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Lecton House Lake Street Leighton Buzzard

Lecton House June 2008
Lecton House June 2008

Lecton House was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1975 as Grade II, of special interest. It was formerly the Leighton Institute and was built in 1845. It has a Neoclassical stucco pedimented front with a tetrastyle Greek Ionic pseudo portia. There is a Welsh slate roof and the building comprises a single storey. In 1819 Benjamin Bevan published a map of Leighton Buzzard which was enhanced two years later with a reference book showing the owners and occupiers of each property shown on the map. The site of the future Lecton House was then owned by a Widow Collins and included two cottages, one occupied by a T. Marriott, the other by Widow Goodson.

Under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on them. Leighton Buzzard was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Baptist Chapel in Lake Street noted the Temperance Hall in Lake Street [DV1/R56/82] which was owned by the chapel trustees. He noted that concerts were held there occasionally for the up-keep of the chapel. Being a Baptist building there were, of course, "No Whist Drives or Dances".

In the dying days of the Second World War the County Council was looking for a site for a new branch library in Leighton Buzzard and Lake House (the old Maidenhead) was briefly considered as it was proposed to have a swimming pool and children's playground in the gardens. Between 1939 and 1948 Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council offices at 77 North Street was used, then Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council issued a notice to quit to the County Council and, co-incidentally the old Temperance Hall was vacated by its tenants, local business, Dickinsons. A flier advertised for the North Street library showed how limited it was: "Books for all tastes on all subjects free of charge. Books give rest and recreation to the tired, information to the puzzled, education to readers of all ages. They are a window through which one can see the whole world". The opening times were 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and 5.15 p.m. to 6.15 p.m. on a Thursday for adults and Wednesday 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. for children.

The Leighton Buzzard Observer of 24th January 1950 had a story on the new library on its front page: "Leighton's "everything of the best" library is rapidly approaching completion, and when it is finished it will comprise a handsome addition to the library services of Bedfordshire, as well as an acquisition to the town".

"The latest equipment is being installed and there will be a vastly increased book stock - 6,000 more than at North-street. For children alone there will be over 2,000, which is more than the present North-street total for them and for grown-ups".

"The Temperance Hall in Lake-street, leased to the county authorities by the Baptist church trustees, has been completely redecorated and, convenient in size and shape for the purpose to which its is being adapted, will afford comfortable accommodation for borrowers and "reference" students alike".

"There is also accommodation for the librarian, Miss M. Burns, who will continue in charge after the move from North-street".

"County officials, accompanied by Mr. A. H. Murby, one of Leighton's county councillors and a member of the library sub-committee, inspected the premises last week".

"Mr. G. E. Glazier, the county librarian said the library will be restocked with new books, with more specialist and reference books and a greater selection for children. An influx of additional books will be maintained".

"The librarian's desk is immediately inside the door, and the children's section is near it, so that staff will be at hand to help young readers".

"The natural lighting will be augmented by fluorescent "daylight" tubes".

"The county architect, Mr. S. Vincent Goodman, and the assistant county architect, Mr. F. W. Collins, are responsible for the design of the interior of the hall, the walls of which have been decorated in peach, with blue doors and black frames".

"The wooden floor is to be covered with contrasting rubber tiles of black-and-buff mottled with green, and mottled buff, which will reduce noise and be attractive and economical".

"Thirty-six sections of shelves surround the room, the lower halves tilted upwards so that the titles are immediately obvious and prospective readers will not be required to grovel on hands and knees".

"Thermostatically controlled heaters on the walls will warm the air in the room economically without damaging the books".

"One section will be devoted entirely to reference books and there are facilities for visitors to sit and read in comfort".

"Three square study tables with chairs for those wishing to work or read on their own, and three circular tables with four chairs to each, in medium oak matching the shelves, desk and filing cabinet are to be provided".

"The children's section will be equipped with one circular table and several small study tables. If necessary more will be provided. Children who lack facilities for doing all their homework at home will be glad of these, pointed out Mr. Collins".

"Owing to the present need for economy there will be no immediate increase in staff, although a big increase in use of the library services would necessitate the arrangements being reviewed".

The library opened on 3rd April 1950. and the Leighton Buzzard Observer of 2nd May noted: "Library is almost too busy".

In 1979 Bedfordshire County Council bought the 1,170 square yard site of 29 and 31 Lake Street (the former Coach and Horses) from the Northampton Brewery Company Limited and Chef and Brewer Limited as the site for the new Leighton Buzzard library and, on its completion, the library in Lake Street closed. At the time of writing [2009] the premises is the endearingly misspelled Colloseum gym.