Free and Public

Andrew Carnegie and the Libraries of Wales

Author(s) Ralph A. Griffiths

Language: English

Genre(s): History

  • June 2021 · 176 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Paperback - 9781786837745
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781786837752
  • · eBook - epub - 9781786837769

About The Book

A study of the thirty-five Carnegie libraries built in towns and industrial communities in Wales before the First World War. The library system is in a transformative phase that attracts much attention; these Carnegie buildings have never been fully recorded, and some are in critical condition. This book illustrates their social, cultural and architectural significance, and how they reflect Carnegie’s extraordinary philanthropic vision. It reviews the free and public library system in Wales and Great Britain from the first Public Libraries Act of 1850, followed by an account of Carnegie’s career as ‘the richest man in the world’ and the importance he attached to promoting libraries for all, regardless of age and gender. The haphazard development of public libraries in the nineteenth century is the context in which Carnegie’s links with Wales are noted, along with the circles in which he moved in Britain. The largest section discusses the libraries’ locations, sites and patrons, and the buildings themselves. It concludes with Carnegie’s legacy in Wales, not least the role of his UK Trust in the county library movement after 1911.


‘Reading this compelling account of Carnegie’s philanthropy, I realise many of the libraries I frequented as child and adult (Barry, Bridgend, Cathays, Merthyr, Rogerstone) were established as a consequence of his benevolence. Ralph Griffiths testifies to the built legacy whilst offering fascinating glimpses of the bustling world of Edwardian Wales.’
-Chris Williams, Head of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, University College Cork

‘This study highlights Andrew Carnegie’s life and generous philanthropy enabling the construction of free libraries across Wales in the early twentieth century. These important public buildings have had a lasting impact on townscapes, and their establishment was of enduring educational and cultural benefit to the people of Wales.’
-Professor Emerita Nancy Edwards, Bangor University, and Chair of RCAHMW

‘A fascinating, authoritative, meticulously researched, accessible and richly illustrated work. In highlighting the significance and legacy of Carnegie’s philanthropy in Wales and the varied responses to it, Griffiths’s valuable and important study brings to life a much-neglected aspect of Wales’s modern social and cultural history and its built heritage.’
-Emeritus Professor Bill Jones, Cardiff University


1.The Public Library
2.Andrew Carnegie, 1835-1919
3.Philanthropy and the Free Library
4.Early Public Libraries in Wales
5.Andrew Carnegie and Wales
6.Creating Carnegie Libraries
7.Building the Carnegie Libraries
Architects and builders
Architectural styles
Inside the libraries
8.Abortive Proposals for Carnegie Libraries
9.The Carnegie Legacy in Wales
Gazeteer of Carnegie Libraries built in Wales
List of Sources

About the Author(s)

Author(s): Ralph A. Griffiths

Ralph Griffiths, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at Swansea University, is Hon. Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society, and formerly Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

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