Staffordshire History Centre secures £3.96 million Lottery funding

Staffordshire County Council has hit the jackpot on its second bid for National Lottery funding to create a history centre in Stafford, scoring almost £4 million.

A previous bid for cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund was turned down in October 2018.

But on July 2, it was announced that a second application had proved successful and £3.96 million has been awarded from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Staffordshire History Centre project, which involves the county council and William Salt Library Trust.

The total project cost is £7.1 million and more than £3 million has already been raised through county council funding grants, donations from local organisations and friends and contributions from volunteers.

A four-storey extension is planned for the existing Staffordshire Record Office in Stafford’s Eastgate Street. And a modern glazed link will be created between the office and the William Salt Library to form a new entrance and permanent exhibition space to showcase the county’s collections.

Other facilities will include modern reading areas and research labs, as well as additional strong rooms to provide space for a further 55 years of collections.

A new learning programme will be created for schools, alongside courses for adult learners, and there will also be a series of touring exhibitions and projects to bring the area’s heritage to communities across the county.

Councillor Victoria Wilson, cabinet member for communities and culture, said: “We are all thrilled with the funding award, which will allow us to preserve and promote the wonderful history of our great county and people.

“We are incredibly proud of our history and amazing collections and we want to be able to share them and be able to protect them for future generations to enjoy.

"Not only will the project help to get more people interested in our history but it will also give us a brand new heritage attraction, which will support the recovery of Stafford town centre.”

Mithra Tonking, chairman of the William Salt Library Trust, added: “The trustees are delighted by the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s generous grant towards the creation of the Staffordshire History Centre.

“The project will see the development of a fascinating new town centre attraction, that will preserve and create a new future for our much loved historic building. It will also make our unique library collection better known and more widely available.”

Staffordshire History Centre will bring together three collections: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service, the County Museum and William Salt Library.

The county’s archives stretch back more than 1,000 years, including documents pre-dating the Norman Conquest of 1066. One rare item is an Anglo-Saxon charter confirming the foundation of Burton Abbey.

The museum’s archives includes a nationally-significant set of carriages and the Douglas Hayward puppet collection, while the William Salt Library features rare books and manuscripts amassed by Victorian collector William Salt.

The library building has its own history too. Dating back to the Georgian era, it served as a fine town house, doctor’s surgery and a shop before housing the collection for more than a century.

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