Gladstone's Library, Hawarden

By Rhian Waller - Gladstone's Library PR and marketing

The story of the Library is closely connected to quietness. The fact that the Reading Rooms are places where conversations are rare and whispered is a big part of why they intrigue people. They are not completely silent, however, except late at night when only the most dedicated residents remain, working on their projects until the Theology Room is locked at 10pm. There are faint noises: the brush of turning pages, light footsteps on the parquet floor, the click of the door opening and closing and the occasional muffled cough.

Inside Gladstones Library. Photo: Michael Beckwith

Inside Gladstone's Library. Photo: Michael Beckwith

The rest of the building is a tapestry of sound. Reception, which, aside from the on-site restaurant, is the busiest part of the Library much of the time, is a place of pinging emails and ringing phones.

A little way down the corridor, you will be able to hear the chatter and clatter of the kitchen. The rumbling potato tumbler, used to remove the skins from the spuds used in fish pies, mash and other recipes, is a monster of a machine - fortunately it is only used for a few minutes a day. The chefs at Food for Thought cook most of the menu from scratch, and you can catch them stirring, slicing and sautéing ingredients - particularly around lunchtime.

If the Reading Rooms operate quietly, the conference rooms and the Gladstone Room lounge are set up for the opposite: they are designed for conversation. The Glynne and Anwyl rooms are used as classrooms, presentation spaces and for gatherings. Voices issue forth from them: authoritative speakers and learners articulating their new knowledge in both English and Welsh. Meanwhile the Gladstone Room is home to the honesty bar - open to residents only. This is a place for convivial talk, the rattle of teacups in saucers and the shuffle of puzzle parts and chess pieces across tables.

The Chapel at Gladstones Library.

The Chapel at Gladstone's Library.

Upstairs lie most of the bedrooms. Guests are asked to be mindful of each other and not play the radios - one to each room - too loudly or at odd hours. There are no televisions, but you might hear a boiling kettle or two as people brew a tea or coffee.

Finally, there's the Chapel. It's equipped with an electric mini-grand piano and fitted with a microphone sound system, and it sometimes holds song, conversation and spoken prayer. At other times, it's a place for and silent prayer and peaceful reflection. Sometimes, from here, you can hear the birds in the garden.