Winchester Library - The history of the building
Owen Browne Carter (1806-1859) was amongst the most important Winchester based architects of the first half of the 19th century. He designed and restored many important buildings in the city including the Lending Library, the former Savings Bank on Southgate Street, Chernocke Place, Owen Browne Carter
Little is known of Carter's early life and training other than that he was born in London in 1806. He spent 10 years in the office of William Garbett (1770-1834), another Winchester based architect, and he worked as an illustrator in 1829-30 on Robert Hay's archaeological survey of Egypt. His illustrations have been published and an album of about 50 of his drawings is held at the British Museum. Carter's most productive period architecturally was from c.1835 to 1850
Winchester Lending Library
Clifton Terrace, the lodges and chapels at the former West Hill Cemetery and the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. Although he is moderately well known locally as an architect his national reputation rests more on his work as an artist and illustrator. and he produced designs for a number of buildings both in Winchester and elsewhere.These adopted various styles such as Classical, Gothic and Neo-Norman which reflect the varying architectural tastes of the period.
Carter's later years appear to have been ones of decline. He died in 1859 in a fever hospital in Salisbury. In his 1895 History of Winchester Streets Alderman Stopher recorded that Carter, 'was a coarse man, given to drink and died in Salisbury Infirmary, practically a pauper'
The Corn Exchange (now Winchester Lending Library) was completed in 1838. It would have been used as a trading centre by grain traders who would have brought samples of corn into the hall and negotiated prices with other dealers. The building’s classical style follows the principals of the Roman architect and theorist Vitruvius and the design of its
most prominent feature, the deep Tuscan portico, is clearly heavily influenced by that of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, London, by Inigo Jones (1631-3).
By the early 20th century the building was no longer the Corn Exchange and became, at different times, a roller skating rink and a sports hall. In 1913 it was purchased by the City Council and from 1915 to 1917 was used as a theatre. It was then a cinema until 1922 (incorporating a restaurant, a tea lounge and an orchestra) before reverting to a dance hall. In 1936 the City Council moved the public library to
the building and then the management of the library was transferred to Hampshire County Council in 1974. The Corn Exchange was Owen Carter’s most successful
design and it is now among Winchester’s many well known and distinctive buildings. This is reflected in its status as a Grade II* listed building. Although it was among his earliest designs Carter never quite repeated this success.