Historic library looks set to end up as flats

James Reckitt Library - Hull's first public library - on Holderness Road.
James Reckitt Library - Hull's first public library - on Holderness Road.
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Councillors will be asked to decide next week on controversial plans to convert Hull’s first public library into flats.

The James Reckitt Library on Holderness Road were among the gifts made by the philanthropist and businessman Sir James Reckitt to the city, but it has stood empty since its doors were closed by the city council a decade ago.

Developers want to convert the library into 12 self-contained flats linking it to a three-storey apartment building on an adjacent vacant plot.

Objectors have included the Victorian Society which has said the conversion would “cause serious harm to its significance” and the Council for British Archeology said the proposals were “overdevelopment” and “harmful” to the building’s historic character. However, English Heritage has not objected.

Its listing says the building lost its tower roof in the Blitz on Hull, but the interior retains a “remarkable” number of original interior features.

Councillors will visit the site before making a decision next Wednesday.

Sir James headed the campaign for free provision of public libraries in Hull, and when the local authorities failed to provide one he financed the purchase of the library, now a Grade II-listed building, which opened in 1889.

One of his biggest achievements was Garden Village (1908), a 600-home model village built for his workers in Hull, which was run as a non-profit organisation during his lifetime.

He also financed the building of a hospital in Withernsea, and contributed to the Newland Homes for Seamen’s orphans home, and was active in the early promotion of the Hull Royal Infirmary.

Reckitt died on March 18 1924 and is buried in the Hull Quaker Burial Ground.