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The Picton Reading Room, Liverpool

The Picton Reading Room. by Cornelius Sherlock. 1879. Sir James Picton was the driving force behind the construction of Liverpool's first public library. He had been elected to the Council in 1849 and was made the first Chairman of the Library and Museum Committee, formed at his instigation, in 1851. An Act of Parliament allowed the city to raise funds for a public library but without the generous help of William Brown, a wealthy local merchant, there would have been insufficient funds to start the project. He paid for the building on the proviso that the City Council furnished the interior. Following his generous contribution, the City renamed the street (formerly Shaw's Brow) in his honour.

Left: . Right: . [Click on images to enlarge them.]

A competition was held for the design of the new Library and Museum and was won by Thomas Allom. However, his winning design proved to be too costly and it was a revised version, designed by the City surveyor, John Weightman, which was actually built and opened in 1860 The Picton Library (or, more correctly, the Picton Reading Room) was added to the William Brown Library in 1879. The architect was Cornelius Sherlock.

An 1870s Photograph provided by Neil Sturrock


Lewis, David. Walks through History: Liverpool. Derby: Breedon, 2004.

"The great drum of the Picton Reading Room neatly realigns these classical streets," says David Lewis, adding that the Central Library is "the main library of the the city, with the Reading Room its most obvious feature; the main entrance is hidden away like an a second thought, beneath the towering Roman temple of the Liverpool Museum" (108).

Liverpool Record Office.

Last modified 10 March 2011