading nooks and curious antique features throughout, including a gorgeous original spiral staircase leading to an upper gallery of books. Another unique feature of the library, installed in 1836, is the city’s own Meridian Line in the Standfast Library. Similar to a sundial, a meridian line tells the time from the direction of the sun based on a line of longitude. Before the railways brought the need for a strict standardised time throughout the country, this spot told people what time in was in Nottingham.
Nowadays, Bromley House is still a thriving lending library with over 1400 members currently subscribed. Interestingly, Bromley kept its tradition and still allows families of its members to share one membership card and enjoy the library resources, rather than requiring everyone to get a separate membership. Bromley is also part of the Independent Libraries Association along with over 30 other libraries across the country. Members enjoy not only the access to an extensive 40,000 book collection but also access to most of the areas of the library, including one of only two walled gardens in Nottingham’s city centre.
The walled garden is a gem in itself with members often relaxing there whilst indulging in the literary delights. We’ve been told that there’s one member who comes to the library everyday at the same time, picks up a copy of a daily newspaper and heads to the garden to read it. We don’t blame him, the peaceful surroundings make it a perfect place to read.
Other than the tours, Bromley House Library hosts a selection of interesting talks and events throughout the year.
If you’re a first time visitor to the library don’t be discouraged by the glass doors, there’s a bell on the right hand side so don’t be shy – ring it and we guarantee you’ll get the ultimate Narnia experience. After you’re inside you will lose the track of time and forget you’re in the busy city centre. It’s so peaceful and quiet – makes you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. It’s really special.
When you’re inside give yourself time to wander along the aisles full of books, climb the original spiral staircase, pick up a book of your liking, get a cup of tea or coffee and make yourself comfortable at one of many reading spots. There are several rooms to explore, including Ellen Harrington’s room dedicated to the longest serving librarian who was a member of Bromley’s family for over 40 years, first working as an assistant librarian and then as a full time librarian. If you’re curious about how Ellen looked – you can find her photograph in the room named after her. In the same room you’ll find an extensive collection of classic languages books often read by members of The Classic Languages Society, one of the many groups who meet in the library.
In a different room you’ll find a collection of books, that belonged to Nottingham’s very own Alan Sillitoe, donated to the library by his wife after Alan’s passing. Ask at the counter and a member of staff will guide you to the collection – the amount of small rooms and different corridors can be a little confusing if you’re a first time visitor!
There’s much to see and even more to explore and read at the Bromley House Library. The library always welcomes new members so if you’d like to join this historic independent subscription library located in the heart of Nottingham, ask a member of staff for a subscription form and they will be happy to help.