26th December 1881

Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms

Thomas Guille and Frederick Alles’ library was founded in 1856 when the two men men, returning from apprenticeships in America, donated their collection of books to Guernsey.

However, despite bring such a valuable public resource, the volumes had initially been spread right across the island as they couldn’t be accommodated as a single collection. Thus, it was only in 1881, after the books had been temporarily relocated to St Peter Port, that Guille and Alles signed a lease on a number of Assembly Rooms. At last, they could all be kept together, and made available in a single central location for public viewing.

The library opened its doors the following year, and in 1883 Guille and Alles bought the rooms outright. Five years later, the premises were extended and a new entrance was opened up, giving better access to the 50,000 volumes it then contained.

Guille and Alles had been childhood friends who rekindled their friendship when they worked in the same carpentry firm in New York. The company that employed them gave them access to New York’s apprentices’ library, which inspired the pair to set up something similar on their return to Guernsey.

An educational innovation

Libraries weren’t new, but the innovation here was that this library should be open to all. Members paid a subscription, as they would have done to join a club, which helped finance its acquisitions and the maintenance of its collection.

The institution was eventually run by the Guille-Alles Trust, but as this approached the end of its first one hundred years of operation it started to run into financial difficulties, and it looked like it might have to shut down. Recognising that this would be a serious blow to the island’s cultural heritage, the States of Guernsey stepped in. It provided funding to sustain the library, and make it free for all to use without requiring that they pay an ongoing subscription.

 

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Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st