A parochial lending library was setup in 1843 and was to see to the spiritual needs of the poor. Thatcham had another library in 1849 created by Mrs Barfield of Priory House, now The Priory, and opened on 8th November 1849. This was a circulating library, you paid a subscription to use the service. This operated out of the British School-room and had over 400 items for loan. Some of the schools and other establishments had private libraries for pupils and patrons[3, 4].
But as we know them today a free library didn’t come until later. There were calls for a library in Thatcham as early as 1894 and possibly earlier. Mr Arthur Brown presented a scheme to allow a library to be formed at an estimated cost of £36 per year. This however would be discussed at meeting after meeting.
Thatcham though did not get a free library until 1924 when a library was setup in the Parish Hall by Berkshire County Council. There were later calls for the library to be accessible outside of normal hours, evenings, so that working people could have access. This is presumably what led in 1958 to a part-time branch opening at 51 Chapel Street, the Conservative Club and what most of us now see as part of the New Inn / Prancing Horse.
By 1957 calls were being made for a permanent location and in 1967 the library moved to the Memorial Hall site. A number of issues with the new location had been reported already by that time, specifically the librarian noted working in an old bowls pavilion with leaking roofs, cracked windows and a lack of books.
A new library had been proposed many times but the old library had to be kept until a new one could be built. In May 1974 there is note that the library reopened so presumably it had been repaired. Then finally building work started in 1980 on a new and purpose built library. This opened to the public in 1981 and is still there today.
- Berkshire Chronicle, 6 April 1844
- Reading Mercury, 10 November 1849
- Newbury Weekly News and General Advertiser, 26 March 1891
- Newbury Weekly News and General Advertiser, 1 June 1893
- Reading Mercury, 23 June 1894
- Reading Evening Post, 19 July 1973