After 123 years, Clapham Library closes at the end of this week. It's a wonderful building, with a fantastic location - at one corner of the Common, opposite Holy Trinity and alongside the elegance of Clapham Old Town.
The building dates from 1889 - Battersea Public Library, not all that far away on Lavender Hill, is of exactly the same vintage. You do wonder about the back story there - a keen municipal rivalry, perhaps. The libraries still fall either side of a local government fault line - it used to be Clapham / Battersea, now it's Lambeth / Wandsworth.
Of the two libraries, Battersea is bigger, and better refurbished. But Clapham is appealingly compact, and more pleasing on the eye.
In its final days, Clapham Library is hosting an exhibition about the life and writing of a local author, Pamela Hansford Johnson. She was brought up on Battersea Rise, and the area is captured particularly in her first novel, This Bed Thy Centre, which has recently been republished.
As for the fate of the library building, a local group Omnibus is campaigning for it to become a community arts centre. Another option is that it will be turned into top-of-the-market flats.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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