September 20, 2023, by Nicholas Blake

History of Hallward Library Part 3: Building the Library

2023 marks fifty years since the opening of Hallward Library at the University of Nottingham.  In this third of four blog posts we delve through the University archives and contemporary publications kept at Manuscripts and Special Collections to explore the history of this unique building.

With the design of the new University of Nottingham library building finalised (read more in History of Hallward Library Part 2: Designing the Library), construction began in August 1970.  Building work was undertaken by W.J. Simms Sons & Cooke Ltd.

Photograph showing a mechanical digger in a mud trench in the grounds of Lenton Mount house.

Photograph showing the excavation of Lenton Mount grounds, c.1970-72. (UMP/6/2/4)


Photograph of foundations of a building laid into mud with several concrete columns rising up.

Foundations of the new University Library building, c.1970-72. (UMP 6/3/1/17)


Photograph of a construction site with a building crane.

Photograph of a crane aiding construction of the new University Library building, c.1970-72. (UMP 6/3/1/18)


Photograph showing the hollow building of the library with two storeys now in place.

Multiple storeys take shape in the construction of University Library, c.1970-72. (UMP 6/3/1/30)


Photograph showing the hollow interior of a building under construction, showing concrete floor and ceiling with bare columns.

Photograph of the interior of University Library during construction, c.1970-72. (UMP 6/3/1/35)


Photograph showing hollow interior of a building during construction with concrete floor and ceiling. There are also two dark, door-like openings within an internal concrete cube in the middle of the floor.

Photograph of the interior of floor 3 of University Library during construction, including entrance to the toilets, c.1970-72. (UMP 6/3/1/52)


Photograph showing exterior of library building with a tall horizontal concrete panel being lifted by a crane to be fixed into place on the side of the building.

Photograph of external cladding of University Library being fixed into place, c.1970-72. (UMP 6/2/8)


Building crane lifting a tall piece of concrete cladding into place on the side of a building under construction.

Crane lifting external concrete cladding into place on the side of University Library, c.1970-72. (ACC 2044)


Photograph showing building site, including barrels and cement mixture, with the bridge to the library building entrance seen in the background.

Photograph of the entrance to University Library under construction, c.1970-72. (UMP 6/2/7)


Black and white photograph of the exterior of the newly constructed library.

The completed University Library, June 1973. (ACC 1266/73/176/2)

The construction of the building was completed on time, allowing for carpets to be laid, shelving to be prepared, and furniture to be installed.  Relocating the library from the Trent Building to its new home was planned to start in June 1973, beginning with the Manuscripts Department, followed by the main book stock to be moved in with the help of – according to the University Library Committee minutes – “12 students and 2 hired vans”. 

Photograph showing the inside of the library, with readers stood at a help desk with a staff member behind it, high ceilings with bright lights, a seating area, and shelves with books.

Photograph of the help desk at University Library, c.1973.  (ACC 3117)


Black and white photograph showing the interior of the library with high ceilings, bright lights, and students gathered around. There are also some seats and noise cancelling dividers next to a pinboard full of flyers.

Photograph of the interior of University Library, c.1973. (ACC 3117)


Photograph showing study desks and chairs. A student is sat at one of the desks. The room has bright lighting and beige carpet. There are large floor to ceiling windows at the edge of the room letting in sunlight. Through the windows there is grass and trees.

Photograph of a student study space in University Library, c.1973. (ACC 3117)


Photograph of the interior of a library, with a man sat behind a desk in the middle of a large open plan space with checkered carpet, white pillars, and pot plants.

Photograph of the enquiry desk at University Library, c.1973. (UMP/6/2/21)

The library became open for use in August 1973, with a ceremony on the 16th December where Sir Hugh Willatt, secretary general of the Arts Council, officially opened the building.

This blog concludes in History of Hallward Library Part 4: Legacy of the Library.

Logo featuring a graphic representation of Hallward Library with the text "Hallward Library : University of Nottingham : 50 years"

Manuscripts and Special Collections material consulted:

UG/C/11/1: University of Nottingham Library Committee signed minute books 1954-1995; 23 October 1972, 22 January 1973

Posted in From the collections