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Gladstone's Library, Hawarden, Flintshire

Gladstone on High

Books of Jewish Interest Galore 

The Gladstone's Library complex is situated in the village of Hawarden, sitting in the lush Flintshire countryside a few miles from the north Wales border with Cheshire, England.

The magnificent, charismatic, extensive red brick Grade 1 listed building, is home to the United Kingdom's only Prime Ministerial residential library. It was built at the request of William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), the much acclaimed statesman and 4 times Prime Minister of Great Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria, who bequeathed his enormous personal library of over 32,000 books to the nation, as well as a sizeable financial bequest for the buildings construction – part of which was paid for by public funding.

The extensive building contains long but ornate, full of character corridors. It has heavy wooden doors behind which are offices and study areas. Of course, the library itself is awesome, with an artistic dark wooden interior and two-tiered alcoves, large and small. Beams of sunshine filter through the lead-piped Victorian windows. Also, an impressive statue of Gladstone, standing on a desk no less, is absolutely eye-popping.

The intricate design and character makes one immediately think of Harry Potter's Hogwarts!

The truly extensive library contains hundreds of shelves packed to the brim with thousands of titles.

Upon entering the library a rather serious librarian sits guarding the total quiet that blankets this part of the extensive complex. I was surprised to see shelf after shelf of volumes of publications of Jewish interest.

Titles include, to name a few, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer; Jewish Preaching 1200-1800; Repairing the World – Introducing Jewish Spirituality; the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Hagadah. Further along the shelf dealing with aspects of the Jewish religion, sits To Pray as a Jew, alongside a fascinating, thick brown leather bound edition entitled Hebrew Services, the date 1868 embossed on the book's spine.

Gladstone's is home to an astonishing collection of more than 250,000 printed items, covering theological, historical, cultural and political subjects.

In his latter years, and until his death, the statesman resided, in nearby Hawarden Castle, a property that had been inherited by his wife and the mother of his eight children - Catherine Glynne - the daughter of Welsh landowner and politician Sir Stephen Glynne of Hawarden.

Both Gladstone and Catherine, however, are buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

The impressive, seemingly never ending red brick Grade 1 listed building surrounded by luscious manicured lawns, was constructed in 1902. Until 2010 it was known as St. Deniol's Library, being adjacent to St. Deniol's church. The complex is also the national memorial to former Prime Minister Gladstone, another statue of whom – standing proudly on top of a wide, 3-section plinth and high column in the buildings grounds, faces forward looking out over the surrounding countryside and visible for quite a distance.

The Gladstone's Library complex – a registered charity - houses a few dozen residential rooms, reading and study lounges – with the most incredibly comfortable sofas and armchairs. It also has a large restaurant, aptly named 'Food for Thought' that is open daily to both residents and the general public.

Visiting the Gladstone's Library complex recently during a break in my journey to Manchester from North Wales, proved to be an amazing experience - and is definitely on my 'to do again' when visiting the U.K. again. 

 

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Friday, 23 February 2024

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