In 2018, Lichfield Library will move to the ground floor of St Mary’s in the Market Square, ensuring that the city has a first-class library for the next 30 years, safeguarding the historic building from closure and boosting local tourism.
Latest plans revealed
Having secured conditional approval for both Planning and Listed Building Consent to make the internal alterations, the latest plans for Lichfield’s new city centre library have been revealed before work begins.
The £1.2 million investment will transform St Mary’s, opening up the ground floor to accommodate the library, while the first floor will include a permanent museum, exhibition and performance space, as well as an access point for digitised archive collections.
The move is backed by Lichfield District Council and the City Centre Development Partnership because it will increase footfall, boost the heart of the city and support local traders.
The move will also provide a secure future for the iconic St Mary's, which has been struggling financially.
The council will continue to look for a solution that will ensure that the £1.4m backlog of repairs at The Friary is completed and is maintained into the future - a cost which the county council cannot maintain.
Latest floor plans
These exciting plans show the £1.2m development programme will transform the ground floor of St Mary’s in the Market Square into a new library space which will include the TIC.
The plans show how the original features will be exposed and incorporated into the new library space - the original arches, the chapel, pews and alter will be retained and will form part of a new quiet area.
Work on the ground floor includes exposing the church’s 19th century columns, incorporating etched glass screens into the new layout and retaining the altar, choir stalls and pews at the east end in a study area and IT suite.
The exciting new Lichfield History Access Point will also be available giving access to digitised archive materials and local and family history resources.
The library will be modelled on the new one in Stafford, which includes wifi, touchscreen tables, large computer tablets and two state-of-the-art 3D printers.
While one end of the first floor will have a balcony overlooking the level below, its central space will be occupied by a flexible performance and exhibition space.
Please note that these plans are not to scale.
Latest floor plans (6 MB)
Quick facts sheet (691 KB)
Answers to your questions
Q. What do the plans show?
These plans show we’re planning to transform the interior of St Mary’s to incorporate a new fully accessible first class library and a revitalised first floor.
The plans show how the original features will be exposed and incorporated into the new library space - the chapel, pews and alter will be retained and will form part of a new quiet area and the original arches will be revealed.
The options and plans for the first floor are still to be finalised but the current intentions are to accommodate the following:
- A refreshed Lichfield Museum and Photographic archive.
- The History Access Point.
- The Treasury of Silver.
- An expanded Learning and Participation programme.
- A flexible space for visual and performing arts, conferences, etc.
Q. What are the main features of the new library?
- The current internal walls will be removed to expose many of the original 19th century columns, arches and stained-glass windows.
- The choir stalls, pews and organ will be incorporated into a new IT suite study area. Although the chapel will be deconsecrated, we anticipate that it will continue to be used for a limited number of ceremonies.
- A new ramp will provide access to the IT suite and the quiet area to ensure accessibility.
- The main access to the library will be from Market Square.
- The toilet will be fully accessible and will incorporate a new baby change facility.
- The open plan library space will be flexible and will provide plenty of space for wheelchairs to manoeuvre whilst incorporating access to library stock, computers and comfortable seating areas.
- The library will be Wi-Fi enabled.
- The Tourist Information Centre will be included in the ground floor space and will share area with the library.
- The etched glass screens currently located at The Friary and the Reading Girl statue are incorporated into the new design.
Q. Why is the library relocating?
Relocating the library will:
- Ensure a first class library in the heart of Lichfield for the next 30 years.
- Safeguard the future of two landmark buildings - providing a secure future for the historic St. Mary’s and ensuring that The Friary is repaired and maintained into the future.
- Ensure that Lichfield has a fully accessible, flexible, first-class library in the centre of the city for at least the next 30 years.
- Offer better value for money for the taxpayers - the move will save up to £100,000 a year in running costs alone and the move will pay for itself in around 7 years.
- Boost footfall in the library and St. Mary’s and support local traders.
- Provide a space (on the first floor) to house the History Access Point.
- Ensure the space fits our needs - the space currently used at the Friary is considerably more space than is needed.
Q. What is happening to The Friary?
The Friary is a Grade 2 listed building and it needs considerable repair and care. Although the county council has maintained the building to a high standard, as with any listed building, there is considerable maintenance which the county council cannot continue to fund.
The county council continues to have positive conversations regarding the potential to convert the current library space at The Friary which would ensure that the considerable backlog of repairs would be addressed.
Q. Who is this decision supported by?
The proposal is supported by all of the major partners - the Guild of St Mary's, Lichfield District Council and the Lichfield Diocese and a cross-party committee of elected members called the Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee.
Q. What other options were considered?
Although a number of different options were considered as part of the feasibility study, including changing the way in which the library service is delivered from the current building, the report that informs the delegated decision made it clear that the move to St. Mary’s is the most viable option in terms of our requirements for space, accessibility, running costs and a more central location.
Q. How will the History Access Point work?
The new History Access Point will continue to provide a range of sources including:
- Digitised Archive Service collections including wills, parish registers and marriage bonds.
- Microfiche and microfilm records.
- The local studies collection relating to Lichfield.
Support from volunteers and local/family history groups will assist members of the public to use the resources. To consult the resources three computers, a microfilm / fiche reader and some tables will be available.
A digital touch table to display digitised sources will be available. These sources will include tithe maps for Staffordshire and form part of the Staffordshire History Centre project activity programme. It is planned that county wide events and exhibitions will also be delivered as part of the project with the History Access Point a key venue to deliver events in Lichfield.
The relocation to St. Mary’s is a real opportunity to get more people interested in their local and family history, and help strengthen the number of tourists exploring Lichfield’s past.
Q. What are the next steps?
Having secured conditional approval for both Planning and Listed Building Consent to make the internal alterations the next steps are to appoint a building contractor and a specialist library fit-out company to carry out the work on site. We will continue to work with a design agency alongside the architect whilst the work is on site.
Q. What is happening regarding the fundraising strategy?
St Mary’s continue with their fundraising to support the remodelling of the first floor.
Q. When will work start and will St. Mary’s close?
Work is expected to start in mid-2017. The library will move to St. Mary’s in the Market Square in 2018. St. Mary's has now closed to the public and the Tourist Information Centre is temporarily located at The Friary.
Q. How can I keep up to date?
The most up to date information about the relocation can be found on this page as it's updated.
To receive Staffordshire libraries news and updates straight to your inbox sign up to our Libraries Updates email bulletin.
Information about the Staffordshire History Centre project can be found in our Archives section.