Stafford’s Old Library on Top Ten Endangered Buildings list

Stafford Borough Council urged to consider compulsory purchase and transfer to the community group to reopen the building as a multi-purpose arts/cultural hub

Old Library, Stafford, Staffordshire (Grade II, 1913, Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thorneley)

National architectural charity, the The Victorian Society, has included Stafford Old Library on its Top Ten Endangered Buildings list for England and Wales. The Society is urging Stafford Borough Council to consider a compulsory purchase order to bring this important city centre building back into use. For the first time there are no buildings in London and the South East on the list – where the Society had comparatively few nominations. The Society considers that the greater number of buildings nominated from elsewhere may reflect the more difficult development situation in areas like the West Midlands. Griff Rhys Jones, The Victorian Society Vice President, has urged people living near the buildings on the list to ‘seize the opportunity’ and campaign to save them.

The Grade II listed Old Library in Stafford was designed by Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thorneley in 1913 and partially funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The small but impressive classical building in the centre of Stafford should have no problem finding a tenant yet it has been little used for nearly 20 years since the library closed in 1998.The building once housed Clement Lindley Wragge’s collection of ethnographic, zoological and geological material but it is unclear where the collection is now. The County Council sold the building in 2012 and a planning application for conversion to an Indian restaurant was approved in 2013 but nothing has happened since.

The Old Library currently appears to be on the market at £750,000. The owner should ensure that this is an achievable price given the library’s state of repair and consider offering the building to a community group which hopes to reopen the building as a multi-purpose arts/cultural hub. Perhaps an interim use of the space could be offered? Link to pictures.

The national exposure from inclusion in the Society’s Top Ten often leads to new interest in the buildings which can help save them. Full details of all the buildings in the 2016 Top Ten, and updates on positive developments for last year’s buildings, can be found here. The Society has also published an updated campaigning guide for people concerned about buildings which didn’t make the list.

The Victorian Society Director, Christopher Costelloe, said: ‘I hope inclusion in the Top Ten will spur Stafford Borough Council and the owners to urgently find a way to bring the old library back into use. A listed building in a town centre conservation area deserves far better than being left to rot for nearly a decade. Perhaps local campaigners could be allowed to use the building for free in return for helping with maintenance while the library’s long term future is decided? Retaining historic buildings like those in the Top Ten is vital to maintaining local identity and creating places in which people want to invest, live and work.

Griff Rhys Jones, The Victorian Society Vice President, said: ‘The nationally important buildings on the The Victorian Society’s Top Ten list are in dire need of help. Many of them are in prominent locations in their towns and cities. Following my experience with the Hackney Empire I know how difficult finding funding can be – especially outside London. However, restoring important historic buildings is worth investing in as it can be a catalyst for wider regeneration. I hope people living near these buildings will seize this opportunity and campaign to save them. Ultimately, it is the support of local people which will ensure that they are not lost forever.’

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