Cradley Library - Colley Lane, Cradley
Cradley Library was opened on 26th March 1936 at 3pm by S.S. Somers, Esq. J.P , one of three libraries opened by Halesowen Urban District Council. The central Library in Hagley Street was opened by Viscount Cobham on 27th July 1933, and the Branch at Long Lane on 30th April 1936 by Joseph Howard Esq., J.P. C.C.
Extract from the Borough of Halesowen Charter Souvenir 1936
Prior to the 15th July 1931 the County Council were the Library authority for the district, but no library facilities were provided. It was felt by the two Authorities that the County Library Scheme would not be sufficient for a district of this size and by arrangement, The County Council rescinded the resolution adopting the acts so far as this district was concerned, and an order was obtained from the Board of Education in July 1931. Since that date the District Council have erected a Central Library at Hagley Street Halesowen adjoining the Council House at a cost of over £5000. This Library, opened on 27th July 1933 by Viscount Cobham has a lending room with accommodation for 10,000 volumes, Children’s room, Reading room and Librarian’s Office. There are no loans, the cost of the building, furnishing, and stocking have been met out of revenue. A qualified Librarian and two assistants are employed at the Central Library and considerable use is being made of the facilities provided.
The opening ceremony at Cradley Library didn’t take place quite as planned, (see opening leaflet below) according to the County Express of Saturday 28th March 1936, which gives a very long and detailed account,
“There was a large and representative gathering at the opening ceremony, but owing to heavy rain, the first part took place in the hall of the Colley Lane Boys’ School. Mr Walter Hodgetts (Chairman of the Council) presided and formally presented the gold key, with which to open the building to Mr Somers. The gathering then left the school and walked down Colley Lane to the library, Mr Somers inserted the key into the lock and said, “I have great honour in declaring this library open.” Accompanied by Mr Hodgetts, he then entered the building and the remainder of the company followed.”'
After the opening, the General Public could inspect the building on the following two days, but the issuing of books began at 10.30am on Monday 30th March 1936.
Stained Glass Window
Three stained glass windows were installed in the Central Library and the branches at Cradley and Long Lane to commemorate Halesowen Urban District Council becoming a municipal Borough on 19th September 1936.
The Armorial bearings of the Borough of Halesowen
The arms have been prepared by the Collage of Arms, for which Letters Patent have been granted. ARMS: Per pale argent and or a lion rampant double queued per pale gules and vert a chief per pile reversed argent and azure thereon in chief two escallops sable and in the base a fleur-de-lys of the second. CREST: Out of a mural crown or an anvil sable the beak encircled by a chain reflexed over the face gold. SUPPORTERS: On the dexter side a Canon of the Premonstratensian Order holding in the exterior hand a closed book and on the sinister side a gentleman habited in the costume of the fifteenth century all proer. MOTTO: ‘Respice ,Aspice , Prospice ‘ meaning; ‘Look to the past , the present, and the future. The Crest shows a mural crown and arising therefrom, an anvil symbolic of the iron and steel industry of the district with a gold chain in allusion to the chain industry of Cradley.
The Shield displays an appropriate arrangement of the emblems taken from the Arms of the principal owners of the Manor of Hales viz;- Earl Roger de Mongomery who held the Manor of Hales (1066-1094) – that portion of the lion rampant coloured red. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who held the Manor (1555) – that portion of the lion rampant coloured green on a gold ground. The Premonstratensian Canons of Halesowen who held the Manor (1218-1538) -the fleur-de-lys on a blue ground. Viscount Cobham representing the Lyttelton family who have held the Manor since 1559 – the two escallops.
The supporters: The supporter on the left side is a Canon of the Premonstratensian order to represent the Abbot of Halesowen Abbey, and that on the right side, a gentleman of the Fifteenth century to represent Sir Thomas Lyttelton, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas.
The system used for issuing books was known as the Brown system, not because the tickets were brown but because it was invented by someone called Brown. Each book had a book card with the book number, author and title, and a book pocket with the book number. After filling in an application card, any resident ratepayer or employee in the Halesowen Urban District could obtain tickets, or any child over the age of 9. One ticket was needed for each book, the book card was removed from inside the book and the date for return stamped on the date label. The book card was then placed in the borrower’s ticket, these were then filed in numerical order, then in date order, in narrow book trays. When the books were returned the book number was checked against the tickets in the appropriate date and the book card removed and replaced in the book, with the tickets being returned to the borrower, if the books were returned after the date stamped in the book fines would have to be paid.
Adult tickets were brown, children’s pink. Books were classified as Junior, pink book cards, fiction yellow book cards and nonfiction blue book cards. If the books were not returned after a certain time an overdue letter would be sent.
The reference Library contained a selection of Encyclopaedias, dictionaries, atlas, and other reference books which could be consulted in the library. The reading Room contained a selection of daily newspapers and periodicals, these were attached to tall sloping tables so that they had to be read standing up.
Staff at Cradley Library from its opening to 2006
Mrs Lang (who also taught music)
Daily rota from Halesowen Library
Helen Tromans (nee Pee)
Jill Guest (nee Corbett)
Lesley Robson (nee Till)
Lorraine Burton (nee Champ)
Maureen Jeavons and Jill Guest
Maureen Jeavons and Steph Sellers, Jill Guest and Jackie Tibbetts
I first visited Cradley Library when I was 7 years old, we came from Colley Lane Primary school which was opposite the library once a week to change our books, a class at a time. By this time, in the 1950’s the library hadn’t changed very much. I don’t know when the collection of stuffed birds in large glass cases was acquired but I didn’t like them. I read Enid Blyton or any of the books from the beginning of the alphabet so that I didn’t have to go past these birds. The Librarian’s name was Mrs Moore, she didn’t allow any noise. I passed the 11+ and went to Halesowen Grammar School so didn’t have much time to visit the library.
I started work at Halesowen Library on 1st April 1965 and after a few weeks and a couple of visits with other staff I was going to Cradley Library one afternoon or a Saturday every week, as it was staffed on a rota by the staff at Halesowen. We worked till 12.30pm at Halesowen then had an hour and a half for lunch and to catch the 130 bus to Cradley in time to open up at 2.pm. Apart from the man from the Treasurers department who came on Friday afternoon to collect the rates and empty the fines box we were on our own apart from the borrowers and the people who lived nearby who popped in. Two of those ladies were Sally Bowen and Florrie Mole who cleaned the library and lived in two adjoining houses at the back of the library in Mapletree Lane. When I first started Mr Bowen, Sally’s husband would come over twice a day in winter to stoke the boiler. The boiler was then converted to oil and a large tanker backed its way down the path at the back of the library to fill up a large tank. Sally and Florrie treated us girls like family if they were baking, we would get a slice of apple pie or sometimes a pancake. Lovely ladies. Sally was the official caretaker and after the amalgamation of Halesowen and Dudley in 1974 someone in an office in Dudley realised how old she was, and she was asked to retire, finishing in 1977 at the age of 80.
There had been some changes in the layout of the library by then, the Junior library was moved into what had been the reading room at the front of the library, and the old Junior library became the reading room, the old sloping tables were removed so that people could sit to read the newspapers or consult reference book. The central desk was also moved over to one side to create more space.
All new books were catalogued covers put on book cards written and date labels put in by the staff at Halesowen, all handwritten in fountain pen. The deputy librarian delivered new books to Cradley, or we took them with us on the bus especially requests. Catalogue cards had to be filed in the appropriate catalogues, this together with making sure the books were in order and serving the borrowers kept us busy.
The Registrar from Stourbridge came on Friday evenings, to allow people to register births or deaths, saving them a journey to Stourbridge. The Citizens Advice Bureau also used the library during the 1940’s.
I returned to Cradley Library after leaving to start a family, in the mid 1990’s working with Maureen Jeavons, half a week each, we worked alone apart from a Saturday girl, so we very rarely saw each other, but the partnership worked well, and we became firm friends. About this time Jasper came to Cradley library he was a blue budgerigar who was much loved by the children who named him, we never managed to get him to talk, but he chirped and sang.
Cradley Library was still using the Brown issue system, Halesowen Library had tried photo charging which wasn’t a great success, then went on to a computer system with issue and discharge terminals. Then it was decided to install a new computer system at all three Libraries together with computers for the public to use. This was probably the greatest change in the history of Cradley Library. Training was given to all staff, which involved courses and exams, which Maureen and I passed. Although it was quite a stressful time, we still managed to hold coffee mornings, a craft fair, plant sale and many other fundraising events for charity. Including coffee mornings for our 60th Anniversary in 1996, 65th Anniversary and 70th Anniversary in 2006.
As part of the 70th Anniversary celebrations we asked people to send in their memories of Cradley Library, and a leaflet and display were produced, here are some of the memories,
Memories of Muriel Bennett
The land Cradley Library is built on originally belonged to the Strawson family, as did the rest of the land around here. They lived in The Elms, a large house that stood opposite the library, where the bungalows are now. The land was sold off in parcels, the first house below the school (now the new nursery) being originally used as the Rates office before the library was built.
My Grandfather purchased enough land to build the four houses below the library. Miss Wright, the schoolmistress at Colley Lane School, lived in the house next to the library; my family lived in the next one, my Grandfather in the next one and Mrs Roper, schoolmistress at the Church Schools in the last one.
Before the library was built, the land was used for allotments, Mr Corbett who lived in Lyde Green, having one and our family the other. I remember being sent to pick raspberries there. We also kept pigeons and rabbits on the allotment. I remember having lovely long warm gloves made out of rabbit skins.
The Library was built by David Tate, the local builder. My mother was worried as the building rose higher and higher that it would block out the light from our kitchen window. By the time it was finished, it did indeed stop our view up the road, and keep some of the light out of the kitchen.
I was not actually here when the Library was opened, as I worked in Birmingham at that time. Walter Hodgetts, who was Chairman of the Council at the time, was my mother’s cousin.
I have been a regular reader at the library ever since and still enjoy its’ services today.
Memories of Barry Willetts
In 1952 when the old King died, I was 14 years old and in my last year at Homer Hill School. All the local schoolchildren were gathered outside Cradley Library in Colley Lane to hear the official proclamation read out by the Mayor, accompanied by the Town Clerk and as many Aldermen and Councillors as could get there. The official party stood on the wall outside the Library for the proclamation to be read. (It had to be read out at all the Municipal buildings in the Borough, Halesowen Council Offices, Long Lane Library and Cradley Library.) I realised my father, Clifford Willetts was stood on the wall in his alderman’s robes, and then realised that he was still wearing his spark burnt trousers and hobnailed boots under his Alderman’s robes, as his feet were level with my eyes. The Mayor made the mistake of saying, the King is dead, God bless the King, instead of the Queen.
My father later told me he had been summoned from his job making chain at Reece’s just down the road from the Library in the gully between Colley Lane and Mapletree Lane, he pushed his bike up Mapletree Lane and tried to enter through the back door of the library, the policeman on duty there didn’t recognise him and refused him entry, to which Cliff replied, “if I doe come in it doe tek place,” When he explained who he was the policeman soon changed his tune and treated him with the proper respect, although Cliff didn’t have time to change out of his working clothes before the Proclamation was read.
Memories of Mrs Eunice Poole
Cradley Library was opened in 1936. I was two years old. Sixteen years later in 1952 I was working in Halesowen Library, I was frequently sent to Cradley to do relief work when the full time assistant was ill or on holiday.
The Library and its surroundings have obviously changed in the last fifty odd years since then, but many things are still the same. In those days like many little Black Country towns Cradley was a mixture of the industrial and the semi-rural.
On the corner of Ladysmith Road (behind the Library) there was a foundry. Walking down Ladysmith Road the view opened up ahead to a large green field where the local butcher, Mr Hodgetts, had his cattle grazing. A truly pastoral scene, now the field has given way to Elm Tree Grove.
The exterior of the Library looks almost exactly the same today as it did then and the interior has not changed enormously. The junior library as it exists today was then the Reading Room. The library opened at 10.00am to the public and before long many elderly men were occupying the tables. Some came in to read the papers but many came in just to get warm especially in the winter. There was the rather ‘charming’ habit of drying their clothes (and also their handkerchieves) on the radiators when it was a rainy day!! The newspapers could not be taken to the tables to be read. They were attached by means of a metal bar to a sloping wooden structure so people had to stand up to read them.
The junior library was housed then in what is now the office of the library. It was small but adequate for what books were available then. It was also quite well-used. Children came in mainly at the end of the school day when it became quite busy. The adult lending library took up the space which was left, quite an extensive area compared to the Junior and Reading Rooms. It was busy sporadically, sometimes a couple of hours would go by with only one or two people coming in and then maybe it would be busy for half an hour or so. Always working alone meant it was very, boring.
The book stock was not very good as the Second World War had ended only a few years previously. All businesses were struggling to come to terms with the post-war era and things were beginning to get better. Books then were nothing like books which are published today. The content was equally as good but it was their presentation. They were dull to look at. Black, brown and dark red cloth bindings covered most of them and the paper upon which the book was printed was a very inferior quality, with the printing being very small and dense. There were a few paper backs, ‘Penguins’ and ‘Pelicans’ but these too were plain with poor quality paper. No large-print books or vivid colourful dust-jackets. The whole book stock looked very uninviting.
At either side of the counter there was a small wooden gate which was locked to keep people out! To allow them in I had to press a small button on the floor with my foot, not exactly welcoming! Libraries too were very quiet in those days, people were expected to speak in low voices or whispers. What a change from today’s public libraries, which are bright and welcoming, hosting events for all sectors of the population. The change too to computers, the Internet and every kind of medium beside the printed word available to the public is tremendous.
Cradley library is free to all to use as they wish, as it was when I was a girl working there. Now however, it is a greatly improved place to find knowledge, education, entertainment and information. These basic concepts have always been the foundations of the public library service. Long may Cradley Library continue to flourish. Here’s to the next seventy years!!
Memories of Cradley Library By Helen K Tromens (ne Pee)
I first came to Cradley Library in May 1967 as a junior library assistant on a rota from the Halesowen Central Library. I well remember all the screens and the stuffed birds and how the junior library and reading room were the other way round to how they are now.
I remember it as a very friendly place, on Mondays we had whole classes over from Colley Lane Primary School to change their library books. It was a busy library, particularly Friday afternoons and Saturdays, which could be very hectic. As I had previously done branch library work for Shropshire County Libraries, Mr Smith, the Borough Librarian, asked me to come to Cradley more often to give more continuity and I gladly did this.
Perhaps it was being here more often that caused me to meet my future husband in the library. At the time he was foreman at Homer Hill Park and came to do some temporary caretaking at the library while Mr & Mrs Bowen, the regular caretakers had some holidays.
So you see, a library is not necessarily stuffy and boring for it can be a place of high romance, love and laughter!
Then in September 1970, after my marriage, I took sole charge of Cradley Library and worked here all the time, having total responsibility for the library in general and choosing the book stock. I also spent time having groups of children from Colley Lane Primary School and Cradley Church of England School during the times when the library was closed for special activities. Also I enjoyed creating special displays in the junior library.
I originally suggested removing the screens and reorganising the junior library and reading room, but nothing was done until after I left, which was January 1973.I moved to Stourbridge Borough Library and became Branch Librarian at Lye, where I stayed until the birth of my daughter. Jill Guest, who is one of the librarians at Cradley now, took over from me, so the library passed into her very capable hands.
Happy Days and Congratulations Cradley Library on 70 years.
Memories of Cradley Library By John Tromans
I first encountered Cradley Library in 1959 when I was a boy gardener at Homer Hill Recreation Ground. I was taken down to the library every Friday by a gentleman who worked at Homer Hill, his name was David Rawlings. He had to pay the games money from the tennis and bowls into the staff in the rates office, which is now the staff room. He stood in the queue along with people paying their rates, while I tended the small garden at the front of the Library and the lawn at the back. With David Rawlings keeping a watchful eye on me.
The library as such, at this time, had no significance to me other than a place of work. But as time went on, in the sixties, as I got older, I came to the library with another gardener, Alan Griffiths, to do the gardening and pay in the money. At this stage the young ladies who came to work in the library on a rota, kindly gave us light refreshments. I remember Hilda, Janet, Chris, Jill and Carol. And, also later Helen, who became my wife. I met her when I started doing relief caretaking duties when Mr & Mrs Bowen the regular caretakers were on holiday. My recollection of the library at this time was that it was quite old fashioned in its layout and design.
I am a regular customer at Cradley as is my wife, Helen. Long may Cradley Library continue to serve its customers and friends.
N.B. Homer Hill Park (which is how my wife referred to it) and Homer Hill Recreation Ground are one and the same.
Keep it in the family By Helen and John Tromans
Our daughter Elizabeth came to work at Cradley library as a Saturday Assistant when she was 16 in 1990.She stayed until 1993 when she went of to Manchester University to study for a B A Honours degree in Information Studies and Library Management.
She spent some very happy times at Cradley, first with Lorraine and then Maureen and Jill. She received a good training there before starting her degree course. She has never forgotten the friendliness from both staff and customers at Cradley. She also appreciated the help given with some of her assignments.
Memories of Irene Green (Nee Mansell)
I have just learnt from a relative that you are celebrating the opening of Cradley Library. As a child I lived in Church Road just around the corner from the Library. It is nice to know that the library still flourishes. I have some very fond memories of it as I read a great deal and well remember when it opened. By a strange coincidence a few weeks ago two ladies from our library came to talk to us about poetry. They suggested that we try our hand at writing a poem and my immediate thoughts went to Colley Lane library. Here is my poem.
Colley Lane Library, Cradley
I learned to read from an early age, books were my joy, I absorbed every page. When I reached the age of nine, an event occurred that made life divine. A library was built, from my home just a pace, it was an attractive building with a clock on it’s face. I was there at the door on the very first day, “You may take two books” I was told, and nothing to pay.
What pleasure it gave me to see all the shelves, lined with books in which to delve. There was Treasure Island and Alice in Wonderland, so many wonderful stories to hold in my hand. Though now in old age, I still read a lot, but my stories now have a much deeper plot. The library still stands, from Bromyard many a mile, when I visit that way I stand and remember and ponder a while. I wonder today how many children pass through the door, to find the delight that I did of yore.
The Friends of Cradley Library
The Friends of Cradley Library was formed on 31st July 2013, the constitution states, The Friends of Cradley Library exists to promote, improve and support the services of Cradley Library.
The Friends will achieve this by: Representing the views of users and the wider community in consultation with library staff and Dudley metropolitan borough council. Being part of the consultation process in the development of the service where appropriate, Offering ideas and enthusiasm to help increase usage and promote the service. Raising money by fundraising, sponsorship and donations in order to improve, promote, and support the services of Cradley Library as agreed by the Committee.
Helping to deliver a programme of activities by using funds raised and actively participating in planning and as volunteers. I hope we have achieved this. The Friends meet on the last Saturday of every month for coffee and a chat and to plan activities. The Friends of Cradley Library Facebook page promotes the many and varied activities which take place during the week.
These include, The summer reading challenge for children held every year, Rattle and Rhyme, Lego club, Board games club for children. And for adults, Craft Club, Reminiscence mornings, Jigsaw exchange, coffee and chat mornings. Book chat reading group. The Library also has public access computers, with an option to scan and print, free access to Ancestery.com, photocopying, book sale, together with a huge range of books for adults and children and Audio Books.
In 2017 the space at the back of the library has been transformed into a Community Garden, by the hard work of the Friends of Cradley Community Garden, creating a little haven of peace for Library users to enjoy as well as holding very successful plant sales and events to celebrate the Queens Jubilee and Coronation of King Charles with the Friends of the Library.
Cradley Library has played an important role in the life of many Cradley people over the last 87 years, I feel proud and privileged to have been a small part of its history for over 60 of those years. I hope it continues to do so for many years to come.
Jill Guest September 2023