Prince Consort's Library, Knollys Road, Aldershot. Listed Building. Designed by Captain Francis Fowke (1823-1865), and built by George Myers (1803-1875), Pugin's trusted builder. Myers, who was currently building a new staff college at Sandhurst, was chosen over Sir John Kelk, who had also put in a tender for the work (Vickers 26). The library was "established and endowed" by Prince Albert, who "paid for it out of his own pocket" and donated a thousand books to it from his own collection (Stewart 159). Built 1859-60. Medium: "Yellow brick with red brick dressings, ridge stack encased in weatherboarded lower section and rear gable stack..... and slate roof" ("Prince Consort Library"). At the front is a recessed three-bay entrance area, with round-arched windows above, topped by Prince Albert's own coat of arms. The later (twentieth-century) extension to the left, built forward in the front with twin canopied doors, harmonises well. Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee, with thanks to the helpful library staff. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this UR or cite the Victorian Web in a print document.]

Left: Seen from the far side. Right: The side of the reading room, which has eight bays, not all visible here. By this time, it had become common for barracks to have libraries, but these were "either of a recreational nature ... or technical libraries. There was no military library as such" (Vickers 15).

Left: Close-up of Prince Albert's coat of arms, with the familiar crown, lion and unicorn, and heraldic devices of the United Kingdom, together with Saxe-Coburg elements, and his own German motto, "Treu und Fest," or "True and Steadfast" below. Right: Interior of the library, facing the entrance. The main section is "divided into the reading room, with a timber gallery on three sides with simple diagonally-braced rail and iron ties bolted to timber trusses, and a front librarian's flat, now office, with a meeting room over the ground floor loggia, original fireplaces and stairs up with stick balusters, column newels and wreathed rail.... Original fittings include book shelves, reading desks and chairs" ("Prince Consort Library").

Monument with the Royal Coat of Arms carved on it — a striking feature outside the library. Paul Vickers comments that the Prince Consort had various honorary military titles, mentioning that he was "Colonel-in-Chief of the 60th (later the King's Royal Rifle Corps), and later Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, Colonel-in-Chief of the Rifle Brigade, and Colonel and Captain General of the Honourable Artillery Company" (9). But this facility was part of his drive to play a practical role in the modernising the army and raising its training and intelligence standards. It is still a very important specialist military library.

References

"Prince Consort Library, Aldershot." British Listed Buildings. Web. 12 April 2012.

Stewart, Jules. Albert: A Life. London & New York: I. B. Tauris, 2012.

Vickers, Paul H. A Gift So Generously Bestowed: The History of the Prince Consort's Library, Aldershot. Aldershot: Friends of the Aldershot Military Museum, 2010.


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Last modified 12 April 2012