The Free Library

image001Now the site of the Carnegie Centre, a centre for various voluntary organisations in the town, this little cherry red brick building with its green slated roof and charming elevation, was once the free library and public reading room.  It was erected on 1904-5 at the cost of £2000 and through the generosity of Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish American steel multi-millionaire, who helped establish libraries in many towns and cities in the UK and the USA. When first built, the Free Library was managed by a committee of trustees, but in 1917 was taken over by the Borough Council.

The building was superseded by a much larger library at its rear, which was officially opened by the Secretary of State, Margaret Thatcher on 8th June 1973.  Many locals thought that the new library building was hideous, especially as they had been used to visiting the quaint Carnegie building, but they were reassured by the designers that the building materials and finishes of the new library had all been carefully chosen to reflect the historic surroundings, especially that of the ancient church and the Victorian Assembly Rooms. Mrs. Thatcher remarked that the architecture was magnificent.


Although Tamworth has no direct connection with Mr. Carnegie, other than being in receipt of his generous donation which lead to the building of the Free Library, the Heritage Trust feels that his life is worth inclusion on this website.

Carnegie, Andrew (1835-1919), American industrialist and philanthropist, who, at the age of 33, when he had an annual income of $50,000, said, “Beyond this never earn, make no effort to increase fortune, but spend the surplus each year for benevolent purposes.”

image003Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland. He went to the U.S. in 1848 and soon began work as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, for $1.20 per week. The following year he became a messenger in a Pittsburgh telegraph office and learned telegraphy. He was then employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad as the private secretary and telegrapher to the railroad official Thomas Alexander Scott. Carnegie advanced by successive promotions until he was superintendent of the Pittsburgh division of the railroad. His financial interest in what is now the Pullman Company laid the foundation of his fortune, and investments in oil lands near Oil City, Pennsylvania, increased his means. During the American Civil War he served in the War Department under Scott, who was in charge of military transportation and government telegraph service. After the war Carnegie left the railroad and formed a company to produce iron railroad bridges. He later founded a steel mill and was one of the earliest users of the Bessemer process of making steel in the U.S. Carnegie was extremely successful, acquiring a controlling interest in other large steel plants. By 1899, when he consolidated his interests in the Carnegie Steel Company, he controlled about 25 percent of the American iron and steel production. In 1901 he sold his company to the United States Steel Corp. for $250 million and retired.

Carnegie did not have a formal education, but as a youth working in Pennsylvania he developed a life-long interest in books and education. During his lifetime he gave more than $350 million to various educational, cultural, and peace institutions, many of which bear his name. His first public gift was in 1873 for baths in the town of his birth; his largest single gift was in 1911 for $125 million to establish the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He was a benefactor of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). He also endowed nearly 1700 libraries in the United States and Great Britain, and he donated funds for the construction of the Peace Palace at The Hague, Netherlands, for what is now the International Court of Justice of the United Nations. Carnegie was honoured throughout the world during his lifetime.

tamworth heritage on twitter
tamworth heritage on twitter

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