Making over the lunatic asylum

Team Olli were contacted by L.B.T.H. to renovate and modernize the Bethnal Green Library. After 8 long months consulting and working with English Heritage and the Councils Technical Team a superb standard of workmanship was achieved. The works involved upgrading timber sashes, bringing the building up to an acceptable fire rating, redecorating, mechanical & electrical upgrades and bespoke joinery works.

Did  you  know?  this famous little library building where once the insane took asylum reopened in London’s East End with a queue waiting to get in.

There was a bit of a ‘mad rush’ to get in—but then the Grade II-listed red brick building was once part of Bethnal House asylum, in what cockneys used to call ‘Barmy Park’—now known as Bethnal Green Gardens.

Mayor  John  Biggs  quoted:-  “It has given people the joy of literature and expanding knowledge for almost a century.” But the library has also been ‘renewed’ for the 21st century with a new Wi-Fi system, surfing space with eight computers to get on the internet, scanning and printing facilities, a new bench for laptop users and more ‘comfort’ seating space for people using their own devices.

The current library was built in 1896 as the new wing of Bethnal House asylum and was converted into a place of learning in 1922. The upper floor still retains many of its original features including the washrooms, stained glass, book shelves and gas lamps.

Alexander Cruden, inmate of the Bethnal Green Madhouse

It stands on the site of what was a notorious “private mad- house” from 1727, variously know as Wright’s House, The Blind Beggar’s House and Kirby’s Castle, Famous inmates include Alexander Cruden, the author of the 18th Century best-seller Concordance to the Bible (who escaped after being incarcerated by his greedy business partner and poet Christopher Smart. Cruden wrote about his vicious treatment at the hands  of  the  sadistic  keeper  who  was  later  employed  to “cure” the madness of King George II.