100 years since the foundation stone

At the start of the 20th century, Hackney Public Libraries Committee commissioned three new libraries, to be paid for by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

One of the ideas put forward by competing architect Edwin Cooper (1874 – 1942), for the Brooksby’s Walk project was that the land at the rear of the site could be used either as a lecture room or a slipper bath!

Nevertheless Carnegie and the Committee were impressed with Cooper’s plans for Homerton Library, describing it as a “building designed in a simple, classical manner, expressing its purpose.”

The estimate of £4,500 by Stoke Newington Firm A&S Wheater was accepted and work began in August 1912. The foundation stone was laid on 19th October and the Library was officially opened on 31st May 1913 (by no means slow by modern standards).

Almost 100 years on it remains an imposing building. Fronted in a neo-classical styled façade of Portland stone, with a portico flanked by two Doric columns.

Sir Thomas Edwin Cooper by Howard Coster, half-plate film negative, 1930
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Edwin Cooper specialised in public building throughout his career and was knighted for his achievements. His other work includes the 1928 headquarters of Lloyds of London, the Port of London Authority Building on Tower Hill, Marylebone Town Hall (more recently the location of some high profile pop weddings), and the Tilbury Dockside Baggage Hall where the Empire Windrush passengers disembarked.

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