Mary Evans Picture Library, the UK’s leading source for historical images, will be taking part in London’s Open House event on Saturday 17 September 2016, opening the doors of its Arts and Crafts-style building in Blackheath to visitors.
Now in its 25th year, the Open House London event is the capital’s largest architectural showcase, opening up unusual, remarkable or historic buildings for one weekend only and allowing members of the public a chance to explore and learn more about the city’s rich heritage. The event’s aim is to promote public awareness and appreciation of London’s building design and architecture, helping the wider community to become more knowledgeable, engage in dialogue and make informed judgements on architecture.
Mary Evans Picture Library is located in the former parish hall of All Saints’ Church, which was built in 1928 after houses and shops on the site were destroyed by a First World War Zeppelin raid. Designed by architect Charles Canning Winmill, who met and was heavily influenced by Philip Webb, the architect of William Morris’ Red House in Bexleyheath, the building bears many hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts movement from its round windows to its decorative facade. It has been the home of the library since 1989.
Mary Evans caption writer, Gill Stoker, has been researching the building’s past in preparation for Open House and discovered it was opened by Princess Marie Louise, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, in November 1928. Over the years it has had many uses ranging from child welfare clinics and dance classes to fetes and youth clubs. During the Second World War, it was requisitioned as a British Restaurant, one of a network of canteens set up by the Ministry of Food, intended to provide nutritious, non-profit meals to bomb victims and war workers.
Jessica Talmage, Deputy Picture Research Manager, who has organized the library’s participation in the event, said: “The style of the building and our sign above the door are intriguing to passers-by and each week people ring the doorbell of the library, asking if they can look around. As a working business, we are unfortunately not in a position to regularly give tours but Open House will provide us with the ideal excuse to show off the hall as well as its unique contents. The building is very much part of the Mary Evans identity, and the ideal setting for our historical archive. Not only do we get to work with a fantastic collection, but it’s a privilege to spend every day in such a characterful building. We are looking forward to sharing it with others.”
Mary Evans Picture Library will be participating in Open House London on Saturday 17 September 2016 from 10am to 5pm. Guided tours will take place every half hour. Last tour at 4:30pm. No need to book, just turn up!
To find out more about Open House visit http://listings.openhouselondon.org.uk.