Friday 6th October 2017, marked exactly 90 years since the opening of Retford Library — an event made possible through the generosity of local philanthropist Mr Thomas Hercy Denman who, in 1926, presented his fine old Georgian house to the Retford Borough for use as a library and museum.
The official opening of the Denman Public Library took place on 6th October 1927. In 1933, the library became the responsibility of Nottinghamshire County Council. As use of the service steadily increased in the years that followed, it was recognised that the building needed extending to cope with the needs of the community. It was not until 1960 that this much needed work finally took place, with the aim of providing increased library and cultural facilities but also preserving the character and charm of the Georgian house. Here is an extract from The Opening of Retford Library Extensions; 13 September 1961:
“The ground floor now contains a large Junior Library at the front of the building in the old part of the house which was formerly the Adult Library. In the new extension there is a light and airy Adult Lending Library with an Exhibition Gallery leading directly from it and a Lecture Room. These rooms are grouped round a small garden, and the use of glass and French windows help to give the feeling that the garden is a part of the library. On the first floor, the Junior Library has been converted into a Reference Library.”
Further building alterations were carried out in the 1980s, followed by service-wide modernisations including the introduction of a computerised library catalogue and issue system (1991) and the installation of self-service machines (2010). Through all these changes and developments, the library has remained at the heart of its community, playing an important role in the area’s cultural heritage. Now delivered by Inspire, it continues to create the maximum opportunities for people to take part in a wide a range of cultural experiences.
To mark the milestone birthday, community groups and members of the public were invited to join library staff (past and present) for a special library event on the afternoon of Friday 6th October. Celebrations were opened by Councillor John Handley, Chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council and Peter Gaw, CEO of Inspire. A speech was also given by Library supporter Rob White who has delivered several literary talks at the Library. This was followed by a living history performance depicting the gifting of the building by Thomas Hercy Denman. The audience were treated to performances from the award winning Elizabethan Academy Choir and Retford’s Community Choir and the very youngest of library visitors took part in a special Rattle Rhyme and Roll session featuring traditional songs and rhymes.
Tea and birthday cake were served in the meeting room as people enjoyed sharing their memories and looking at Retford Library through the ages in an exhibition of old photographs and documents from the library’s Local Studies collection. The exhibition will be in the library for a few more weeks, along with a Reminiscences book for people to record comments and memories of the library.
Main image courtesy of Bassetlaw Museum www.bassetlawmuseum.org.uk.