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Leytonstone Library listed

English Heritage has informed Waltham Forest Council that it is listing Leytonstone Library as Grade 2* status, citing its special architectural and planning interest and its remarkable interiors.

Grade 2* buildings are ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’, as opposed to Grade 2 buildings which are ‘nationally important and of special interest’. Of all listed buildings, 92 per cent are Grade 2, whereas only 5.5 per cent of listed buildings are Grade 2*.

The Library was listed on 28 April and now ranks alongside other Grade 2* buildings in the borough such as the William Morris Gallery and Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, as well as famous London structures such as the Old Bailey and the London Palladium.

The library was built in 1934 by Leyton Urban District Council. The new library was strategically located in the main shopping area of Leytonstone at a time when it was developing as a burgeoning London suburb.

Leytonstone Library was situated on a prominent corner site, with the entrance positioned opposite the parish church, to help it to form a civic focus. English Heritage described the building as, “An inter-war suburban branch library of considerable architectural ambition, which illustrates the most progressive library practice of the period. The exterior is well composed with subtle detailing and a handsome stone classical centrepiece which lends the building a strong civic presence.”

They were also struck by the combination of the library with retail units. The building’s entire ground floor was intended from the outset for retail use, a pioneering example of incorporating commercial lets as a means of cross-funding construction and running costs.

This practice became more widespread in post-war library design, enabling a more substantial building than might otherwise be possible. The ground floor was originally occupied by an electricity showroom, two small shop units and a large L-plan Woolworth’s store. Indeed Woolworths remained in situ until their demise in 2009.

The Woolworth’s shop front with granite stallrisers, curved glazing and glazed timber doors follows the standard Woolworth's design of the period and is now one of about ten known to survive nationally, and thus of some rarity.

The library too was noted for its pioneering qualities, with the extensive provision of children’s facilities following the most progressive library practice of the period. This provided younger users with dedicated spaces and librarians.

The provision of a lecture theatre was also significant, providing a scaled-down version of the public halls that had become a standard part of town hall planning and extending the library’s educational potential.

The look and feel of the interior of the library was described as, “Remarkable both in terms of its quality and completeness; the plan has survived virtually intact, retaining extensive original shelving, fittings and decorative finishes; the art deco entrance hall and stair being of particular note.”

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