Harry Bonner, a former trustee, kindly contributed most of the following in
November 2000, and it has been updated in the light of events that have taken
place since then:-
‘The ‘Bradwell Library’, or ‘Reading Room’ building, along with the ‘old school’ on the next site (now used as a community centre), is among the oldest structures in Bradwell. It was erected during the later years of the ministry of the Reverend John Walker, Rector of Bradwell from 1864-1904.
The Trust was established in 1902, the land being provided by the Rector at a cost of £10. The conveyance laid down that any building to be erected was to be for the benefit and use of the people of Bradwell, and such other persons as the Trustees might determine, as a Reading and Recreation Room. It further provided that neither the land nor the building should be used for any purpose whatever inimical to the Church of England as by law established, neither should they be used for the sale or consumption of intoxicating liquor, nor for the purposes of gambling, card playing, dancing or theatricals.
The Deed was signed by the Rev John Walker together with the Churchwardens, Percy Wiltshire and R J Disney. The money for the building was raised by public subscription. The Reading Room remained the only hall in Bradwell until 1927, when a Parish Hall was built on the Beccles Road, presumably because the Reading Room had become too small for the activities of a growing village.
Due to the Reading Room’s proximity to the Church Day School (now the Bradwell Community Centre), it was used from its early days by the school for various purposes; an additional classroom, domestic science training, a dining room, a reading room etc. During the 1939-45 War, it was used by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service for their work in the Community. In 1961, a small portable Library, run by voluntary helpers, was started in the building.
Following the construction of the new school at Homefield Avenue in 1962, the voluntary use as a library was expanded. However, not all the building was used, and for a time a Baby Care Clinic was introduced. In 1965, a partnership of local doctors were allowed to sub-divide the main room to provide a surgery and waiting room. The Surgery and the Library provided the main income from the building for that period. With the construction of purpose-built surgeries in the village, the doctors’ lease on part of the Reading Room terminated in January 1982. Between 1982 and 2003, the Reading Room was leased to the Norfolk County Council for use as a County Library. That facility was closed in April 2003, and, following an outburst of anger from local people, and the establishment in May 2003 of a ‘Steering Group’ to seek to re-establish some kind of local library facility, the building was re-opened by Bradwell Parish Council, in conjunction with Bradwell Reading Room Trust, in October of that year, as ‘Bradwell Community Library’.
The new facility was officially opened by popular local author Louis de Bernieres in November 2003. In April 2005 the Reading Room Trust took over the responsibility for the running of Bradwell Community Library. and between 2005 and 2006 an extension was built, towards which local building company D M King Ltd. made a substantial contribution.’