Every Friday there is a tour of the Garrison Library, which is a historic research library here in the centre of Gibraltar. In fact it is only about five minutes walk from my home, but I have never organised myself to turn up at the appointed time.
However, the other Friday, I rang up to see if a tour would be taking place, and wandered up the street to the library.
Slightly set back from the leafy street somewhat, there is a side coach entrance that leads into the garden, or a rather formal front entrance. I was greeted by the honorary librarian, Lorna Swift, who ushered me through to the library to meet the other tour member. Oh. A very select tour.
It was founded in 1793, and it was such a popular move that various officers in Gibraltar immediately donated books, so that there were immediately nearly 500 books available. In addition, the committee had also written to England for another 670 books.
The success of the library meant that it quickly became necessary to look for new premises and the committee recommended building a new library. Work started in 1800, and the building, designed by Captain William Fryers, of the Royal Engineers, was completed in 1804.
Closely linked with the history of the library is the history of the Gibraltar Chronicle. A printing press was shipped out from England and the first edition was published in May 1801. The paper had a worldwide scoop with its story of the victory of the battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson, and a copy of this story is on display. The library houses issues of the Chronicle dating back to the first publication.
The outside of the library building, the rear patio, which – like the interior – is available for social functions.
If you are in Gib on a Friday morning, the library is well worth a tour. The tour is free but donations are appreciated.
Photographs with kind permission of the Trustees of the Garrison Library.