Memories of a campaign to stop a ‘wonderful community resource’ from closing

PUBLISHED: 08:24 19 July 2017 | UPDATED: 08:24 19 July 2017

Protesters outside Highgate Library in Shepherd's Hill in December 1987.

Protesters outside Highgate Library in Shepherd's Hill in December 1987.


A threat to close a well-loved library. Angry neighbours forming a campaign in protest. A cash-strapped council accused of trying to make money from the sale of a public building.

Supporters of Highgate Library in Shepherd's Hill meet to discuss a current relocation proposal. Picture: TAMARA CINCIKSupporters of Highgate Library in Shepherd's Hill meet to discuss a current relocation proposal. Picture: TAMARA CINCIK

It might sound familiar to those interested in current moves to stop Highgate Library losing its Shepherd’s Hill home, but this story is almost 30 years old.

In 1987, Highgate residents joined forces to see off a bid by Haringey Council to demolish the site and profit from its sale.

For mother-of-two, library regular and experienced campaigner opposed to the A1 extension and threats to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, Ruth Hazeldine, the risks were all too clear.

“The library is not just about borrowing books. It’s about a space where people can feel safe and welcome. It’s peaceful, comfortable and warm. Low income and older people gain intellectual stimulation.Where were those people going to go? They couldn’t afford to buy books. If you deny people stimulation you deny people fulfilling lives,” Mrs Hazeldine said.

The 82-year-old recalled taking her sons to the library and later presenting her eldest, David, with his first library card at the age of four.

“I said to him, ‘In this envelope is everything in the whole world.’

“He took out the library card, looked at me and said, ‘Thank you, mum, I understand,’” the Jacksons Lane resident said.

“That was the way I made it clear to my children knowledge is the greatest power you can have, and you can find it in your local library,” she added.

Fearing its loss, Mrs Hazeldine joined about 40 friends and supporters to see off the threat including Hope Malik who, while dying from liver cancer, dragged herself up Archway Road to gather with protesters outside the library.

“By herself she got out of bed, and held on to buildings along the road to get there. That was how passionately she felt,” Ruth said.

She died three days later.

After seven months, the council backed down “because public feeling was so strong”.

“Councillors were worried about the next election,” the retired medical secretary said.

On the latest threat and 80s campaign she said: “I feel terribly disillusioned and sad. We were doing it for the future, for all the people who benefit from a wonderful, community resource”.

Related articles

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories


Transport for London is set to review safety issues at an accident blackspot in Falloden Way,


Circus-goers on Hampstead Heath got a shock today when walking down from the Heath they were confronted with a water main shooting water high into the air on the corner of Pilgrim’s Lane and Willow Road in Hampstead.


Camden’s youngsters were in the spotlight at the Shaw Theatre for an evening celebrating the borough’s talent.

Yesterday, 15:35

Wage cuts for nurses covering sick leave and other increases in demand at Hampstead’s Royal Free Hospital have been postponed after workers threatened to cancel shifts en masse.

Yesterday, 15:00

Brexit uncertainty is one reason for a slowdown in Camden house prices, said a leading estate agent after new data showed that property values in the borough fell 0.8 per cent in August and 2.1pc in the last 12 months.

Yesterday, 14:05

Tickets for a public meeting into the future of the Phoenix Cinema have sold out within days of it being announced.

Yesterday, 13:57

Mitzvah Day volunteers from Hampstead were among those taking part in Sewa Day – a Hindu day of community action – in Kingsbury, Brent this weekend.

Yesterday, 10:29

As part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, Haringey Police have been engaging with the community to raise awareness of the importance of reporting abuse and discrimination.


Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now