Blackburn Library is restored to 1920s splendour

The original facade is revealed

The 1970s cladding

The Co-op as it originally looked

First published in News Blackburn Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

LARGE cranes are seemingly performing a large-scale magic trick in the centre of Blackburn.

Restoration work to Blackburn Central Library has seen huge slabs of concrete cladding removed to reveal the beautiful building’s original 1920s facade underneath.

The stone columns were added to the Town Hall Street building in 1975, to update the building after it was decided that it would be used as the location of the new library.

Before 1975, the site in Town Hall Street was home to Blackburn’s premier department store, the Co-op Emporium that sold everything from groceries to footwear and furnishings.

The Emporium was opened in 1930 after the Blackburn Industrial Co-op, Daisyfield, Grimshaw Park and Industrial Bees Co-ops merged in 1920.

When the department store moved into Ainsworth Street in 1970, the vacant building was seen as the perfect home for Blackburn’s new library.

Architects transformed the ediface by adding the imposing columns of stone cladding so that only the ornamental details and long square windows of the original Emporium were left on show.

The £2 million restoration, which has been budgeted for by the council, will see the building revert back to its former self and any damage to the stone features will be repaired.

It is hoped that at the end of the project, the library will once again have a fantastic frontage. Damian Talbot, executive member for leisure, culture and young people said: “The library is a landmark building in this conservation area and it's tremendous to have the opportunity to bring it back to its original glory. I look forward to seeing the complete transformation.”

Comments (19)

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1:07pm Tue 11 Mar 14

noddy57 says...

makes one wonder why they spent all that money covering up a design of such splendour in the first place,
makes one wonder why they spent all that money covering up a design of such splendour in the first place, noddy57
  • Score: 44

1:39pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Rovers til I cry says...

They should be restoring all of the old buildings in Blackburn, you just have to walk out of the former Boulevard and look around to see all of the once great buildings, many of which still have their original features, but are now crumbling away. Its about time more effort was made to preserve the towns, buildings and heritage to attract more people to the town, instead of of leaving it in squalor and driving people away.
They should be restoring all of the old buildings in Blackburn, you just have to walk out of the former Boulevard and look around to see all of the once great buildings, many of which still have their original features, but are now crumbling away. Its about time more effort was made to preserve the towns, buildings and heritage to attract more people to the town, instead of of leaving it in squalor and driving people away. Rovers til I cry
  • Score: 35

1:58pm Tue 11 Mar 14

vicn1956 says...

£2million to restore it to it's original beauty.
Councillors eh?
O other
P peoples
M money
£2million to restore it to it's original beauty. Councillors eh? O other P peoples M money vicn1956
  • Score: -15

2:49pm Tue 11 Mar 14

abetterblackburn says...

How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found?

Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?
How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found? Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know? abetterblackburn
  • Score: 7

2:51pm Tue 11 Mar 14

shirtbox says...

How many affordable homes could you build with £2 million. What was wrong with the building?It does not make any money and was o.k.so why mend it?
Clown Hall air heads.
How many affordable homes could you build with £2 million. What was wrong with the building?It does not make any money and was o.k.so why mend it? Clown Hall air heads. shirtbox
  • Score: -28

4:58pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Ex-Darrener says...

abetterblackburn wrote:
How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found?

Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?
That was in School Street, with the Co-op occupying practically all the north side of the street (where Asda and oyhjers are now) on the way up to the library. When I was a kid in the 60s, the main department store entrance was practically opposite the market entrance, there was a Co-op bank further up the street, where I queued with my mum for the 'divi', I think even a cafe on the ground floor and the Co-op Hall occupied the premises upstairs. The Beatles played there on January 25, 1963 and in the mid-70s, it was a Mecca nightspot called Tiffanys and the Nocturne. While the Co-op's main premises were in the centre of town, there were also neighbourhood Co-op stores selling all sorts of groceries at various points around the town. Again when I was a kid in the 60s, I recall them on the corner of Barley Bank Street and Hindle Street (with a bank behind), Sunnyhurst Lane and at the corner of Everton Street and Wood Street, as well as that at the corner of Earnsdale Road and Blackburn Road which I think is a Co-op store to this day. I hope that helps.
[quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found? Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?[/p][/quote]That was in School Street, with the Co-op occupying practically all the north side of the street (where Asda and oyhjers are now) on the way up to the library. When I was a kid in the 60s, the main department store entrance was practically opposite the market entrance, there was a Co-op bank further up the street, where I queued with my mum for the 'divi', I think even a cafe on the ground floor and the Co-op Hall occupied the premises upstairs. The Beatles played there on January 25, 1963 and in the mid-70s, it was a Mecca nightspot called Tiffanys and the Nocturne. While the Co-op's main premises were in the centre of town, there were also neighbourhood Co-op stores selling all sorts of groceries at various points around the town. Again when I was a kid in the 60s, I recall them on the corner of Barley Bank Street and Hindle Street (with a bank behind), Sunnyhurst Lane and at the corner of Everton Street and Wood Street, as well as that at the corner of Earnsdale Road and Blackburn Road which I think is a Co-op store to this day. I hope that helps. Ex-Darrener
  • Score: 11

5:38pm Tue 11 Mar 14

HDRover says...

Ex-Darrener wrote:
abetterblackburn wrote: How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found? Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?
That was in School Street, with the Co-op occupying practically all the north side of the street (where Asda and oyhjers are now) on the way up to the library. When I was a kid in the 60s, the main department store entrance was practically opposite the market entrance, there was a Co-op bank further up the street, where I queued with my mum for the 'divi', I think even a cafe on the ground floor and the Co-op Hall occupied the premises upstairs. The Beatles played there on January 25, 1963 and in the mid-70s, it was a Mecca nightspot called Tiffanys and the Nocturne. While the Co-op's main premises were in the centre of town, there were also neighbourhood Co-op stores selling all sorts of groceries at various points around the town. Again when I was a kid in the 60s, I recall them on the corner of Barley Bank Street and Hindle Street (with a bank behind), Sunnyhurst Lane and at the corner of Everton Street and Wood Street, as well as that at the corner of Earnsdale Road and Blackburn Road which I think is a Co-op store to this day. I hope that helps.
Thanks for that, you brought back a few happy childhood memories
for me, and I'm sure a few others.
[quote][p][bold]Ex-Darrener[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found? Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?[/p][/quote]That was in School Street, with the Co-op occupying practically all the north side of the street (where Asda and oyhjers are now) on the way up to the library. When I was a kid in the 60s, the main department store entrance was practically opposite the market entrance, there was a Co-op bank further up the street, where I queued with my mum for the 'divi', I think even a cafe on the ground floor and the Co-op Hall occupied the premises upstairs. The Beatles played there on January 25, 1963 and in the mid-70s, it was a Mecca nightspot called Tiffanys and the Nocturne. While the Co-op's main premises were in the centre of town, there were also neighbourhood Co-op stores selling all sorts of groceries at various points around the town. Again when I was a kid in the 60s, I recall them on the corner of Barley Bank Street and Hindle Street (with a bank behind), Sunnyhurst Lane and at the corner of Everton Street and Wood Street, as well as that at the corner of Earnsdale Road and Blackburn Road which I think is a Co-op store to this day. I hope that helps.[/p][/quote]Thanks for that, you brought back a few happy childhood memories for me, and I'm sure a few others. HDRover
  • Score: 9

6:02pm Tue 11 Mar 14

abetterblackburn says...

Many Thanks for the info: Ex-Darrener!

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to go back in time and compare but I suppose it’s probably best to make good use of what we have and try to learn from past mistakes. Thanks again!
Many Thanks for the info: Ex-Darrener! I sometimes wonder what it would be like to go back in time and compare but I suppose it’s probably best to make good use of what we have and try to learn from past mistakes. Thanks again! abetterblackburn
  • Score: 7

6:23pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Happy-Dude says...

So its taken 40 years to figure out that this is a mistake, so we have to wait until 2054 for the bus station to be put back to were it has always been next to the train station, I cant wait
So its taken 40 years to figure out that this is a mistake, so we have to wait until 2054 for the bus station to be put back to were it has always been next to the train station, I cant wait Happy-Dude
  • Score: 14

6:27pm Tue 11 Mar 14

phil kernot says...

The good old coop that used to be good to the poor as it was cheap food etc and house hold goods , now its More expensive than marks and Spencer's and the products are Not good value ,, but on a better note , the building has been brought back to life how it was and the workmanship is good so was money well spent for years to come , some will say waste of money but if the council, didn't do owt the people would say the council. Was letting it fall to bits can't win either way ,,,,,
The good old coop that used to be good to the poor as it was cheap food etc and house hold goods , now its More expensive than marks and Spencer's and the products are Not good value ,, but on a better note , the building has been brought back to life how it was and the workmanship is good so was money well spent for years to come , some will say waste of money but if the council, didn't do owt the people would say the council. Was letting it fall to bits can't win either way ,,,,, phil kernot
  • Score: 7

7:14pm Tue 11 Mar 14

M.DANNY says...

Beautiful restored building and one i am proud of and it's part of Blackburn's history and heritage and that will attract more people to town.
Blackburn need some good cafes and eateries and more high street names in the town centre and the Mall shopping Mall.
Blackburn has some good old historic bulidings like the Town Hall, Museum,Blackburn College, King George's Hall ,The Cathedral and the St John on Victoria Street.
Beautiful restored building and one i am proud of and it's part of Blackburn's history and heritage and that will attract more people to town. Blackburn need some good cafes and eateries and more high street names in the town centre and the Mall shopping Mall. Blackburn has some good old historic bulidings like the Town Hall, Museum,Blackburn College, King George's Hall ,The Cathedral and the St John on Victoria Street. M.DANNY
  • Score: 12

7:22pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Artiefrancie says...

abetterblackburn wrote:
How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found?

Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?
You could do no better than to go into the building. As it is the library they will have lots of pictures and the full history.
It certainly looked better before and it is good to see it being restored.
[quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found? Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?[/p][/quote]You could do no better than to go into the building. As it is the library they will have lots of pictures and the full history. It certainly looked better before and it is good to see it being restored. Artiefrancie
  • Score: 10

8:49pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Scooby says...

shirtbox wrote:
How many affordable homes could you build with £2 million. What was wrong with the building?It does not make any money and was o.k.so why mend it?
Clown Hall air heads.
It wasn't ok.. the concrete was crumbling away so something had to be done.

It would have cost money to repair the concrete, and not much more to restore it to the original state!
[quote][p][bold]shirtbox[/bold] wrote: How many affordable homes could you build with £2 million. What was wrong with the building?It does not make any money and was o.k.so why mend it? Clown Hall air heads.[/p][/quote]It wasn't ok.. the concrete was crumbling away so something had to be done. It would have cost money to repair the concrete, and not much more to restore it to the original state! Scooby
  • Score: 7

8:58pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Groggy says...

abetterblackburn wrote:
How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found?

Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?
Try tourist information office - I've bought loads of books there whIch are full of old blackburn photos or why not try the library?
[quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found? Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?[/p][/quote]Try tourist information office - I've bought loads of books there whIch are full of old blackburn photos or why not try the library? Groggy
  • Score: 6

7:21am Wed 12 Mar 14

Darrenman says...

What about Darwen Library? It has been serving the people of Darwen far longer that the present building in Blackburn.
What about Darwen Library? It has been serving the people of Darwen far longer that the present building in Blackburn. Darrenman
  • Score: 1

11:01am Wed 12 Mar 14

Ex-Darrener says...

Darrenman wrote:
What about Darwen Library? It has been serving the people of Darwen far longer that the present building in Blackburn.
A wonderful building, opened in 1908 following a donation from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It's still in its original state with the addition of an excellent modern theatre and cafe in the basement and Darwen can be really proud of it. I don't know how long it dates back, but before the move to the old Co-op in Town Hall Street, Blackburn Library was in what is now the museum. The fact the location of that is Library Street would suggest that the original building, still largely well preserved, dates back a fair way.
[quote][p][bold]Darrenman[/bold] wrote: What about Darwen Library? It has been serving the people of Darwen far longer that the present building in Blackburn.[/p][/quote]A wonderful building, opened in 1908 following a donation from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It's still in its original state with the addition of an excellent modern theatre and cafe in the basement and Darwen can be really proud of it. I don't know how long it dates back, but before the move to the old Co-op in Town Hall Street, Blackburn Library was in what is now the museum. The fact the location of that is Library Street would suggest that the original building, still largely well preserved, dates back a fair way. Ex-Darrener
  • Score: 2

11:28am Wed 12 Mar 14

Joseph O'M says...

shirtbox wrote:
How many affordable homes could you build with £2 million. What was wrong with the building?It does not make any money and was o.k.so why mend it?
Clown Hall air heads.
The concrete columns were crumbling away, and there was probably a likely danger of someone being seriously hurt...
[quote][p][bold]shirtbox[/bold] wrote: How many affordable homes could you build with £2 million. What was wrong with the building?It does not make any money and was o.k.so why mend it? Clown Hall air heads.[/p][/quote]The concrete columns were crumbling away, and there was probably a likely danger of someone being seriously hurt... Joseph O'M
  • Score: 0

11:28am Wed 12 Mar 14

Joseph O'M says...

abetterblackburn wrote:
How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found?

Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?
The cottontown website or Blackburnpast...
[quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: How interesting it would be to see before and after photos that show what Blackburn was like before it was demolished. Does anyone know if any photos exist and where they can be found? Also I seem to remember there being a Co-op Emporium in Darwen but unsure where it was. Does anyone know?[/p][/quote]The cottontown website or Blackburnpast... Joseph O'M
  • Score: 0

11:40am Wed 12 Mar 14

Joseph O'M says...

Nice to see the Telegraph stating "the beautiful building’s original 1920s facade underneath"...this building IS beautiful, and this is an amazing coup for the library building, for Northgate and Blackburn. This is something the council should seriously consider rolling out: retrofitting shop fronts to their original Victorian designs, removing tatty paint from red brick buildings and generally improving the street scene throughout the town centre. Too little attention is paid to the wonderful details and the value of our historical buildings - this is a dream come true for Blackburn's heritage, and too often are the words "eyesore" used to describe buildings that are in fact beautiful. Newer buildings really are often eyesores (see Matalan/ Staples) with little chance of the longevity buildings like the Co-Op Emporium/ Library building offer. Blackburn is open is a good initiative, but we maybe need to get Blackburn looking like somewhere people would like to visit. Although we've lost swathes of buildings, we still have huge numbers left. I'm sad to see the Blakey Moor Technical School building standing empty when it's so full of potential and such an impressive sight on Blakey Moor and Duke Street. I think Blackburn Council deserve some recognition (nationally) of this project, and hopefully it will be a lightbulb moment for them to realise that heritage pays. Anyway, well done - best thing they've done in years and I'm very proud that it's our library!
Nice to see the Telegraph stating "the beautiful building’s original 1920s facade underneath"...this building IS beautiful, and this is an amazing coup for the library building, for Northgate and Blackburn. This is something the council should seriously consider rolling out: retrofitting shop fronts to their original Victorian designs, removing tatty paint from red brick buildings and generally improving the street scene throughout the town centre. Too little attention is paid to the wonderful details and the value of our historical buildings - this is a dream come true for Blackburn's heritage, and too often are the words "eyesore" used to describe buildings that are in fact beautiful. Newer buildings really are often eyesores (see Matalan/ Staples) with little chance of the longevity buildings like the Co-Op Emporium/ Library building offer. Blackburn is open is a good initiative, but we maybe need to get Blackburn looking like somewhere people would like to visit. Although we've lost swathes of buildings, we still have huge numbers left. I'm sad to see the Blakey Moor Technical School building standing empty when it's so full of potential and such an impressive sight on Blakey Moor and Duke Street. I think Blackburn Council deserve some recognition (nationally) of this project, and hopefully it will be a lightbulb moment for them to realise that heritage pays. Anyway, well done - best thing they've done in years and I'm very proud that it's our library! Joseph O'M
  • Score: 5

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