“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”

Helen Morgan-oval.png

By Helen Morgan

Mantlepiece Clock-small.jpg

First Published 27/6/2021
Last Updated 12/1/2022

 

A tale of perseverance by our Ratepayers to acquire the village library.

HG Library and Clinic 1965-02 (c) Mcr Re

Fig. 1 Heald Green Library and Clinic 1965
© Manchester History Revisited
Click On Image To View

IMG_2382.JPG.jpg

Fig. 2 Library and Health Centre 2021
© Colin Barnsley
Click On Image To View

The 1841 Tithe map , shows the area that the library would eventually be built on, Clover Field, as owned by John Worthington. The Tanyard and Bark Mill (where the Co-op stands now) and its surrounding fields, had been owned by the Worthington family for generations .

 

Cheadle Etchells school opened in 1932 and in their staff room, part time volunteers managed Heald Green's first library,  with 650 books.

Based on residents' recollections, library services in the area got off to a hesitant start.

1

2

"The original library [pre-1939] for Heald Green was up at the top end of Finney Lane in the working men's club, the social club that used to be the library.   I didn't use the library much in those days, I remember going with mother to where the social club is for the library.”
- Dudley Ashworth, 2021

"I also did some voluntary work in the library, which was in a room at the back of the Social Club on Finney Lane and doubled up as the HQ of the Home Guard.”
- Elsie Williams, 2021

"Around 1940, the middle shop [in the row that now includes Lloyds bank] was the Post Office and newspapers and had a small library at the back.”
- Bob Downs, 2021

"Prior to the chippy [Hung Wan] the shop was Cardwell's who sold sweets and cigarettes. The back of the shop was the district library before the new library was built.

It's hard to date memories, probably late 50s early 60s. I have no idea how or if it worked, I never saw anyone use it and to me the books looked old and unused - maybe they were second-hand books for sale, I don't know, but it always seemed odd to me.  I'm sure it wasn't a conventional library.  I don't think you could classify it as a library.”

- Mick Hankinson, 2021

4

3


In May 1958 the library transferred to a building called Brookside, on the opposite side of Finney Lane to where the library now stands. 6,700 books were stored there along with a children’s section  .

An aerial photograph from 1959 shows the familiar triangular shape of the current plot as nothing more than an open space of featureless land  

HG Library OS Map 1888-1913 - small.jpg

Fig. 3 OS Map, 1888-1913 (with 2020 overlay)
© ARCHI Information Sytems Ltd 2020
Click On Image To View
 

Heald Green Aerial 1959-01 - small.jpg

Fig. 4 Aerial Photo of Heald Green, 1959
© English Heritage
Click On Image To View

11

10

9

8

7

6

According to residents, in 1960 controversy reigned whilst the library and the clinic next door to it were being planned. At this time a new community centre was also being planned on the same site, in what would have been a tight squeeze. Plans were later drawn up separately for the public hall  .Residents against the plans for all three buildings felt that property prices would fall and that there was no need to spend lots of money on something so wasteful. These people overlooked the site, preferring to look at waste land than any buildings. Residents for it wanted to have a place for residents to go, and for new clubs to form and use it.

By October 1962, plans were no further forward. The Ratepayers talk of  “shilly-shallying with no start date planned for either the library or clinic. Over the road in the Brookside building, the library there was opening for extra hours  , proving the need for the service to be expanded. By February 1963 the building work had still not begun. Plans for a public hall to be built on the same site had been abandoned. By now 5 or 6 years of planning, costs, public enquiries and ministerial decisions had all been stopped by a credit squeeze imposed on council finances by the then Chancellor Selwyn Lloyd (Conservative party). Councillor D J Nuttall, who was resigning due to ill health, wrote in his last entry    for the Contact magazine of the “problems he had encountered over the last four years”. These included the lack of shops, a village centre, a public hall, a clinic and library.

At last in June 1963,  the Ratepayers declared that a start had been made on the clinic and library, to be completed by the end of 1963 or January 1964  . In September 1963 the magazine stated that issues over the clinic, library, shopping facilities and bus services were coming to a satisfactory conclusion  . 

The March 1964 Contact magazine stated   , “Rapid residential development has made reorganisation and rehousing of the library service in Heald Green a matter of urgency”. A new library was needed for the population estimated to now be 12,000 people. It was to be stocked with 15,000 books and would be staffed full time by trained staff. “Very soon a building, which will be equipped to provide a full range of public library services, will be opened in Heald Green. It is the hope of the County Librarian and of all who have had any part in the planning of this service, that the library will be well used to the lasting benefit of the people of Heald Green”.

However, by June 1964 the library had still not opened, even though it had been officially handed over in March 1964. The County Library Committee had not yet appointed a librarian and the Ratepayers suggested  a good few weeks will pass before one is confirmed”   

5

The front cover of the September 1964 magazine shows a sketch of the library with  “situation vacant” underneath it. Perhaps a tongue in cheek reference to what was going on. The Ratepayers stated that it was unlikely that the library would be providing the service for which it was intended that year. They were very unhappy quoting a “farcical situation and classic case of shilly-shally by the County Council”. In January the Council knew that the completion date was by April at the latest. Yet they did not meet until 30th July to discuss a librarian salary and the post was not advertised until September. The Ratepayers sent a protest letter to the County Council for utmost urgency to appoint a librarian”   .

12

C64063b.jpg

Fig. 5 Library, Contact Sept 1964
© Ratepayers' Association
Click On Image To View

In the magazine of December 1964 a warm welcome was given to Mrs Shepherd of Motcombe Road, who had been appointed Librarian of the new Heald Green library as of December 1st. It was hoped that the library would now open quite soon”   .

After all this hassle and complaining to the Council, it was noted in the Ratepayer’s AGM of 1965 that the library had a “quiet” opening on December 30th 1964    . Thereby just creeping in to the year when it it was due to open.

In March 1965 the Ratepayers asked for bicycle stands    to be erected outside the library.

In December 1966, when the library had been opened nearly two years, the Librarian Mrs Shepherd made a contribution to that month’s magazine   . The library by this time had obviously been well used by the residents as 200,000 books per year were being issued, along with increased use in the reference department. The library now held 17,000 books which was a huge increase on what had formerly been held at Brookside. The opening hours had been extended from 10am to 8pm with the exception of Wednesday closing at 1pm and Saturday at 5pm. The age restriction on children joining had been removed to encourage more reading. There was also now a selection of large print books for partially sighted readers, including every title of the Ulverscroft large print series. She concluded by saying, “qualified staff are available to assist you from our own resources at Heald Green, or if necessary to utilise the resources of other libraries within the county or indeed the country”. 
The library had indeed come a long way from its humble beginnings.

Today, Heald Green library continues to serve the community from its original 1960's building. Stockport Library Services continue to be free to all, once you have obtained a library card. Austerity measures in recent years have reduced the opening hours. COVID19 restrictions had just been lifted [Ed: at the point the article was first written] to allow the library to reopen. Visitors were able to browse for books and borrow them via self service machines. Social distancing measures, face coverings and the NHS track and trace system remained in place   . From Monday 26th April 2021, hours of opening     were extended with a 6pm closing on a Thursday and opening every day apart from Wednesday and Sunday.

13

14

15

16

17

18

IMG_2376.JPG.jpg

Fig. 6 Library and Health Centre, 2021
© Colin Barnsley
Click On Image To View

Search Our Museum Library (Google Drive account users only)

Can You Help Us Improve The Museum?