Welcome to The Users & Friends of Manor House Library website.

Our group was established in 1999 to oppose proposals to close our library along with neighbouring Blackheath Village Library and Grove Park Library.  This information was leaked to us well before it had been intended for public consumption, and so gave us valuable time in which to mobilise concentrated and unified opposition.  We also had 'political time' in our favour, as we were approaching local elections which would include the establishment of an Executive (Directly Elected} Mayor for Lewisham.  With massive opposition to the closures and political uncertainty for our ruling Council, our fight was successful and all three libraries were subsequently saved.  Since then, we have remained resolute and have kept a wary eye on 'all things library' ever since.  The reason for this is summarised above.  Metaphorically we were caught with our pants down.  There were no Library Users Groups associated with our libraries.  Why would there be?  We were content!  That was the first mistake.  So we decided not to go there again.  We were lucky to have sympathisers who leaked the dreaded news so we could mobilise quickly.  That was our first opportunity.  Then with massive public effort {and possible political embarrassment at the election) the Council capitulated and reversed the decision.  We have remained active ever since.  The following year, the Mayor set aside £1.75m of capital funding for the eventual refurbishment of our Manor House.  When completed in 2009, the spend had approached £4m with the balance being borrowed via the Prudential Borrowing scheme.  Our library was saved, but the mortgage will not be paid until 2049.

Now, fast forward to 2010 and breaking news had it that 'because of the financial crisis, the Council felt it had no option but to save £830,000 from the library budget, plus a further £170,000 from the floundering Public Buildings Repair Department.  This meant that up to 20 library staff had to be made redundant and in order to do that, their jobs had to go.  And in order to do that, they needed to close five libraries!  Quite.  It is likely at this point, kind readers, your heads may be beginning to ache! 
At all ten 'consultation' meetings, the message was pressed home by Lewisham's Executive Director for Community Services.  There was no alternative available.  It was like facing "Seven of Nine" from 'Star Trek, The Next Generation....famous for her icy statement: "Resistance is futile....."  Nonetheless, library users returned their verdict;, complete opposition to any suggestion of closures.  Then they set about petitioning - gaining 25,476 signatures in the process.  The Mayor and Cabinet were set to decide what to do in November 2010, but due to the level of opposition (and some excuse they managed to create,) the actual decision was delayed until February 2011.  This gave the Council time to try to regain favour amongs the respective electorates and hit on a bright idea to pass over the five libraries due to close to "The Community".
In Blackheath,  The Age Exchange charity had already pitched in with a suggestion to refurbish their premises "The Reminiscence Centre" with privately organised funding, and would create a minature library within it which might hold about 7,000 books and some internet ready PCs, on condition they would receive some help from the Council.  Meanwhile, tenders were invited from bodies prepared to take on repair leases for the other four buildings.  These were Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross and  Sydenham libraries.  Following a sham "competition" a Social Enterprise Company, Eco Computer Systems proposed to take on these four.  But. when the Council looked in to the Company's assets, they discovered that they were somewhat on the low side and decided it would be inadvisable to grant the Company the leases of the four libraries and could therefore only offer three.  The one library which failed to be included in the new offer, was New Cross Library.  Some cynics may well have expected that the one library situated in the most deprived area of the 39th most deprived borough in all of England would be the one to fall out of the 'Goody Bag'!  However, the good people of New Cross were not having any of that, and decided to group together and keep their library open anyway.  For their pains, the Council now expect them to find £30,000 per year as rent - whils Eco Computers get three library buildings at a 'peppercorn' rent and a 25-year lease (reviewable each 5 years) to boot.
Meanwhile, 9 months on, these community libraries are struggling.  And the Government, in their dereliction of duty, allow the situation to carry on.
Ed Vaizey, MP, Minister for Culture under The Rt.Hon. Jeremy Hunt, MP,  Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport blithely carries on ignoring countless requests from all over the country to intervene within his powers under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to intervene and halt this culling of libraries, and the CMS Select Committee scrutinises the culling with an overiding brief of support for the fantasy of The Big Society.
At the most recent Session of Evidence, Elizabeth Campbell, Councillor at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and a leading light at The Local Government Association, readily answered "Yes!" in concert with her two other Councillor companions, when asked by John Whittingdale, MP, Chair of the CMS Select Committee if they suported the repeal of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.  They see it as an impediment to 'modenrising the library service'.  We see it as the last ditch protection of the library service.  And we also beg a question, if it is not going to be enforced, then why bother to repeal it?

Our Grade II*-Listed Building
  • Manor House Library

    Manor House Library                                              Opening Hours
    Old Road, Lee                                                       
    Monday to Friday 09:00 to 19:00
    Lewisham, London SE13 5SY                                 Saturday             09:00 to 18:00    
    Once the home of Sir Francis Baring of                
    Sunday               10:00 to 16:00
    Baring Brothers & Co (Barings Bank)                      Yes folks, that's 65 hours per week!                              

  • Sir Francis Baring

    Sir Francis Baring, Bt 1740-1810
    Sir Francis was the founder of Baring Brother & Co.
    later known as Barings Bank.  He lived in the Manor
    House at Lee and died there in 1810

  • Visit the Manor House

    On Christmas Day, 1762 the                    Sir Francis later acquired the
    firm of Baring Brothers, later                     lordship of the Manor of Lee.
    known as Barings Bank, was                   Additional land purchases were
    established.                                            made before his death in 1810.
    Sir Francis Baring acquired                      Francis Thornhill Baring
    Lee Manor in 1796.  Members                  later 1st Baron Northbrook
    of the Baring family were                         and Chancellor of the
    connected with Lee Manor                       Exchequer from 1839 to 1841
    for over 100 years until 1898.                   lived in the house.
    Since then, connections                          In 1898 his son, the 1st Earl
    have been maintained with the                 Northbrook, sold the Manor
    local community.                                    House for its use as a public
    Having acquired the Manor                      library and its grounds as a
    House and 623 acres in 1796.                 public park.

    "There are six great powers in Europe: England, France, Prussia, Austia, Russia and Baring Brothers"
    Duc de Richelieu, 1838.

    For further information, click on 'Visit the Manor House' above.

At The Speak Up For Libraries Conference
                     Alan Gibbons in full flow.    

Alan Gibbons shown here during the march from Lambeth's Carnegie Library toward the Tate Library opposite Lambeth Town Hall  on Saturday, 9th April 2016.  Alan' support is always highly valued by library users, especially in the face of massive, anti-community cuts imposed by ruthless Local Authorities.
Alan has always been particularly critical of the massive library closure policies inflcted by local authorities throughout the land plus the failure of central Government to stand by the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act which is its duty.
Click on 'Campaign' above for more pictures and coverage of the Lambeth march which began as the 45-plus heroic occupiers were oblied to vacate the Caregie Library where they had remained all week!