WE have covered the Northwich libraries, so it is time now to look at the history of Winsford’s libraries and, later, Middlewich.

In the early times when few people other than monks, lawyers, and the educated could read, there was no call for libraries.

The gentry and religious institutions had extensive libraries, and in some places, there was a mobile book lending service usually provided by bookbinders.

It was in the mid-1800s that free libraries started to open. Before the beginning of the 1800s, there were no libraries as we know them today.

The first one on record in Winsford was opened in 1859 in the town’s Workingmen’s Institution.

At the same time, a speech was given by Mr Thomas Atkinson of Over, and the chairman was the Rev John Birket. Mr Atkinson urged the working class to note the importance of reading.

‘This, if cultivated, would not only cause them pleasure but also have a tendency to elevate their tastes and give them a relish for better things’.

As so many workingmen could not read, he urged the importance of having reading classes in conjunction with the institution, who would teach them to read.

He explained that he had spent a lot of time with the working classes, and there were minds among them that would turn out perfect gems if cultivated.

He was happy that the institution was progressing favourably thanks to the gentlemen in the neighbourhood who made handsome presentations of books.

On January 11, 1887, a meeting was convened in Winsford Town Hall under the presidency of Mr R Verdin MP, Chairman of the Winsford Local Board.

It was to decide what steps could be taken to celebrate the forthcoming Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria.

The idea mooted was to build a free public library, and this was taken up.

The Winsford Local Board held a competition to find the best design for a new library.

Mr Francis Shaw of Swanlow Lane won this when he submitted two designs under a nom de plume. His design marked ‘A’ was chosen, and the job was his. Mr Shaw had an excellent CV of Winsford designs. Including Over Hall, The Free Church Chapel on the High Street, Crossfield House and the ill-fated Over Mill that had burned down.

The plan was to build a schoolroom fronting Siddorn Street and the front of the building off the High Street to be set back nine feet.

The building was to be two feet above the footpath, and there was to be a piece of land at the end of the building for the possible construction of a museum at a later date.

The total building cost would be £800 (£106,662.16 today), and it was to be built in ‘old English style’, with strengthening to correct it in the event of subsidence.

The facings would be terracotta; space was made for 8,000 volumes of books. Mr Shaw was to plan and supervise the build for the sum of £30 (£3,999.83 today), out of which he would donate £10 to the cost of the building.

Mrs Verdin, the wife of Mr W.H. Verdin of Highfield House, formally opened the Winsford Free Library. The date was Friday, December 14, 1888.

Mr Verdin speaking on behalf of his wife, pointed out that Winsford was the 160th town to take advantage of the Free Libraries Act (Public Libraries Act 1850). The building itself, he said, ‘was evidence of the determination and intelligence that characterised the people of Winsford’.

In October 1974, a new library was built on the High Street in Winsford, costing £200,000, and on the 30th, it was officially opened by Mr S.W. Jackson, former chairman of the Cheshire County Library Committee.

The old library on the other side of the High Street had given good service to the community but had now become the educational resources library to assist teachers with lessons and projects. It remained as such until being redeveloped and now contains several residential flats.

As for the new library, it still caters for the Winsford community in many ways, including a café called The Novel Bite café.

Winsford also has an excellent small library in Bradbury Road. It was built in the 1960s in a modern style to serve people in Wharton.