Broomhill Library, Sherrington Road IP1 4HT

Broomhill Library, previously known as Westbourne Library, is a former civilian air raid shelter and gas decontamination centre was awarded a grade II listing in 2012.

The building is a rare survivor of a civilian gas decontamination centre where the flow of the decontamination process can be read in the structure.  In its design detail: the embellishment in the form of horizontal channelled rustication and recessed eaves gives the structure a Modern facade. Such decorative detailing is very unusual on a Second World War functional building. 

The building is a tangible reminder of the dangers faced by Ipswich's civilian population during the Second World War.  The style of the decontamination centre was designed to mirror the facade of the adjacent Broomhill Lido (listed at Grade II), and both were designed by Borough Engineer E. McLauchlan and constructed by the Ministry of War in 1942. Initially it was used as a public air raid shelter but was redesignated in 1943 as an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) decontamination unit for north-west Ipswich.

Between 1946 and 1947 it was converted to a public library, which opened its doors on the 31 January 1948 and has continued as such to the present day. It is believed that the tower was once used as a look out, possibly when it was a public air raid shelter. However, gas decontamination centres typically had a water tank in a tower to serve the showers, eye douche and boiler room. 

The tower is now used by the library for storage. 

The windows in the north elevation have been reconfigured, perhaps at the time of the library conversion.

[Source: Lowry, B, British Home Defences 1940-1945, (2004) and Historic England.]

Links: Broomhill Library (Suffolk LIbraries) websiteHistoric England Listing