Watford Library


The following account, from History of Watford - Trade Directory (1884) describes the original Public Library

In November, 1871, the inhabitants of Watford, in vestry assembled, adopted the Public Libraries Acts, 1855, 1866, and 1871, and the Watford Local Board of Health appointed the following gentlemen to carry the wishes of the ratepayers into effect:- Dr. A. T. Brett, M,D. (chairman); Messrs. S. Camp, C. F. Humbert, A. Cottain, J. J. Cox, H. Kingham, J. Sedgwick, J. J. Smith, G. Tidcombe, jun., G. Wales, Dr. F. H. Wilson Iles, and the Rev. Newton Price. The first and great business of the committee was to provide funds for the erection of a building. An appeal was made to the public, who responded very satisfactorily, and the work was carried out.

Watford Public Library, Queens Road
Picture by Downer published in Watford in 1891
The most liberal contributor was Mr. Thos. Clutterbuck, of Micklefield Hall, who gave the greater part of the site on which thc library stands, with a cottage at the rear, and 100; he also lent the committee upwards of 400 without interest to complete the work, and, I understand, afterwards gave a receipt for a considerable part of that amount without actual repayment.  The cost of the building, fittings, &c., was 2,700, of which sum the Science and Art Department granted 492 7s. 6d. The foundation-stone was laid by T. F. Halsey, Esq., M.P., on the 5th July, 1873, and the occasion was made one for a demonstration of the pleasure and interest the inhabitants had in the valuable work in hand. A bottle containing a set of coins of the realm and a copy of the Watford Observer newspaper was placed in the stone from the bottom, a hole having been made in it for that purpose. The architects were Messrs. Sedgwick & Son. The building is designed in that rendering of the Gothic style which has of late years been carried out so successfully in brickwork. The main portion of the exterior is executed in yellow bricks, relieved by the introduction of red and black bricks and Bath stone dressings. In the windows are red Mansfield stone shafts and caned decorations. The building, which is of two storeys, has a frontage of 80 ft. and an average depth of 47 ft., and in the two floors there is an area of about 7,500 ft. On the ground floor there are two spacious public reading-rooms, each communicating with library or book-room; and on the other side of entrance-hall, news-room, committee-room, and apparatus-room. On the first floor there are two good science class-rooms, convertible into one exhibition gallery or lecture-hall; 51 ft. by 30 ft., and capable of holding 250 persons; also a set of rooms for art teaching, namely, elementary painting and modelling rooms, with room for art master. The arrangements for drainage and ventilation were made with due regard to the latest improvements, and were examined and approved by the Science and Art Department.

The Modern "Watford Central Library" and its Local Studies Collection

The library moved to its current position in 1928 and is a good town centre library. It has had a specialised research room and now has a room dedicated to local studies, which is ideal for people research their family history. I visited the room on the open day in September 2007 and should you be able to visit the library you will find:

Books on the open shelves: A small but useful collection of general family and local history publications. a large collection of books on Hertfordshire and its towns and villages, with an emphasis towards the south and west of the county, and an excellent collection of books specifically relating to Watford.


Watford  Public Library

Valentine #224631

Directories, etc.: Local street directories published by Peacock and Kelly are available on open shelves from the late 1890s to the 1970s, as are Kelly's County directories from 1846. Telephone directories from 1972 are available from the stack. Bound copies of the electoral rolls are available from 1927 (with some for 1918-19).

Maps & Plans: An extensive collection including large scale Ordnance Survey maps from 1871.

Census Returns: The census for Watford is held on microfilm for all years between 1841 and 1901.

International Genealogical Index: Available on microfiche.

Parish Registers on microfilm:

Parish Baptisms Marriages Burials
Watford St Mary 1539-1897 1539-1893 1539-1892
Aldenham 1559-1812 1559-1818 1559-1812
Bushey 1684-1891 1684-1837 1539-1894
Rickmansworth 1653-1920 1653-1914 1653-1919
Sarratt 1560-1851 1560-1732, 1755-1837 1560-1986


Newspapers: The Watford Observer is available on microfilm from 1863 and in hard copies from 1887 to 1992. The West Herts Post is available from 1892. Other late Victorian papers (available are the Watford Advertiser (1887-1892), the Watford Leader (1893-1897) and the Herts Leader (1895-1900). The short-lived First World War newspaper, the Watford Illustrated, is also available.

Photographs and Subject Folders: There is a significant collection - which I have not explored.

Computers; Access to various web sites and data bases

Page created September 2007