LXVII—UNIVERSITY HALL (DR. WILLIAMS'S LIBRARY), GORDON SQUARE
The building on the west side of Gordon Square, adjoining to the
north of the Catholic Apostolic Church, was built in 1848 from the designs of
Thomas Leverton Donaldson. It was erected as a Hall of Residence for
students of University College and from 1853 it also accommodated Manchester New College. When the latter institution moved to Oxford in 1890,
the building was purchased by the Trustees of Dr. Williams's Charity to
house their well-known Library. Henry Morley, professor of literature at
University College and Editor of Morley's Universal Library was principal of
University Hall, 1882–1890.
The Rev. Daniel Williams, D.D., the founder of the Library, died at
the age of 72 in 1716 and was buried in Bunhill Fields where his tomb,
surrounded by iron railings, can still be seen. He was domestic chaplain to
the Countess of Meath, 1664–67, and one of the Ministers of the Wood
Street Congregation, Dublin, 1667–87. In the latter year he came to
London and was appointed Minister to the Presbyterian Congregation,
Hand Alley, Bishopsgate, a position which he held until his death in 1716.
A doctorate of Divinity was conferred on him in 1709 by the Universities of
Edinburgh and Glasgow in recognition of his outstanding services to nonconformity. He bequeathed his property to Trustees for a number of
charitable purposes, amongst which was the founding of a library for (but
not exclusively for) nonconformists. The first library, a building of pleasant
distinction, was built by the trustees in Red Lion Street and was opened in
1719. A print of the exterior and interior in 1826 is in existence. (ref. 91)
In 1865, owing to the purchase of the building by the Metropolitan
Railway Company, the library was moved to Bloomsbury, and its original
home was demolished. From 1865 to 1873 it was housed at No. 8 Queen
Square and then moved into premises specially designed for it by T. Chatfield
Clarke in Grafton Street (now Way), east of Tottenham Court Road, Here
it remained until 1890, when it moved again to Gordon Square, the Grafton
Street building being purchased by Messrs. Maple & Co., who still retain
it in their business premises.
The building in Gordon Square is of stone and brick in the late Gothic
style (Plate 45). The complete specification for its erection (dated April,
1848), with plan and elevation, is printed in Donaldson's Handbook of Specifications or Practical Guide to the Architect, pp. 380 et seq., published in 1859.