In the l8th Century the industrial revolution fathered a new social class. The enterprising craftsman expanded his workshop to factory status and moved himself and family from the nearby cottage to an elegant town house or if he was very successful to a noble country mansion. The successful retailer followed the same route no longer living above the shop.
Their leisure and that of their families was characterised as much as anything by the proliferation of assembly rooms and the introduction of subscription libraries. In 1837 John 6th Duke of Bedford provided this emerging social group with an assembly room above his newly built corn market in West Street. But at the turn of the century, 1799 to be precise, a self-reliant group of citizens had already established a subscription library. The founding fathers were the Reverend F William Evans, the owner-master of a school at Kilworthy House and later at Parkwood House and Minister of the Unitarian Church, and three young men. They were John Cummins whose family had interests in local mining, Edward Atkyns Bray, son of the Duke’s local agent and a law student (he abandoned law and became Vicar of the town), and John Taylor mine captain of Wheal Friendship and designer-surveyor-engineer of Tavistock Canal.
The nascent library had the use of a room over the West Street shop of bookseller and stationer William Tapson. Two decades later it had prospered sufficiently for the members to have their own building designed and built. They chose a classical ediﬁce