Nestled in a small village in North Wales lies Britain’s finest residential library.
Gladstone’s Library, in Hawarden is Britain’s only Prime Ministerial library and the national memorial to the great Victorian statesman, and four times Prime Minister, William Gladstone.
It is home to a unique collection of more than 250,000 printed items and offers a comfortable, sociable and stimulating environment together with resources for creative study including renowned collections of theological, historical, cultural and political materials.
The library was founded by Gladstone in 1894, he was eager to share his personal library with others and especially to those wanting to learn who faced financial constraint. He would allow bright children and young adults of the village of Hawarden to use his collection. His desire, his daughter Mary Drew said, was to ‘bring together books who had no readers with readers who had no books’.
Armed with only his valet and one of his daughters, Gladstone who was well into his eighties by then, wheeled 32,000 books three quarters of a mile between his home at Hawarden Castle and the library. He unpacked them and put then onto shelves using his own catalogue system.
Following his death 1898, a public appeal was launched for funds to provide a permanent building to house the collection and to replace the temporary structure. The £9000 raised provided an imposing building, designed by John Douglas, which was officially opened by Earl Spencer on October 14th 1902 as the National Memorial to W.E Gladstone. The Gladstone family were themselves to fulfil the founder’s vision by funding the residential wing, which welcomed its first resident on June 29th, 1906.
Today the library is a hub of activity and welcomes visitors from across the globe. Its priority is to build and nurture a wide network of writers and thinkers in order to maintain Gladstone’s legacy of engagement with social, moral and spiritual questions, helping people reflect more deeply on issues and ides that concern them. Open to the public for 50 weeks of the year, Gladstone’s Library has 26 boutique-style bedrooms, its own coffee shop/ restaurant – Food for Thought.
If you fancy a change from your usual café scene, our Food for Thought bistro is perfect for you. Enjoy lunch with us, or just pop in for a cup of tea or coffee. Our food is locally-sourced and freshly cooked; our homemade Gladstone biscuits are a real favourite and go down a treat with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
Lunch is served from 12 noon – 2pm seven days a week, however, don’t worry if you miss this, as we serve yummy Afternoon Tea Monday-Friday, 3pm-4pm. We also serve traditional Sunday Lunch. Booking in advance is required for both Afternoon Tea and Sunday Lunch – please contact reception on 01244 523350 or firstname.lastname@example.org to do so.
The library also holds its own Writers in Residence programme, 2016 will see four residencies offered. The writers will then, in turn, reside at Gladstone’s Library for one month, during that time they will publish two blogs, run a one day workshop and give an evening talk about their writing life.
As well as regular monthly events Gladstone’s Library is also home to its own literary festivals – Gladfest and Hearth, bringing together some really inspiring leading thinkers and speakers.
Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness. William Ewart Gladstone.