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Weston Library (former Nos. 35–47)

Weston Library

The £80m Weston Library was opened on the site of the New Bodleian Library on 21 March 2015. The façade of this building by Giles Gilbert Scott was retained.

New Bodleian Library
The New Bodleian Library when it really was new in the 1930s

James (Jan) Morris, Oxford (1965):

“If you are in your fifties, nothing will reconcile you to the Bodleian extension at the end of Broad Street, which looks like a well-equipped municipal swimming bath, and replaced a nice corner of jostling old houses in the late 1930s”

Despite the above comment, the New Bodleian Library became a Grade II listed building in October 2003 (List Entry No. 1390596).


The building of the original New Bodleian Library

The report of a University Commission published in 1931 led to the building of the New Bodleian Library, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, at a cost of £1 million. It was opened in 1940 by George VI, when unfortunately the silver key broke in the lock.

As well as reading rooms, the library had an eleven-floor book stack with space for 5 million volumes connected to the old Bodleian Library by an underground conveyor belt.

A south-facing extension was built on the roof to the designs of Robert Potter in 1966–68 to accommodate the Indian Institute Library when the old Indian Institute was converted into offices.

On the outside wall of the library is a row of cartouches containing the arms of the following, running from east to west: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Sir Edmund Craster, Lord Halifax, Viscount Grey, the City of Oxford, the Stationers’ Company, Cecil Rhodes, John Radcliffe, Duke Humfrey, Thomas de Cobham, William Laud, William Herbert, Sir Kenelm Digby, Richard Rawlinson, Francis Douce, the University of Oxford, John Selden, Thomas Tanner, Richard Gough, Lord Sunderlin, and Thomas, 2nd Earl Brassey.


The thirteen houses demolished to make way for the New Bodleian Library

Houses on site of New Bodleian Library

Above: Photograph from the Sheldonian (reproduced with kind permission of Sue Chaundy), showing on the right three of the thirteen houses demolished to make way for the New Bodleian Library, and two semi-detached ones in the middle that had to be rebuilt because their foundations were damaged in the demolition process. Running from right to left are Nos. 45, 46, 47, 48 and 49 Broad Street. Only then do the shops become familiar: Nos. 50 and 51 (now the left-hand side of Blackwell’s, followed by the White Horse and No. 53.

The decision to demolish thirteen fine old houses to make room for this building was not taken lightly. See H. E. Counsell, 37 The Broad (London, Robert Hale Ltd, 1943), where the author, a doctor who had his surgery at No. 37, gives his reaction on hearing in 1934 that his house was to be pulled down:

I received notice from the University who owned the property that at any moment the house might be pulled down with all those from the corner of Parks Road to Blackwell’s bookshop to make room for the new Bodleian Library. This was no surprise to me as for several years various schemes for the site of the new Bodleian had been the subject of hot discussion in the University and the public press. Once the Broad Street site was definitely turned down by Convocation, and to celebrate the good news we hung a flag from the windows of “Thirty-seven”; but when a commission reported that Broad Street was their choice we knew that our days there were numbered.

History of the lost houses

Follow the arrow at the top of this page to visit them all, or click on the house number below

35

36

37

38 & 39

40 & 41

42

43

44

45

46

47

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Stephanie Jenkins

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