The Wickford Branch Library

The photos from the Evening Echo archive show the Wickford Toy Library at its opening in 1987 (Kerry Lee Turner on the left, Gemma Jones on the right) and on its 1st birthday. Mrs Kim Oakes was the founder of the toy library.

Many years before, in 1932, an application was made to the Essex County Council Education Committee requesting the establishment of a Local Centre of the County Library. This was agreed and the library would be opened at No 5 High Street, under the auspices of the Parish Council, on 16th February 1933. The opening hours were Wednesdays 4 – 5 pm for children and Wednesdays 5 – 6 pm and Thursdays 6.30 – 8.30 pm for adults. The Librarian would be Miss Bott, who lived in Park Drive, Wickford.

On 2nd February, 1948, the library moved across the road to 58 High Street. The library continued to open part-time (10 hours a week) and became full time in April 1948. The local people appreciated the work of the library staff in what were still considered to be inadequate premises.  In 1958 the local Ratepayers Association wrote to the Library Committee requesting a new library. The County Council agreed with them but there were restrictions on what could be built at the time.

On 11th September, 1958, Miss Margaret Cohen, the librarian for the Basildon Urban District, had to write to the County Librarian, Mr Lace, to inform him of the state of the library after the previous week’s flooding. Apparently the Wickford Library was open, drying out but still a bit smelly.  About 800 non-fiction books had been ruined. She asked that he press for a new building for the library, given the increasing population in the area.

Plans were made by Basildon Urban District Council and the Essex County Council to build a library and community centre on a shared site in Market Road. These eventually came to fruition in 1962. The library cost £21,000 and would open on 9th November 1962, with a stock of 20,000 volumes. There was an area set aside for a children’s library. The heating was under the vinyl floor. Miss Cohen had been responsible for opening Branch Libraries at Vange, Fryerns and Laindon. She retired before the Wickford building was complete. The librarian in charge at Wickford would be Miss P. Doyle, A.L.A..

The library underwent a makeover as of March 1999. There was new access for wheelchair users, and mums and dads with push chairs or shopping trolleys. The children’s library was moved to the front of the building and Ed Davis, a local poet, opened a Poetry to Please area. The library had over 33,000 items, “books, videos talking books and CDs”.

In September 2013 the library celebrated its 50th birthday with a party and a display of pictures of the High Street over the years.

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  • As a kid growing up in Wickford in the late 50s/early 60s, Culley’s was my favourite shop. They sold ‘fancy goods’, a old term for non-essential items like toys and birthday cake candles. To me, as a schoolboy, it was Wickford’s stockist of Dinky, and later, Corgi toys, model cars and trucks. I remember buying the Corgi version of the James Bond Aston Martin with working ejector seat. I also remember they sold bird calls what you put in your mouth and held against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. They would today be instantly banned by Health & Safety as a choking hazard.

    By Nicholas Cole (04/10/2022)
  • This entry was about the public library run by the Essex County Council. There were also private libraries which people could subscribe to. A well known one was the Boots Booklovers Library. I don’t think that Wickford had one of these but I have found an advertisement for a sort of ‘pay as you go’ library.
    Culley’s , the Fancy Shop, for wedding gifts and birthday presents and toys – advertised ”your library for the latest fiction”. They promised “the latest best sellers for only a few pence a week”, no deposit and no subscription, with the “latest editions of popular authors added weekly”.
    “Borrow a book and banish boredom”.
    Culley’s ad was in the Wickford Times, November 5th 1958. The shop was at 34 High Street, Wickford, (now Costa coffee?), “opposite the car park”.

    By Maurice Wakeham (20/09/2018)

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