Burton on Trent Landmarks #13 – Burton Library

Like most towns and cities in Britain, Burton upon Trent has its own public library, located just off the High Street, not far from the Washlands.

The current library was built in 1976 and replaced an earlier Public Library which stood on Union Street, across the road from what is now Sainsbury’s, approximately where the bus stop stands today. This was opened in 1879. This was originally a private, subscription-only library until the owners, The Burton Institute, went out of business. The building was acquired by the Burton Municipal Corporation and the library was made available for free to anyone living within the borough.

By the time the Corporation had taken over, there were some 19,000 books available to borrow, as well as the newspapers of the day being made available to read for free. The demand for the newspaper reading rooms was such that additional rooms were opened in the evening at Uxbridge Street and Victoria Road schools.

Old Burton Library, Union Street

The old library was an imposing four-storey building with a lift and stairs. By the mid-1970s, though, it was becoming inadequate to serve the town, and it was decided to build a replacement library on the site of Bass’ maltings, near to St Modwen’s Church. The road leading up to the library was a former brewery railway line, one of many lines in the town which were converted to roads following the closure of the brewery railways in 1970.

Back view of Burton Library

The current library opened in 1976, in the shadow of the former Bass Water Tower, on the site of an old maltings. It is a spacious building, with two floors and a lift. In addition to a wide range of books to borrow, which are updated regularly, it has computers for internet access and printing (not free) and meeting rooms which can be hired. There are a range of events, including a “knit and natter” group, babies and children’s story time and singing groups and much more. Part of the library is a cafĂ© called “Bookuccinos“, which serves drinks, snacks and cakes and has an outdoor seating area with views over the Washlands.

The Lego swan sculpture outside the library in August 2020. It was like that when I got there.

If you want to pick up a bargain book, they often sell off their old stock at rock bottom prices. Also, if you can’t get to the library, the library can come to you, as there is a mobile library service which is operated from Burton Library and visits local villages regularly.

The area behind the library opens out to The Washlands, with a stepped area leading to an outdoor children’s play area. The area is also a good starting point for following the Washlands Sculpture Trail, with the “Growing Form” and “Monumite” sculptures located nearby.

“Growing Form”, outside the library.

In 2021, plans were announced to move the library to Burton Market Hall and demolish the old building. Supporters of the plan claim that the library is “too far” from the town centre (a five minute walk through the memorial grounds) and the cost of refurbishing the library is too expensive. Opponents of the plan have suggested that the Market Hall and library should stay where they are, and that the cost of moving it to the market would be much more expensive than refurbishing the current library.

The library is well worth a visit if you haven’t been for a while (it is fully open after the you-know-what pandemic), and worth joining if you live in Burton on Trent. Wherever it ends up, the library is there to be used by everyone.

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