It’s not everyone’s choice of holiday, but a couple of times a year I like to book myself into comfortable accommodation some distance from home, take my laptop and a couple of paperbacks and spend the better part of a week writing.
It’s my opportunity to write up Sheffield local-history material that will never justify the expense of publishing, but can rest in the Archives as a legacy for future researchers.
Before the pandemic I spent an enjoyable, crisp winter week at the Raven Hall Hotel at Ravenscar in North Yorkshire, followed the same summer by a heatwave on the North Norfolk coast at Sea Marge Hotel in Overstrand where I found a cool, shady corner of the north-facing patio. At both locations I hardly left the premises all week.
The pandemic prevented me taking up my booking at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire, until March 2022, and it was worth waiting for.
The library was founded in 1894 by the Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) to “bring together books who had no readers with readers who had no books”.
He endowed it with £40,000 start-up capital and twenty thousand of his own books, which he transported in a wheelbarrow from his home, Hawarden Castle, to a temporary building, assisted only by his valet and one of his daughters.
After his death £9,000 was raised to build the present building, designed by the distinguished Chester architect John Douglas (1830-1911), and the Gladstone family provided a residential wing which opened in 1906.
No other British prime minister has a memorial library, though the USA has a tradition of presidential libraries back to George Washington.
John Douglas provided a galleried library which, apart from its visual appeal and vast collection of books, has two welcome attributes – a strict silence rule and the facility to reserve a work-place throughout the day and keep it overnight.
The residential rooms are small but comfortable, and during the pandemic all have been fitted with en-suite bathrooms.
The restaurant, Food for Thought, provides breakfast, lunch and dinner, and refreshments throughout the day, 8.00am-8.00pm.
In four days, I produced seventeen thousand words about the parish of St Cecilia, Parson Cross, Sheffield and its remarkable first vicar, Richard Roseveare.
I wouldn’t have accomplished that at home, having to cook my own meals and load my own dishwasher.
Booking details and other information can be found at Gladstone’s Library | the UK’s finest residential library (gladstoneslibrary.org).
What’s not to like?