St Deiniol’s Library
Founded in 1889 by William Ewart Gladstone, St Deiniol’s Library is Britain’s only residential library, an architectural gem nestling in the Welsh borderlands, six miles from Chester. Four times prime minister, four times Chancellor of the Exchequer and a parliamentarian for over sixty years, Gladstone was also a voracious reader who built up a remarkable library at his home in the North Wales village of Hawarden.
Towards the end of his life, Gladstone began to think about the final destination of his vast collection of books and formed the idea of ‘a country home for the purposes of study and research, for the pursuit of divine learning, a centre of religious life.’
In 1889, he acquired land adjacent to Hawarden Church and work started on a temporary iron building. It consisted originally of one room with quarters for a caretaker but soon two rooms were in use, each with alcoves to serve as studies. The arrangement of bookcases and the system of cataloguing were both to Gladstone’s specifications and are still in use at St Deiniol’s. Once the work was completed, Gladstone himself, now in his eighties, helped to move 30,000 books from his study in Hawarden Castle to the new building. As he wrote at the time, ‘What man who really loves his books delegates to any other human being, as long as there is breath in his body, the office of introducing them into their homes?’