Sunday, 22 April 2018

Loughborough and the Pilkington connection

Sadly this week has seen me down in Wales attending the funeral of a cousin: the only good thing about this was the chance to catch up with relatives I don't see very often. As a result, I've not done much research this week, especially because on returning to Loughborough I was attacked by tree pollen!!

So, over on Facebook, the Loughborough University Alumni group posted a picture of the university library being built and asked if anyone remembered the library from that time. Well, of course, I had to reply because I remember using the old library, and the Tech College Library, and was in my final year when the new library opened, and our lectures moved to its top floor. The new library was opened in December 1980 and it's called the Pilkington Library ...

Visiting my cousin in New Inn this week I had to drive past a development of newish houses, situated down in a dip, near the railway line. In the days when I used to regularly use this road, this was home to the Pilkington Glass Works. Hmmm, any connection, I asked myself? Now, I'd call this New Inn, but it seems to be referred to on the internet as Pontypool. Here's a link to some aerial views of the factory.

So what did I discover? Well, for one thing, Pilkington Glass is still in business, and appears to be one of the largest glassmaking companies in the world. It started life in 1826 as St Helen's Crown Glass Company, and was very successful (if you read the article I've linked you to, you'll see that Parrs Bank, the forerunner of NatWest, of which there was a branch in Loughborough, did a good deal with Pilkingtons in its early days, which might account, partially, for its success)! * However, by the early 1900s things were not looking too good for the company, until they adopted new glassmaking techniques. The company went public in 1970, and in 1997 underwent a massive restructure. Now, I don't know for sure, but perhaps that's when the New Inn factory site became land for housing. Although the factory is no longer in New Inn, Pilkingtons continue their association with the town through the Pilkington Family Trust, which supports community activity events, like a regular self-help group and day club, and produces a regular newsletter. 

Anyway, the connection with Loughborough is that William Henry Pilkington, Baron Pilkington (I believe known as Harry) was Chancellor of Loughborough University from 1966-1980, so I'm supposing the library was named in his honour.

* There's also an interesting article on the transformation of the old NatWest Bank in Leicester, which is now Middleton's Steakhouse, and a description of the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Banking Company that also became NatWest, via Parrs.

Update 12 May 2018
Whilst looking for a concert programme I came across a university publication from Spring 1981, which has an article on the new library in it. The Pilkington Library was designed by Harry Faulkner-Brown, who also designed the libraries at Cardiff, Nottingham and Strathclyde. The contractors were Norwest Holst. Apparently it is of strikingly attractive appearance, and was conceived as a "self-renewing" library, so it would cope with demand for many decades. It cost over £3m to build, and housed over 350,000 monographs, and 4,500 periodicals. 

The article goes on to say the building was air-conditioned (as I remember it, it was actually rather cold!), had a modern book security system and used a Sperry-Univac computer for traditional library functions. There were offices, study rooms, and teaching rooms a-plenty.

The article suggests that the Department of Library and Information Studies, which was based on the top floor, was the most important department of its kind in the UK. Rather like a teaching hosptial, it was envisaged that library studies students would be in close liaison with library staff, and therefore gain considrable insight and into library workings with such close contact.  

You are welcome to quote passages from any of my posts, with appropriate credit. The correct citation for this looks as follow:

Dyer, Lynne (2018). Loughborough and the Pilkington connection. Available from  [Accessed 22 April 2018]

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