Staffordshire County Council has submitted its latest bid for £3.9m National Lottery funding to create a history centre in Stafford – and is hoping to prove second time lucky in June.
A previous bid for cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund was turned down in October 2018.
But a second attempt is being made as part of the Staffordshire History Centre project and the round two funding bid was recently submitted.
A four-storey extension to the current Staffordshire Record Office in Stafford’s Eastgate Street is planned, which will incorporate the William Salt Library collection and enable the county’s archives to be brought under one roof. A dedicated exhibition space has also been proposed to display rare archives, books and museum pieces.
The county’s archive stretches back more than 1,000 years, with one of the oldest items being an Anglo-Saxon document pre-dating the Norman Conquest of 1066.
Councillor Victoria Wilson, cabinet member for communities and culture told this month’s full council meeting it was an exciting time for the county.
“We’ve tried this once before but were sadly unsuccessful. This time round I’m more confident that with the hard work of the archives team we will be able to achieve our goal and increase the storage space for the archive centre, as well as provide a super new state of the art visitors’ centre.
“We find out in June if we’ve been successful. This work will allow a higher standard of storage to comply with the archive service accreditation, maintain museum accreditation and improve public access.
“This ties in with the regeneration of the Eastgate area, which is great news for our county town. I’m really grateful for the confidence shown by the council to this project. We’re showing just how important the history of our county is to future generations.
“I had the honour to have sight of our most ancient document in Staffordshire – that was a deed written in Latin in 1014, relating to land in East Staffordshire, and it was amazing.
“Let’s cross our fingers and wait for June, when we will hear the results.”
County councillors representing the Stafford area welcomed the news the second bid had been submitted.
Councillor Carolyn Trowbridge said:
“As a trustee of William Salt Library it would be totally remiss of me not to thank everyone who has worked on this project. It is an extremely exciting project. If successful, the archive service and William Salt Library will operate in tandem to create the Staffordshire History Centre.
“This centre will have a strong room to hold our core collection of archive documents – some of which are over 1,000 years old. It will also have capacity for 55 years of expansion.
“The new building will be visually significant for Stafford, yet it is a passive building with open green space. This will create a tranquil place to sit and learn.
“On the same street the Gatehouse Theatre has already seen significant investment. I thank MP Theo Clarke for working with myself and officers at the council on this grant, which is on track to be delivered July this year.
“Lastly, and not least, £20m investment has gone into Stafford town, which will make it the best place to live, work and play. You can see there is huge investment.”
Councillor Jonathan Price said:
“I welcome the bid and any investment into our county town and Staffordshire as a whole.
“This new centre will bring together the county’s extensive archive collection in one modern centre with additional strong rooms, reading rooms, reading areas and reading labs. This will safeguard our records and our archives for the county long-term and also make sure we preserve the unique history for our future generations to be able to research or read.”
Councillor John Francis said:
“As an ex-trustee of William Salt Library for many years, this is a fantastic opportunity and it’s a brilliant thing for Staffordshire. My wife did a Master’s degree and for a lot of the work she did she went to William Salt to do most of her research.
“It’s a very important milestone and it’s brilliant that we have preserved the history we have got in Staffordshire. We’ve got many ancient landowners that contributed a lot of manuals, books and maps to this collection. It’s of national historical importance.”