The tympanum above the Art Gallery entrance contains an allegorical group representing Art, Science, Literature and Commerce around the central figure of Inspiration. Over the doorway is a further carved medallion containing a female bust of Thought. Flanking the pediment are six relief carvings: to the left Homer (representing poetry), Aesclylus (drama), Thucydides (history) and to the right Appelles (painting), Phidias (sculpture) and Ictinus (architecture).
William Attkinson (1798-1883) made his fortune in the cloth industry and became a major benefactor in Southport. He contributed to the Christ Church façade, the Infirmary, St. Andrew's and St. Peter's churches as well as providing the Cambridge Hall clock tower.
The manuscript minutes relating to the construction of this building have not been found by the library staff. The following account makes extensive use, therefore, of secondary sources, and may not be entirely accurate.
In February 1875, Southport adopted the Free Library Act and in May a public meeting was held to inaugurate the new public library.(1) At this meeting, William Attkinson pledged £6,000 towards the building, on the condition that money for the land came from the local inhabitants. Attkinson later communicated this offer officially to the Town Hall on 7th April.(2) Little appears to have happened for some months, the next major report being the laying of the memorial stone on the 9th November 1876 by Rev. Canon Dr. Clarke.(3) The stone carried the following inscription;
THIS MEMORIAL STONE / was laid / Nov. 9th 1876 / BY W. ATTKINSON, Esq., J.P., D.L., / THE DONOR / To the town of Southport / of / THIS FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY.
Attkinson himself was presented with a commemorative silver trowel. At the event the Mayor pledged £50 to the library fund and called for subscriptions.
The building was opened on 21st February 1878 and one source states that at this point some (or all) of the sculptures were not ready for erection.(4) Attkinson was to donate considerably more that the £6,000 he originally offered. In 1878 he gave another £2,000, and in 1881 cleared the total outstanding debt of £5,500.(5)
PMSA recording information