Carnegie was the hero on a day of flag-flying celebrations

Massive crowds gathered for the opening of the new building.
Massive crowds gathered for the opening of the new building.

It’s one of those buildings that people often drive past without, perhaps, knowing much about its history.

But the background to the Carnegie Building in Hartlepool is well worth a closer look.

The Carnegie Building.

The Carnegie Building.

And today, we’re doing just that with the help of Sandra McKay, from the reference section at Hartlepool Central Library.

It was almost 114 years ago that Hartlepool’s Free Library opened.

And when it did, it opened to plenty of pomp and circumstance. It opened to flags, bunting, a procession and huge roadside crowds.

And all that happened just a year after the foundation stone was laid by Alderman HH Murray. A fine new addition to the Hartlepool skyline was revealed.

The Mayor and Aldermen were wearing their robes and insignias of office. The streets were gaily bedecked with flags, and the large crowds which assembled on the route of the procession lent quite a holiday aspect to the occasion

Northern Daily Mail reporter, 1904

The launch date was October 12, 1904. Hartlepool was about to get a brand new library and it was free for the public.

Launch day was quite a scene to behold. It started with councillors – and invited guests – gathering in the Town Hall for luncheon.

After the lunch, there was a toast to the King and the Corporation ‘loving cup’ was handed round.

All and sundry praised Mr Carnegie, the man whose generosity had led to the new facility for the town.

Then it was time to go outside and begin the ceremony.

The Northern Daily Mail was there to record it all.

Our report at the time said: “The company then marched in procession to the Library, headed by the Borough Band and posse of police with Sergeants Jackson and Watson bearing the borough maces.”

It was a colourful affair.

The Mail added: “The Mayor and Aldermen were wearing their robes and insignias of office. The streets were gaily bedecked with flags, and the large crowds which assembled on the route of the procession lent quite a holiday aspect to the occasion.”

It was a great day for the town and a brand new facility was up and running.

The finer detail shows that Borough Engineer HC Crummack had been the architect behind the plans and it wasn’t just the library which was created. A house for a librarian was built right next door to it.

Robinson John Marshall was the original contractor and the building made such an impression, it got Grade 2 listing in 1985.

By 1999, the library had closed and been relocated to the Borough Hall.

Our thanks go to Sandra and her team for taking a close-up look on another of the great buildings of Hartlepool.

The Central Library’s reference section, in York Road, has helped many a researcher down the years.

Its records include the original plans of landmark buildings, from schools to churches and pubs to swimming baths, to births, marriages and deaths.

It also includes a wealth of information on the town’s rugby history.

To find out more about the library, contact the Community Hub Central on 01429 272905.