Gladstone’s Library is unique. It comprises a residential library and meeting place which is dedicated to dialogue, debate and learning for open-minded individuals and groups, who are looking to explore pressing questions and to pursue study and research in an age of distraction and easy solutions.
This institution pays tribute to William Gladstone. It is Britain's finest residential library, and its only Prime Ministerial library. It was founded by the great Victorian statesman himself and, following his death in 1898, became a national memorial to his life and work as well as one of the few Grade 1 listed buildings in Wales.
Gladstone was eager to make his personal library accessible to others; the first step towards fulfilling this vision was taken in 1889 when two large iron rooms were erected with six or seven smaller rooms to act as studies. Gladstone, over eighty years old, was closely involved in the transfer of 32,000 of his books from Hawarden Castle to their new home a quarter of a mile away, undertaking much of the manual labour himself, helped only by his valet and one of his daughters.
He endowed the library with £40,000 indicating that this was more than a hobby or a sideline: this was his major bequest. Following his death 1898, a public appeal was launched for funds to provide a permanent building to house the collection and to replace the temporary structure. The £9,000 raised provided an imposing building, designed by John Douglas, which was officially opened by Earl Spencer on October 14th 1902 as the National Memorial to W. E. Gladstone. The Gladstone family were themselves to fulfill the founder's vision by funding the residential wing, which welcomed its first resident on June 29th, 1906.
Today, the library offers its guests the possibility of individual reflection, as well as social interaction. With an evolving programme of courses and events the priority is to build and nurture a wide network of writers and thinkers in order to maintain Gladstone's legacy of engagement with social, moral and spiritual questions, helping people reflect more deeply on issues and ideas that concern them.
Gladstone did not want anyone who would benefit from a period of study at Gladstone’s Library to be prevented from doing so by financial constraint. This is why we work so hard at keeping our prices as low as possible and why we offer scholarships and bursaries as an additional form of assistance.
Read more about the history of the Library here