School library designed by British Library architect gets listed status

A primary school library, which was designed by the architect who created the British Library, has been given protected status.

The Bishop Wilson Memorial Library was built in Chelmsford in Essex in 1983 to 1986 and forms part of the Bishops’ Church of England and Roman Catholic Primary School.

It has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

The library, which has a striking circular structure, was designed by eminent architect and academic Sir Colin St John Wilson.

The Bishop Wilson Memorial Library, in Chelmsford, Essex, has been given Grade II listed status (G Waters/PA)

Wilson, who also designed the Grade I listed British Library in London and the Grade II* listed University of Oxford St Cross Building, designed the building as a memorial to his father, Henry Wilson, who was Bishop of Chelmsford from 1929 to 1950.

The school library was under construction at the same time as the British Library, which was opened by the Queen in 1998.

It is reminiscent of older circular libraries, reading rooms and round churches.

The red brick exterior conceals a vibrant and colourful interior, with the door frame, desks, shelves and wall coverings painted bright yellow.

A blue-painted canopy pierced by circles arranged in the shape of zodiac constellations at the Bishop Wilson Memorial Library. (G Waters/PA)

Pairs of red columns support a blue-painted canopy which was purpose-built by a boat builder in Harwich.

The canopy is pierced by circles arranged in the shape of zodiac constellations, and a cylindrical lantern spills light through the canopy on to the reading desks.

Tony Calladine, regional director for Historic England in the East of England, said: “The Bishop Wilson Memorial Library has inspired children for over 30 years with its vibrant and exciting learning space.

“Listing the library celebrates its importance to the story of Chelmsford and ensures that it is enjoyed by generations to come.”

The library was built in 1983-86 and forms part of the Bishop’s Church of England and Roman Catholic Primary School (G Waters/PA)

Greg Waters, headmaster of the Bishops’ Church of England and Roman Catholic Primary School, said: “Our wonderful library is a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of a busy school, where children can lose themselves in the many treasures of a good book.

“Its circular design gives a cosy feel yet it’s big enough for a whole class – and the vibrant colours are perfect for our young children.

“It literally helps them to reach for the stars!”

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