Saturday, August 06, 2022


The interest shown in Brigg Blog's recent post about library provision in the town prompted us to undertake some historical research into the subject of local book-reading.
Prior to Brigg getting a community library offering free volumes for the general public to borrow, books (plus magazines & newspapers) were available to members of the Brigg Reading Society who paid an annual subscription.
This group occupied various sites - latterly a portable building located at Brigg Town Football Club's Hawthorns Ground.
Earlier, it had enjoyed spells in a building (since demolished) facing the Old River Ancholme near the County Bridge, and also in the Exchange, on Bigby Street.
The Reading Room's chairman in the mid-1970s was L. G. Watkinson.
A Brigg Reading Society Catalogue of Books in 1855 was printed by W. Cressey - after whom Cressey Yard, off Wrawby Street, was named. He had printing works in this part of the town centre.
The Reading Society's quarterly subscription in the mid-19th century was half a crown (12½p), a tidy sum back then which points to an exclusively middle class membership.
Only those living within one mile of the Reading Room were permitted to join.
A News Room and a Library were provided, and each book was allocated a 'reading time' by way of a notice attached inside. Fines applied if members kept them longer than specified.
As a perk, books and periodicals could be taken home to be read by members' families.
Among books on offer were works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Scott, Byron, Burns, Thackeray, Defoe, Chaucer, Milton and Benjamin Franklin, plus many reference publications and atlases.
Other than directories, books relating to Lincolnshire were far from numerous, except for poems by Tennyson.
Brigg Grammar School had its own well-stocked library.
It was overseen by history master Dr Frank 'Toddy' Henthorn, who started his teaching career in the early 1930s.
He was in overall charge of the Library when retiring in the late 1960s with the rank of deputy headmaster.
Dr Henthorn wrote two books outlining the history of Brigg Grammar School.
Boy pupils sat in silence in the Library to read books, newspapers and magazines, including back copies of the school's own mag, The Briggensian.
The facility filled Room 4, which was located near the original 17th century schoolroom, on the ground floor.
Following the introduction of the Sir John Nelthorpe Comprehensive on the same site, a library was made available in the original seat of learning (known in the Grammar era as Rooms 1 & 2).
Today the town has the popular Rabbit Hole Book Shop, in the Market Place, and the Oxfam Book Shop, on Wrawby Street - the latter specialising in donated volumes and a source of income for the charity.
The main picture above (taken in the early 1970s when Lindsey was the county authority) shows Brigg Library on Princes Street (premises today occupied by Brigg Beds).
A purpose-built two-storey replacement was provided in 1989 by Humberside County Council in a more central location off Old Courts Road (now used by Brigg Office Supplies and Huxford Electrical).
We remember attending the Library's official launch ceremony on behalf of the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph.
Coun John Considine, from Hull, presided as chairman of the Humberside authority's Leisure Services Committee.
Created in 1996, North Lincolnshire Council eventually decided to centralise local community services, including Brigg Library, at the Angel.

PICTURED ABOVE: Alongside Ken Fisher's 1970s view of Brigg Library, on Princes Street (main image) are the room which once housed Brigg Grammar School's Library (top left) and the Exchange Coach House Inn - formerly a gentleman's club which also hosted the town's Reading Society for many years. Pictured below - Brigg Library, on Old Courts Road, in 2011, and inside the current Library located in the Angel.