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Vaughan Library, Harrow School, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. 1861-33. This Grade II* listed building is a good example of polychromatic Gothic, with its red brick dressed with blue-grey brick and ashlar (see listing text). It is a straightforward design, rectangular with a central entrance porch at the west, facing the high street, and a bay at the east. As seen below right, it is on sloping ground so that the classrooms on the lowest floor still have light. The listing text tells us that the stained glass of 1883 and 1885 is by J. C. Bell, 1883 and 1885. The library has a prominent position on the east side of the High Street.

Left to right: (a) Entrance porch. (b) Contemporary engraving from the Illustrated London News of 1 August 1863: 121. (c) Side view showing the pronounced slope of the hill.

The library was named after Dr Charles John Vaughan, the reforming headmaster of 1845-59, who had been one of Thomas Arnold's leading pupils at Rugby, and who had "raised pupil numbers from 69 to 469 and reformed a school of whose violent pupils the local inhabitants had been in considerable fear" (Copley 178).

Account from the Illustrated London News

THE VAUGHAN LIBRARY, HARROW. This very pretty Gothic building has just been completed from the designs of Mr. George G. Scott. We give an Engraving of the front facing the street. The building is well placed on the brow of the hill between the church and the Head Master's house, and opposite to the gates of the school. From its general form it might almost bo taken for a chapel. As will be seen, it is very simple in outline, depending upon detail and materials fur effect. However, it is highly creditable to the taste and skill of the accomplished architect, and is certainly a great ornament to Harrow. The front we engrave is very ornamental in its character, and with the variety of red brick, and stone dressings to windows, buttresses, and a little judicious introduction of inlay-work, forms a very pleasing mass of colour, the advantage of which is, of course, lost in our view. On the opposite side, the architectural details of what may be called the garden front are not so rich; but a bold bay-window in the centre is a good feature, however; and owing to the fall of the ground, the basement story shows, which gives an additional importance to this front! A broad terrace also adds to the effect. The library is a well-proportioned room, simple in its details, with a plain wooden roof. The effect cannot be well judged of until the books in their cases take their position along the walls; but the great charm and advantage of the bay-window above mentioned can be fully realised even in the present incomplete state of the room. It commands a splendid view of the distant country, giving all the advantages of the elevated position of the building. To the student, with a slight sacrifice of the architecture to the view, the centre mullion of the window stops half way down, leaving one broad sheet of plate-glass for the look-out, which is indeed charming. This bay-window will form a most delicious retreat for the student, and enable him to refresh his eyes, wearied by reading, with a landscape of considerable beauty. The view from the Head Master's garden of the group of buildings, of which the Vaughan Library forms the centre, is a very pleasing one.

This building was erected as a graceful memorial of respect to the late Head Master, the Rev. Dr. Vaughan, and as a lasting monument raised by the voluntary contributions of Harrovians "to commemorate the signal services rendered to the school" during the happy period that distinguished scholar and divine presided over its destinies. Harrow School reached during his superintendence the highest point of prosperity. It retains its proud position under the present able Head Master, the Rev. Mr. Butler.

The interior of the library in c. 1901. Source: Fischer, facing p. 122.


Copley, Terence. Black Tom: Arnold of Rugby, The Myth and the Man. London and New York: Continuum, 2002.

"Vaughan Library (Harrow School), High Street." Historic England. Web. 12 December 2019.

"The Vaughan Library Harrow." The Illustrated London News. Vol.43, July-December, 1863. 120, 121. Hathi Trust. Contributed by the University of Michigan. Web. 12 December 2019.

Williams, Sir John Fischer. Harrow. London: George Bell & Sons, 1901. Internet Archive. From a Stanford University Libraries copy. Web. 12 December 2019.

Last modified 12 December 2019