Arthur Henry Furnish

Arthur Henry Furnish

Arthur Henry Furnish was one of the influential figures in the history of York’s libraries, and was responsible for the new library in Museum Street which opened in 1927.

He was born in Caistor, in Great Grimsby, in 1852, the son of Alexander J Furnish and Elizabeth Hollingsworth. He grew up in Louth, in Lincolnshire, and his first job was as a printer.

In his mid twenties he moved to Wakefield in Yorkshire to work as a printer’s reader, before taking the job in his early thirties as a librarian at York’s first public library in Clifford Street. He lived in Micklegate as a boarder with Samuel RB Franks.

In 1917 York public library was merged with the York Subscription Library, which had been founded in 1774, but which had previously charged a subscription fee for anyone who wanted to access the library. Discussions started at this time on building a new library building, and the Corporation accepted a 13,200 pounds offer from the Carnegie Trustees to go towards paying for the new building. The building on Museum Street is still in use today, and was designed by Walter Brierley.

The new library was opened on 23rd September 1927 by the Rt Hon the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, who was the Chairman of the Carnegie Trust. Also present were Oscar Frederic Rowntree, the Lord Mayor, Percy John Spalding, the Town Clerk, Clarence Cecil Lucas, chairman, William Horsman, vice-chairman and Arthur Henry Furnish, who was the librarian in charge. A plaque marking this is still visible inside the doors of the library.

Arthur Henry Furnish died on 30th March 1936 in Harrogate, leaving the relatively large sum of 7,586 pounds. William King, a commercial traveller, was named as a beneficiary.

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