A corner of the Carter Library at Fairlynch Museum
At the tenth Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Fairlynch on 22 March 1979, Priscilla Hull, as Chairman of the Management Committee of the Museum, reported that the Library, under the care of Mrs Van Meter, was “now available on certain days each week, or by special appointment.”
The Manchester Street Library owed its origins to an initiative taken in 1939 by two members of Lexington’s Kentucky Junior League, an organisation of women committed to improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Their efforts began with providing library facilities at the
Image credit: The Goodman Paxton Photographic Collection, Special Collections,
In the pre-WW2 years Irishtown was well known as a deprived area notable as the home of poor white residents, most of whom were working-class Irish who had fled the potato famine in their homeland. As recently as 1980 it was described as "the worst pocket of poverty in
By spring 1940 the women volunteers had become deeply involved in improving library facilities at the school, repairing old or worn-out books, cataloguing and accessioning new ones and of course encouraging children to read. It was clear that such a facility was badly needed at times when the school library was closed. By 1 June of that year, the volunteers, now 15 in number, were running what became known as the Manchester Street Library in an old store-room near the
The volunteers themselves took it in turns to do a stint in the library, helping approximately 25 children to select books, and, as librarian Amelia King Buckley put it, “holding story hour, keeping peace and always remembering that the library must not acquire a schoolroom atmosphere.” Their aim was to build up a feeling among the children that it could be fun to come to the library and borrow a book, and that all the books belonged to all of them and they must care for them accordingly.
The actress Colleen Moore in 1921
The Library itself was evolving, organising visits to a printing shop, a dairy and a farm and encouraging the children to produce plays. Books for all ages were added to its stock. It gained a new dimension when it developed a sewing club where a group of mothers could learn to make new garments out of leftover clothes from jumble sales. The club disbanded each year in late winter and early spring when the women took jobs in local tobacco factories.
Further outside help and recognition of the Manchester Street Library’s worth came when the Kentucky branch of the National Society Daughters of Colonial Wars decided to make a regular contribution to help with the purchase of attractive patriotic books, the first ones that had been bought new.
In 1938, work had been started on a low-cost public housing complex known as
The Library, by now with a collection of approximately 3,000 books also benefited from community funds generated by a government initiative during World War Two. It was able to move from the old storeroom to a nearby four-room house at
Autumn 1943 saw the formation of a men’s club and a women’s club thanks to the interest of the YWCA and the YMCA in the project. A toy lending library was started with the help of the Council of Jewish Women.
But by 1951 the importance of the Manchester Street Library as a book centre had diminished thanks to the mobile library set up by Lexington Public Library. The following year the name was changed to the
The view from Ting Tong on a misty autumnal day, looking east towards Peak Hill and Sidmouth: the sea is somewhere out there
For Frances Van Meter the distinction was important: in 1978 she became involved in a six-month battle with the Television Records Office over her address, officials having decreed that Clover Cottage was on
“‘Ting Tong’”, she wrote, “is probably a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Thyngton’, meaning ‘meeting place.’ Its location would have provided an ideal look-out point for ancient tribesmen holding ‘council meetings’ since its hilltop even now gives an excellent view of the Exe estuary, the Channel as far as Portland Bill in one direction and Berry Head in the other on a clear day, as well as a panorama of inland countryside. The Isle of Man still has its Tynwald (parliament),
Clover Cottage, Ting Tong, in about 1986
The newspapers had a field day. Frances Van Meter had approached her friend East Devon Councillor Anne de Winton, a Budleigh Salterton resident and published author. Council officials joined the fight to try and arrive at a solution, though the Sidmouth Herald commented that this may have added to the confusion.
There was naturally insufficient space in the newspapers for all that erudition displayed by the lady from
Fairlynch co-founder Joy Gawne remembers her as “statuesque” and an excellent Librarian. "'Van Meter... like the gas meter', she would say to introduce herself. She would be typing away in the Library and visitors at the Museum would apologise thinking that they had gone into an office by mistake, but she would welcome them and insist on showing them what was on the shelves.”
A postcard showing Knowle Village in about 1900
Image credit: Fairlynch Museum
The results of her research into Ting Tong were published in a folder dated 14 May 1986. A further project concerned the history of
In 2010 the Manchester Center Board of Directors made the difficult decision to close the Center in
With much acknowledgement to Jonathan Jeffrey’s ‘Looking Back: A History of the