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Published: 23 May 2020

By Andy Ross

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The Passmore Edwards Public Library

John Passmore Edwards came from Cornwall and was a journalist, newspaper owner and sometime politician, and a benefactor. Over his life he gave money for various causes, hospitals and drinking fountains among them, but most importantly, he also gave for more than seventy major buildings including libraries. 

The Passmore Edwards Public Library in Library Street is one of those bequests. Now owned by the University of South London, the Passmore Centre is renamed the Passmore Centre. The building was opened in 1899, as this newspaper article shows. Designed by Architects Arthur Blomfield Jackson and Charles John Phipps the building was originally called St George the Martyr Library. There is a relief of the Saint slaying the dragon on the front of the library (see picture) and after years of decay the library was saved and listed

The building is Art Nouveau in style with a recent addition on the top floor at the back, and it was the look of it that that first attracted our attention. It is built from warm terracotta and decorated with natural forms.  Four handsome corners on the top floor (see picture) are rather Charles Rennie Macintosh in look, and in its elegant, stylish yet restrained exuberance, it is an inspirational building to know and to learn from.