Blackheath Library and a strange case of ‘déjà vu’

Alex, Nick and 2010 candidates in Blackheath Library after refurbI had a look at the work at Blackheath Library on Old Dover Road last week with John Fahy (the councillor in charge of Libraries on Greenwich) and am pleased to report that it is on schedule to reopen in late April after its £260,000 refurbishment.

I remember, as a child in the early 1980s, when what is now the library used to be a branch of RACS (the Co-op). In those days, Blackheath Library was around the corner at 50 St John’s Park, in a red-brick Victorian building that used to be a Vicarage and is now divided into flats used as council temporary accommodation.

The building had a children’s library on the right of the entrance hall, the main adult section on the left, with the music section upstairs I recall – like most childhood memories, the building I remember is a lot bigger than what is there. I remember once visiting with my father in the early 1980s and being told off by him for forgetting to hold one of the heavy swing doors open for an elderly lady behind us.

Apparently, when the library moved to Old Dover Road (in the late 1980s I think) the number of visitors doubled overnight and the library is (or was until it closed temporarily for the refurb in January) the second-busiest in the borough, after Eltham Library. The “new” library has electronic sliding doors, so there is no scope for heavy Victorian swing doors to be closed in other people’s faces.

But twenty or so years after it opened, the library has began to show its age, with those sliding doors getting a bit squeaky (the entrance is being relocated to the centre of the frontage of the building) and the décor and carpet looking increasingly ropey. So it is excellent news the council is investing in new shelving, décor and “self-issue” technology (this creates more space for books and reading by removing the large counter area).

I have not been able to find any images of what the library will look like when opened, but to get a clue go to West Greenwich Library on Greenwich High Road, which has just reopened after a similar refurbishment of its own and is pictured below (sadly, Blackheath Library does not have the lovely Edwardian baroque domes in the ceiling, of course!).

I hope that when the library reopens it will be even more popular, and attract more passing trade for the shops on Old Dover Road, whose rents have been frozen by the Labour council but are still finding trading conditions difficult. The council has been planning improvements to paving and pedestrian crossings in the Royal Standard area for some time, but sadly Transport for London has recently told us that there are no funds for them to contribute so the council must devise a more limited scheme without their support (in the meantime, the broken bench outside the former loos will be replaced soon I am told).

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3 Responses to Blackheath Library and a strange case of ‘déjà vu’

  1. Pingback: What future for Blackheath Village Library? « The Blackheath Bugle

  2. Alex Grant says:

    I can reassure the Bugle that the improvements to the Blackheath Library on Old Dover Road are not in any way linked to a closure programme – none exists.

    Indeed, one of the closest neighbouring libraries, East Greenwich library on Woolwich Road, is also having repairs and improvements carried out to the building (scaffolding is now up there).

  3. Pingback: After 16 years as a Labour councillor in Blackheath and Westcombe Park, Alex Grant says thank you and goodbye | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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