Gladstone’s Library was founded in 1894 by William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98) in the Flintshire village of Hawarden, just six miles from Chester.
Four times Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivering 13 budgets and in Parliament for over 60 years, Gladstone is often regarded as the greatest statesman that Britain has ever produced. In the final years of his long life, Gladstone put his still-prodigious energy into establishing a library “for the pursuit of divine learning”.
The Grade 1 listed building first opened its doors in 1902 after a public subscription was raised to create Britain’s first (and only) Prime Ministerial Library.
Gladstone himself donated 32,000 volumes (legend has it that he wheeled them himself from his home at Hawarden Castle to the Library’s site). Today, there is somewhere in the region of 250,000 printed items, and the collection continues to grow. While it still reflects Gladstone’s main interests (politics, history, theology and literature), the collection grows constantly and remains contemporary. It includes several distinct collections including Islamic Faith and Culture, the Moorman Franciscan Collection and the John AT Robinson Library and archive.
The full library catalogue is online and can be found here.