(Former) Exchange and Commercial Library, Gibraltar, now Parliament House. Founded by voluntary subscriptions in 1817, and opened to the public in the August of the following year, this imposing Regency building, complete with clock-tower and wide entrance portico, stands on the east side of John Mackintosh Square.

The project most probably stemmed from the civilian response to the exclusive Garrison Library. While the latter was only open to the British forces posted in Gibraltar, this new facility was "operated by an exchange committee, elected annually from among the inhabitants," and contained not just a commercial library and reading room, but auction rooms and offices. Here, "travellers (especially those interested in commerce)" were always welcome (Ports of Call, 17). Although far fewer books were available, Disraeli was gratified to find on his visit of 1830 that that both libraries had copies of his novel, Vivian Grey (see O'Kell 36).

Ironically the building itself was in a prime location and is rather grander than the Garrison Library — so much so that in 1850 it was inaugurated as the Legislative Council. This was superseded by the House of Assembly. Eventually, in 2007, the building was renamed Parliament House.

Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Related Material


Chipulina, Neville. "1817 - Exchange Library of Gibraltar — The Response." The People of Gibraltar. Web. 25 January 2019.

O'Kell, Robert P. Disraeli and the Romance of Politics. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2013.

U.S. Navy: Ports of the World. Washington: US Government, 1920. Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of California Libraries. Web. 25 January 2019.

Created 24 January 2019