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Shakespeare memorial room

Created and designed to house the Shakespeare Memorial Library by John Henry Chamberlain in1882, a founder member of Our Shakespeare Club. He was responsible for re-building the old Central Library after the original building was gutted by fire in 1879. The Shakespeare Memorial room opened off the new wing of the L shaped reading room of the reference library on the first floor of the building. With the ever rising collection of material the Birmingham Shakespeare Library outgrew this room in 1906.

The room was highly praised and is in an Elizabethan style with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by Mr Barfield, a noted woodcarver; the brass and metal work by Hardmans. The ceiling decoration is stenciled.

Controversy surrounded plans to demolish the Central Library in 1971. Anthony Crossland the Environment Minister ruled that the Shakespeare Memorial room must be preserved and be readily accessible to the people of Birmingham. Various ideas included moving it to Avoncroft Buildings Museum in Bromsgrove, or relocating it to the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford. Three groups of conservationists threatened a sit in before the room was dismantled in 1974 and stored at the city’s Sheepcote Street depot in poor environmental conditions. Eventually it was re-built as part of the School of Music complex in 1986.

The Shakespeare Memorial Room is now situated on top of the Library of Birmingham and opened in September 2013.