Inside the Bromley House Library

"...not much can go wrong when you put an English student in a library."

For the past 10 weeks I have had the pleasure of completing a work placement at Bromley House Library, a beautiful Georgian building hidden right in the city centre of Nottingham, on Angel Row. After all, it’s true that not much can go wrong when you put an English student in a library. During my time there, I have fallen in love, decidedly becoming a member of the library, seeing it as a very useful resource for a student and literature lover like myself.

Founded in 1816, the library is home to over 47,000 books of both fiction and non-fiction. Within this collection is a vast array of history, biography, art, law, science and philosophy, so there is certainly something for everyone. Of course, the extensive volume of fiction immediately drew me in; books that I could trawl through to my heart’s content, and even more so the poetry.

I have found many gems within the library’s collection which are a worthy addition to any budding reader’s repertoire. Of all those that I have dipped in and out of, one of my favourites is Jacqueline Gabbitas’ self-published poetry anthology, Small Grass. Although a whole book of poetry about grass is an unusual choice, I was very surprised by this one; it is a stunning portrayal of the personification of nature. You can read it in one sitting, but if you fancy having a quick skim through I would recommend ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Grass laments the loss of light’.

In my opinion, one of the best collections of the whole library is that of the late Alan Sillitoe, the famous writer of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Born and bred in Nottingham, his family very kindly donated a vast collection of his books and maps from his holiday home in Leicestershire after his death for our viewing pleasure. His collection ranges from fiction to non-fiction, poetry to prose, and each of them is available for members to loan.

The library is also safekeeping some rather ancient works, its oldest, in fact, is Dante’s Divine Comedy, dated at 1578. Such books are substantial treasures of the building. Included in the special collections is The Rose Fyleman Fairy Book, an anthology of children’s poetry about fairies and other mystical creatures. It presents enchanting, colourful illustrations and is a wonderful one to flick through. Despite the huge range of texts on hand though, I soon discovered that the library has much more to offer than just books.

Bromley House has a large photography heritage, with the first photographer in the East Midlands renting out his studio here, named Alfred Barber. Barber bought his equipment from Richard Beard, the patent in London for the daguerreotype camera, which had been invented in France in 1839. Since the charge of 1 guinea per photograph was too expensive for most families, Barber’s business failed. Following him, several photographers took up residency in the library, including Sylvanus Redgate, who stayed for over 50 years. Guided tours of the photographic studio are open to members of the public every month, along with weekly tours of the whole library to have a little nose at one of Nottingham’s treasures.

Illustration from John Ireland’s ‘Hogarth’

In addition to this, the library has an exhibition space on the ground floor which features the photography and artwork of various local artists. This space is definitely worth a browse, and it currently features the work of Kate Genever. Members of the library can enjoy activities ranging from language classes to knitting, and there are also regular talks from speakers in many different fields. These talks are often open to members of the public as well as library members themselves.

I could witter on about the library all day, but it is much better to come and see it for yourself, since I don’t think any words could do the building justice. Bromley House is a lovely community to be part of, having over 1600 members of all ages, careers and backgrounds. With guided tours every week, and various events throughout the year that are open to all, there really is no excuse not to have a look around. Working at the library has reminded me that as students in Nottingham, we are very lucky to be part of such a vibrant and inspiring working environment.

You can find the library on social media:

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Tours of the library take place every Wednesday afternoon from 2:30pm-3:30pm, costing £2 per person. Booking is essential, to book your place call the library on 0115 9473134.

For a full list of events, you can visit Bromley’s website:

Sophie Hunt

All images credited to Sophie Hunt

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