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Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub Newsletter: November 2014
Some of the Lister Steps team visit the former library to view the emergency holding works being carried out.
Welcome to the Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub Newsletter.

You can join in the conversation and keep track of our progress by visiting our website: and by visiting our Facebook page: and our Twitter account: @ListerStepsHub where we regularly post news updates and pictures.
Community Consultation Event
You are invited to join us at our first community consultation event on 25th November.  

You can drop-in to Lister Steps between 2pm-7pm to meet the team and for an informal conversation about plans to turn the former library into a community hub.

What are your thoughts on Lister Steps re-using the Grade II listed former library?
What activities/facilities would you like to see available in the community hub, and why?
What heritage themed activities and training would you like to be involved in?
What suggestions can you make about how to maximise the available floor space and modernise the building whilst respecting the historic fabric?

We really value your input, suggestions and support so we hope you can join us and help us to progress our plans and design a hub that serves the community.

If you can't make the 25th we will be holding additional consultation events in the New Year and you can take part in our online survey at (this can be completed anonymously)
The Carnegie Collective was formed by Ste Quayle, Laura Ramsey and Lowri Lewis who are community drama students at LIPA.  As part of their 'Theatre in Democracy' module they are working with Lister Steps to explore some of the issues we, our families and the wider Tuebrook community are currently facing.  They will turn the information gathered at weekly workshops into an interactive performance (the audience will vote in the style of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' ask the audience!) which will later be presented to Liverpool City Council.

The performance will take place at Lister Steps on 5th December, arrive from 4.30pm for drinks and nibbles with the performance starting at 5pm.  We hope you will join us to support these very talented students and provide input which they can feed back to Liverpool City Council.  (No one will be asked to take part in the performance-don't worry!).

Below are some of the comments they have received during the workshops.
Holding Works Progress
We asked Site Manager Jack Parr to tell us a little about the holding works taking place on site.

1: Hi Jack, Can you tell us a little about yourself......

I am a Joiner and Site Manager for Robinsons Preservation Ltd where I have worked for five years.

2: You are currently working at the former Andrew Carnegie Library.  Can you please tell us more about this project and the work you are doing there?

The main part of our work in this phase is to strip the building back to bare brick on the inside and to carry out essential holding treatments on the dry rot to stop it spreading any further and damaging even more of the building. We are also working on getting the building water tight and providing some much needed ventilation to help the building dry out and create some natural air flow. There are also some structural problems with some of the floors which need addressing.

3: What are the areas of concern for the building?

There are many areas of concern within the building, the worst is obviously the extent of the dry rot. The others are the glass lights built into the floors between ground and first floor level. They are made from cast iron and must weigh over 200kg each.  Because the floors around them have been affected badly by dry rot they are close to collapsing. We have had to do some emergency propping below these. Most of the ornate plaster coving is also a concern because of the timber framework holding it to the wall being badly affected by dry rot, this makes the removal of certain sections vital so they don't fall when we least expect them to.

4: What is the next stage following the emergency holding works?

Well it will be stage one survey where hopefully we will be instructed to do the works. This survey will consist of gathering as much detailed information as we can on the areas that need to be worked on.  For example, we will need to determine the condition of roof timbers, floor timbers and all other timber work. The reason for doing this is to find out how much is rotten and to enable us to try and get an accurate specification and costing together for the works. 

5: What do you find interesting/special/unique about the former Andrew Carnegie Library? 

As I am a joiner I have a passion for wood so I really like the oak book shelves on the balcony. The brass foot steps and grab handles to help you reach the top shelf I like the most. I also like the oak panelling in the reception area, ornate carved oak door frames in the foyer, the balcony handrail, ornate plaster mouldings and the green tiles.

6: Finally, what are your thoughts on Lister Steps plans to regenerate the building and reuse it as a community hub?

For me it's good to see how much this project means to so many people and for different reasons.  People that are from all walks of life have such a big interest in the building and what it will become.  When Lister Steps had their grand launch for the hub at lowlands I was surprised and happy to see the enthusiasm from everyone about what Lister Steps have done so far. I think that it is vital that organisations like Lister Steps have this amount of passion for buildings like this. The library is a big part of Liverpool's heritage and it shouldn't be left to just slowly deteriorate. I also think it’s a good idea to make the building multi-functional so it can be used for as many different uses as possible.
The Road to Restoration: Part 1 by Eyedear Productions for Tuebrook Explored
Here is the fabulous 'The Road to Restoration: Part 1' by Eyedear Productions for Tuebrook Explored. This film is the first in a series recording Lister Steps journey to create a community hub in the former Andrew Carnegie Library.

Edward McCormack explains: '
In this inaugural episode we record the first steps towards bringing this iconic local building back to where it belongs, in the hearts and minds of local people. We have concentrated our efforts on setting the scene in this initial film, with representatives from both Lister Steps and Robinsons, the company charged with the initial holding works, outlining the exciting plans for future development of the building. In future episodes we will chart the progress of the renovation works, and record for posterity the actions and reactions of all the key players, with a view to giving people the opportunity of witnessing the renaissance of this fine local building as it gets it’s long anticipated makeover.'
Historic Research
The team have been carrying out research in order to create a chronology of the former library.  We have trips to the Liverpool Record Office coming up to carry out further research and we are working closely with Historians, Architects and local people to create a report on the history of the Andrew Carnegie Library.  Here is the information we have gathered so far..........

Thomas Shelmerdine, Andrew Carnegie and Liverpool Branch Libraries

Thomas Shelmerdine (1845-1921) was the eldest son of nine children born to Thomas Shelmerdine Senior, a Manchester born Architect and Surveyor, and was born in Salford in 1845.  Thomas Shelmerdine Senior’s four sons, Thomas, Anthony, Edward and Henry, all worked as Architects and Surveyors in Liverpool and contributed to Liverpool’s built environment.

At age 26, Thomas Shelmerdine was appointed as the youngest ever Corporation of Liverpool Surveyor on 6th December 1871.  Shelmerdine is credited with coining the motto ‘Modernise Everything’ and, although he is most well known for his branch libraries, he is also responsible for a number of Liverpool’s architectural buildings and monuments, some of which still exist today such as the Hornby Library (part of the William Brown Street complex now known as ‘Central Library’), the gateposts and lodge at Sefton Park and the Fire Headquarters and Tramway Offices, both in Hatton Garden.

On 6th December 1911 Shelmerdine was congratulated on forty years service in the post of Surveyor at the Corporation of Liverpool.  He officially retired from his post in August 1914 however was appointed as Consulting Land Steward and Surveyor of Special Works until November 1915.  Shelmerdine passed away on 26th January 1921.

The first public library in Liverpool, a reference library, opened in the Union Newsroom building on the corner of Duke Street and Slater Street in 1852.  The first purpose built library was constructed in 1860 on William Brown Street however library services were slow to develop in areas outside the town centre.  Peter Cowell (1838-1909), Liverpool’s third Chief Librarian (appointed to the post in 1875), is responsible for the programme of construction of branch libraries in Liverpool.

Andrew Carnegie (wealthy philanthropist), on his first visit to Liverpool, attended the opening ceremony of the Toxteth Library in 1902.  As a result of this visit he offered to finance the first of six branch libraries, the Andrew Carnegie Library.  Between 1902 and 1913 Andrew Carnegie gave grants to construct six branch libraries in Liverpool: West Derby (named The Andrew Carnegie Library after it’s generous funder), Kirkdale, Walton and Fazakerley, Garston, Sefton Park and Old Swan.

Andrew Carnegie funded libraries (T
he following dates refer to the date the library opened): 

·         West Derby 1905: The West Derby library, or The Andrew Carnegie Library, was opened in 1905 and was designed by Thomas Shelmerdine.  Doran (2014, 49) comments ‘The plan of the West Derby Library was different from the previous Toxteth and Wavertree libraries, as it didn’t use the triple bay-centralised scheme which Shelmerdine had used before, however the functional requirements were all very similar.’  Shelmerdine designed a single central entrance, the octagonal turret framed by a portico, to ensure the three reading rooms could be accessed.  Doran (2014, 49) notes that Shelmerdine had previously used an octagonal to help overcome the issues of a corner site at both Kensington and Everton. Doran (2014, 49) also notes that there are a number of typical ‘Shelmerdine’ features included in the design such as ‘...the diagonal buttresses, the detailing of the volutes and capitals on ionic columns raised on pedestals, Gibbsian keystones, dentils and the egg and dart moulding.

·         Kirkdale 1905: The library opened in 1905 however was destroyed in 1941 by bombing.  It was planned by Thomas Shelmerdine and included, canted bays, a central entry, grey bricks and had minimal stone dressing.

·         Garston 1909: The library opened in 1909 and was also planned by Thomas Shelmerdine.  Architectural features (influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement) include; a sandstone base with pebble dash, a central entry, canted bays and white and black work in the gables.

·         Walton and Fazakerley 1911: The library opened in 1911 and is the only pre-war branch library in Liverpool not to have been designed by Thomas Shelmerdine.  Following Shelmerdine failing, on numerous occasions despite being reminded, to submit plans to the Library, Museum and Arts Committee, a design competition was held for Liverpool Architects.  Brigs, Wolstenholme and Thornley won the competition and produced a neo-classical styled brick building with stone dressings which was entered via an off centred semi-circular porch and had details such as short vertical parapets flanked by decorative urns (Doran 2014, 73).

·         Sefton Park 1911: The library was opened in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie where he was awarded the ‘Freedom of the City of Liverpool’.  The library was designed by Thomas Shelmerdine in the ‘Elizabethan Style’; stained oak and render, a low level sandstone base and red roof tiles.  Sefton Park Library is the last of Thomas Shelmerdine’s branch libraries.

·         Old Swan Reading Room 1913: The reading room opened in 1913 and was built by R Wearing and Sons of West Derby.  Architectural features include red wire bricks, half timber imitation and canted bay windows.  The reading room could accommodate 76 seated readers and was serviced by the West Derby Library (The Andrew Carnegie Library).  Visitors could select books from a catalogue and they were delivered direct to the reading room.

Thomas Shelmerdine also designed a number of other branch libraries in Liverpool which were not funded by Andrew Carnegie (Tiernan J, 2011): 

·         Kensington 1890 & extended in 1897

·         Everton 1896

·         Toxteth 1902

·         Wavertree 1903

The Andrew Carnegie Library 

Plans were already in place to construct a branch library in West Derby prior to Andrew Carnegie’s donation.  In June 1900 the Library, Museum and Arts Committee purchased the 5’738 square yards site (Doran 2014, 47).  Thomas Shelmerdine’s plans, draw with the help of Architectural Assistant Mr E B Rimmer, were approved by the Library, Museum and Arts Committee on the 31st July 1902 (Doran 2014, 47).

A letter from Andrew Carnegie to Sir William Forwood, dated 16th December 1902, discusses the intention of building and funding the library and reads:

‘My Dear Sir William,

Delighted to hear of the progress of the Toxteth Library.

You mentioned that you wishes to build another such branch somewhere costing about £13’000.  If it would not be considered intrusive I should like to testify my appreciation of the public spirit of Liverpool, and especially of its partnership in the free library movement.  It has a great record, having established a free library before the advent of the Libraries Act.  Besides this, I was deeply impressed by the number of able citizens who give so much of their time, not to aims that end with miserable self, but for good of the community.

I do not make the practice of volunteering.  I depend upon you and such of your other friends that I had the pleasure of meeting, to be sure the offer would be universally received with approval.

Please be sure to consult the late Lord Mayor, my fellow countryman, in your counsels, and believe me

Always very truly yours,

Andrew Carnegie

(Cowell 1903, 193)

The letter was read out at a meeting of the Library Committee on 28th January 1903 and the following resolution was passed:

‘That the Council be recommended to accept the very generous offer made by Mr. Andrew Carnegie to erect a new Branch Library at a cost of about £13’000, and that the best thanks of the Council be accorded to Mr. Carnegie for his handsome gift, and that the money offered by Mr. Carnegie be applied to the erection of a Branch Library in West Derby, and that the library be called the Andrew Carnegie Library.’

(Cowell 1903, 193)

Fifteen tenders were submitted and considered during a Library, Museum and Arts Committee meeting on 27th August 1903.  The second lowest tender of £15’570 by Brown and Blackhouse was accepted (Doran 2014, 47).  Construction began in 1903 and was completed by June 1905 when Thomas Shelmerdine advised the Library, Museum and Arts Committee to instruct the Librarian to purchase books.  The storage capacity of the library was 13’609 volumes (Doran 2014, 49).

Sir William Forwood officially opened the library on 27th June 1905.

The former library building is a one-storey brick built structure with stone dressings, a slate roof and an octagonal turret constructed during the Edwardian Period in the style of both Queen Anne Revival (fine, warm brickwork decorated with light coloured stone, bay windows and the corner tower) and Edwardian Baroque (a domed corner tower, exaggerated keystones, segmental arched pediments and ionic columns).  Each of the two main elevations (Lister Drive and Green Lane) are composed around a large projecting brick gables, pierced by a rounded headed window that dominates the elevation.  Canted bay windows are positioned to each end of the two main reading rooms (Doran 2014, 47).  Each elevation has a pattern of red/orange Ruabon brickwork (Doran 2014, 49) (except the rear driveway elevation which is common brickwork) with stone yellow sandstone/shoreton stone dressing-banding, mullions, dentil cornices, arches keystones and copings.  The roof comprises a mixture of dual pitched slate covered areas and flat roofing with rooflight features.  

The library comprises an elevated lead dome over the octagonal turret tower which forms the entrance area with a stone pillared portico and an entrance headstone that reads ‘Andrew Carnegie Library’. 

The library closed briefly during the 1950's while it underwent 'modernisation'.  It re-opened on 3rd October 1957.

The building, the wall and gatepiers became Grade II listed on 19th June 1985 under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.  List Entry Number 1298769, the wall and gatepiers to West Derby Library states:

‘Wall to Green Lane and Lister Drive, with gate piers at angle.  1904. T.Shelmerdene. Brick with swept coping between wall piers with battered panels and hemi-spherical caps. Plain iron railings between piers.  Gate piers as wall piers but larger.’

List Entry Number 1356361, the building, states: 

Library. 1904. T Shelmerdine.  Brick with stone dressings, slate roof.  One storey, 4 bays canted corner bay and 4-bay right return; 1st 3 bays project.  Sill course, painted pilasters, pulvinated frieze, cornice and parapet.  Windows have mullions and transoms.  3 2nd bay round-headed window under gable.  Corner has octagonal turret, with buttresses and arcaded parapet.  Segmental-headed windows have eared architraves with triple keys.  Domical vault in 2 stages.  Round-headed entrance has ionic porch with pulvinated frieze and segmental pediment.  Right return similar. Left return and rear facades have 2 canted bays.

Sadly, following health and safety concerns, the library closed in 2006 and has remained vacant since.  This period of un-occupation has resulted in the library being subject to theft, vandalism and neglect.  Items stolen from the library include lead flashings, the glazing to roof lights and feature ridge tiles.  There has been substantial rainwater ingress which has severely damaged the timber structure and internal decorative plasterwork and joinery and dry rot is common throughout the building.

In August 2014, following a successful Stage 1 pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund, emergency holding works started in the former library to 'stop the rot'.  The next stage in this iconic buildings history has begun.................

Staff, volunteers and community members will continue to research the history of the Andrew Carnegie Library throughout the project and hope to produce a detailed report as a result of our research.  


Cowell, P., 1903. Liverpool Public Libraries: A History of Fifty Years

Doran, A., 2014. Liverpool Libraries and the Carnegie Connection, Specialist Study towards Masters of Architecture at Liverpool John Moore’s University, Unpublished.

Griffiths Thompson Partnership,. 2013. Lister Drive Library, Green Lane, Liverpool 13 Report on the Need for Interim Holding Works, GT121/AT/JB

Morley Design Associates Ltd,. 2012. Report on Structural Inspection at Lister Drive Library, 12/081

Prizeman, O., 2012. Philanthropy and Light: Carnegie Libraries and the Advent of Transatlantic Standards for Public Space, Ashgate

Robinsons Preservation Ltd., 2012. Lister Drive Library (timber inspection report), NF/TA/19912/12

Tiernan, J., 2013. The Shelmerdine Architectural Dynasty, Liverpool History Society Journal 12, 1-14

Tiernan, J., 2011. The Library Builders, Victorian Society (Liverpool) newsletter, December 2011

Tiernan, J., 2009. Messrs Cowell and Shelmerdine, and Dr Carnegie, or, How Liverpool’s Public Library System Expanded from the 1890’s, Liverpool History Society Journal 8, 76-86 List Entry Number 1298769 and 1356361, accessed 09.07.2014
Lister Steps would like to thank the following for their input, hard work and support: Alison Doran, Jack Parr, Ed McCormack, Eddie Cotton, John Tiernan, Stephen Guy, Amy Maguire, Ste Quayle, Lowri Lewis, Laura Ramsey and Kelly Richardson.
Copyright © 2014 Lister Steps, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Lister Steps, Old School Site, Lister Drive, Tuebrook, Liverpool, L13 7HH