'We're very excited' - New library set to be unveiled in coastal town

Construction work in 2019 on the former Southwold Hospital

Back then - construction work started on the former Southwold Hospital site in 2019, ahead of it being transformed into housing and a community hub. - Credit: PAUL STARR Photographer

A new library is set to open its doors at a new venue in a coastal town next week.

CGI creations show what the former Southwold Hospital will look like

A CGI impression of what the former Southwold Hospital will look like after it has been converted into a community hub. - Credit: SouthGen

Southwold Library is moving to a larger, purpose-built space at the Old Hospital, a new community hub within the redeveloped former Southwold Hospital.

The former Southwold library.

The former Southwold library on North Green. - Credit: Nick Butcher

With the old library on North Green having now closed, the new library will open at its new site on Field Stile Road in Southwold next Thursday, May 5.

The move has been welcomed by Suffolk Libraries, the charity which runs the county’s library service.

The library will be the second service to open in the new community hub built by SouthGen, a social enterprise.

The former hospital, new community hub, Southwold

A topping out ceremony was held in April 2021, as the hospital is given a new lease of life as a community hub. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

It comes after the opening of the first service - the Old Hospital Nursery - on April 25.

In addition to the nursery and library, the Old Hospital will host The Canteen, a farm to fork community café and Southwold Works, a co-working space.

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The rest of the site has been redeveloped as affordable housing for local people by Hastoe Housing Association.

Inside the new children’s area at the new Southwold Library.

Inside the new children’s area at the new Southwold Library. - Credit: Jules Carpenter/SouthGen

Charlotte Clark, Suffolk Libraries executive library manager and manager for Southwold Library, said: “We’re very excited that the move is happening and can’t wait to reopen the library in the new space which includes a beach hut themed children’s nook.

"All our libraries offer many different services and activities for the community and I’m sure the new space will provide us with more possibilities and opportunities to do even more for local people.

"We’re very grateful for SouthGen for making this happen.”

To welcome the library to its new home, SouthGen is throwing a children’s party at the Old Hospital on May 7 from 10am to noon.

Children will plant sunflower seeds in the library and Canteen gardens, indulge in homemade cakes and biscuits and make thank you cards for the Bumstead family to show the community’s appreciation for giving Southwold Library a home for 83 years.

History

The library’s old home on North Green had been built as an Assembly Hall in around 1900.

It was used as a temporary home for the Catholic Church and as a carpenter’s workshop until around 1933 when it was purchased by George Bumstead, who had a grocery shop on Stradbroke Road.

George Bumstead

George Bumstead. - Credit: Courtesy of SouthGen/Suffolk Libraries

The library had originally been housed at the Town Hall.

When it outgrew this space, Mr Bumstead offered it a 75-year lease in the former Assembly Hall.

Jessica Jeans, SouthGen chair, said: “George was a remarkable man, of humble origins and many talents, who did so much good for the community in so many ways but never sought the spotlight.

Jessica Jeans, chairwoman of SouthGen

Jessica Jeans, chairwoman of SouthGen, pours a special Adnams beer over the rebuilt hospital at the topping out ceremony last year. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"I hope that young people, learning about George, will be inspired by his example.”

The library will retain the same opening hours and its current timetable of events and activities.

Suffolk Libraries apologises for any inconvenience while the library is closed to allow the move to take place.

Any library loans had had their due dates automatically extended until the new library opens.