OUR towns are changing as online shopping takes over, shops are shutting, pubs are closing but for different reasons, but libraries seem to be bucking the trend.

Some of the good people of Northwich are suggesting that the condition of the town’s library requires some TLC to preserve it for the future.

So, it’s time to look at the opening of this library and the closing of its predecessor.

Let’s start with the earlier library, which opened on July 21, 1885.

On the land that it stood on was previously a mansion house occupied by Dr Reynolds when he died the Rev G.W Clapham, the curate of Witton Church, moved in.

When he left, it was used as a private school by the Misses Watt. Their father had been the pastor of the congregational church. This left John Brunner as the owner.

After that, it was used as a working men’s club; a Limited Company was set up to purchase the building.

Despite help from Brunner Mond Limited, it soon went bust and it was returned to John Brunner. He built three lock-up shops in the garden and used the front part of the ground floor of the building as a back room.

On November 13, 1883, a meeting was held in Northwich Market Hall to adopt The Public Libraries Act 1855.

Later the middle shop was removed to allow access to the building that had been converted into the library and can be seen here with the dome. This new library was externally built using terra-cotta made and delivered by Jabez Thompson of Northwich.

On either side of the front entrance were plaques, one saying, ‘Presented to the town by John Tomlinson Brunner of Winnington’.

On the other one ‘Thomas Ward, Chairman of the Local Board 1885’.

The Duke of Westminster opened the library in the company of his wife. It gave good service to the people of Northwich for just 30 years, and by then, the Northwich problems with subsidence had struck, and it became uneconomical to lift and repair. It was condemned.

On September 25, 1905, now Sir John Brunner, the donor of the old library, was present at a meeting in the council chamber. He agreed that the building should be demolished. Sir John then gave the building and the other two shops with their rental to the town; the cost of this to him was at least six thousand pounds.

The decision was taken to build a new library on the site, and the subsidence’s at Northwich had to be considered.

It was decided to build a composite or framed building so that it could be lifted if further subsidence occurred.

The architect, Mr A.E Powles FRIB of Northwich, had the opportunity to design a building in the Elizabethan half-timbered style fitting with other county buildings.

Three distinct sections can be independently lifted, and it was built 15ft back from the line of the adjoining buildings.

A plaque was affixed with the words ‘Brunner Public Library and Salt Museum, A.D 1909’.

The old library had accommodation for a doctors surgery and office. Sir John Brunner allowed space for the same to be in the new library to assist with the costs.

A house on the top floor was included in the building for the librarian. The house or flat consisted of a kitchen, scullery, pantry, living room, bathroom and three bedrooms. The contractor was Mr William Wood of Hartford, and the other items required, such as electricity, were contracted out. Including the blinds and curtains and so on, to Bratt and Evans.

The old salt museum was moved back onto its own foundations, with the space between the library and salt museum flagged with grass verges. The cost of the building, £6,000 (in today’s money, £732,600.59).

The Right Hon Walter Runciman, MP President of the Board of Education, formally opened. He was presented with a solid silver inscribed key by the architect, the maker of the key was local jeweler Mr M Elam. The whole of Northwich town was decorated with bunting, for the opening that attracted a large crowd of people.

At the junction of Hayhurst St and Brockhurst was a large arch that had been erected by Brunner Mond Ltd welcoming Sir John Brunner and Walter Runciman.