The changing face of the Anderson Room

If you want to know anything about the UL, Justin Burrows in Music is the person to ask. Our longest serving staff member, he’s a mine of information on the Anderson Room, and its changing look. Here he recalls a memorable day in its life.

The freedom of the open shelves. The Anderson Room in 1934.

Readers are usually interested in the two busts of Alfredo Campoli and Arthur Bliss in the Anderson Room but may not notice a plaque near them.

On the 11th June 1986 the Duke of Edinburgh re-opened the Bible Society Library which was moved from Bible Society’s old headquarters at 146 Queen Victoria Street, London to Cambridge University Library. Bible Society’s headquarters moved down to Swindon. Bookcases next to the Juliet balcony (see far end of room on 1934 photograph above) were moved about half way down the room (where they still stand – you can see one of them to the right in the photo below).

Cases with banding across the top were the original Anderson Room cases. The large Wollaston cases have semi-circular tops.

Members of the Technical Maintenance Department repaired the old Wollaston bookcases which were originally in the old University Library and then moved to the new 1934 building.

(Editor’s note :-The Wollaston (also known as the Lambeth cases) had an interesting history. The cases (all 19 of them, some single and some double sided) were a gift from Sir John Wollaston, Alderman of the City of London in 1649. The alternate name of Lambeth cases derives from their use for the collections of Archbishop Bancroft, formerly housed in Lambeth Palace. The cases once stood in the South Room of the Old University Library, which was later used as the Council Room of the Old Schools. A few were moved to Christ’s College during building work in the eighteenth century. Those that had been moved to the UL in the 1930s had fallen into disrepair, and were skilfully put back together again by the UL’s carpentry team; a few were moved up to the Fourth Floor near the Librarian’s Office, while the remaining 13 were prepared for the Bible Society’s Collections (most are still in the Bradshaw Room, just off the Anderson Room.))

Nice long old 1930s tables replaced rather horrible square tables and two new ones similar to the 1930s tables were made.

Bibles were put on the Wollaston shelves and two ropes placed across the shelves. The front of the room remained as music reference and open shelf music collections. As the room would remain open even when unstaffed a rope was placed to encourage people not to enter the Bible Society Collections outside staffing hours. You can just spot the ropes in this photo from the opening.

Spot the security ropes. From the Bible Society’s Collections.

Later the ropes were replaced by locked gates. Today music is back in that area, and the whole of the Anderson Room is (under normal circumstances) open to readers.

I had to straighten all the Bibles in the Anderson Room the morning of 11th June 1986 and in the afternoon stood in front of the wall between the Anderson Room and the music office. No large windows there in those days just a wall and a door.

Anderson office
The large windows of the Anderson Room office

We were told The Duke of Edinburgh might not stick to the planned route and he wanted the library to work as normal. He was introduced to the Bible Society committee and pulled the cloth off covering the plaque.

Whipping the cover off the Bible Society plaque. From the Bible Society’s Collections.

The Duke did not speak to those of us near the Music Office. The number of people who had spoken to the Duke or seen him was very high. Readers were working as normal at the tables in the Anderson Room, as the Duke wanted the library to continue working as normal. I counted the number of readers in the Anderson Room as usual as I had to keep a record of how much the room was being used.

Many thanks to Onesimus Ngundu for his assistance and for the photo album of the Duke’s visit, and to Rosemary Mathew for the photo of the Anderson Room in the 1970s.

Justin Burrows

Library staff

16th July 1979-present

Further Reading:

Philip & Elizabeth : portrait of a marriage / Gyles Brandreth. 

Philip : the final portrait / Gyles Brandreth.

About mj263

Music Collections Supervisor at Cambridge University Library. Wide musical interests. Often to be found stuck in a composer's archive, or enthusing about antiquarian music.
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1 Response to The changing face of the Anderson Room

  1. elaineul says:

    Lovely to see this, I remember this visit very well. I worked in the Map Room at the time and The Duke visited us too. He spoke to all the staff members showing him maps and atlases and made a very young and nervous me feel at ease. After the UL, the Duke went over to open the new Clare College library.


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