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New vision for Cheshire’s archives reaches key milestone

Plans to build a new state-of-the art history centre in Crewe town centre to co-host the region’s archives have been approved – along with a scheme to transform the public space around it.

Cheshire Archives and Local Studies – a shared service of Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester Councils – looks after the county’s unique and irreplaceable written and pictorial history and is driving forward a project to rehouse the collections in two new bespoke history centres.

Today, plans for a completely new history centre in Crewe – on the site of the town’s former library, next to Memorial Square – were given the go ahead, along with a separate application to transform the civic and cultural space between the Lifestyle Centre and Memorial Square, which will include a new two-storey entrance to the Magistrates’ Courts.

It means that work to clear the site of the former library is now currently expected to begin in summer.

Earlier this month, Cheshire West and Chester Council also received planning approval for a history centre in Hoole, Chester.

The centres will replace the archive service’s current facility.

Together, the two new centres will provide a suitable and long-term home for the archives and open up the collections to a whole new audience across Cheshire – for information, learning and enjoyment. 

Councillor Jill Rhodes, lead for archives at Cheshire East Council, said: “This is fantastic news, and we are now a significant step closer to being able to better protect and share Cheshire’s historic records.

“I look forward to seeing physical works on these centres beginning, and to local people being able to share their personal and communities’ histories by accessing the archives in a way they have never been able to previously.”

The history centres are both expected to be completed in early 2025.

They will have climate-controlled environments and include large event and gallery spaces to host performances, workshops and exhibitions, more spaces for people to carry out research, and better spaces for staff and volunteers to work with the collections to make them more accessible.

The delivery of the centres is supported by a grant of £4.45m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has been made possible through money raised by National Lottery players. The grant will also support a Cheshire-wide outreach programme.

Helen Featherstone, director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we are delighted to be supporting this project that will ensure the archive and collections are preserved for years to come, meaning that local communities and visitors can learn more about Cheshire’s rich heritage. 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the project as it takes shape and excited to see its contribution to the wider placemaking plans in Crewe.”

In Crewe, as well as the new history centre, the plans approved today will see the delivery of the first part of a new and attractive pedestrian link through the cultural and civic quarter of the town centre.

New planting, lighting, and seating will revamp the area and provide a new high-quality space for the public to enjoy.

The project includes clearing the site of the former library and the structure over the existing Civic Centre car park, which would then give the clear site needed for the new history centre.

There will also be a new car park and a new two-storey entrance to the Magistrates’ Courts.

The project is part of a package of projects being progressed following Cheshire East Council’s successful £14.1m bid to the government’s Future High Streets Fund and is also supported through Crewe’s allocation of up to £22.9m from the government’s Towns Fund.

Councillor Nick Mannion, chair of Cheshire East Council’s economy and growth committee, said: “This project will extend the current public space around Memorial Square and improve links to the south of the town centre – linking up with proposed schemes to improve pedestrian and cycle routes between the town centre and railway station. 

“Along with the history centre, the project will also take us a significant step towards completing our vision for the civic and cultural quarter of Crewe town centre, which includes the Lyceum Theatre and Market Hall, as well as the Ly2 scheme – work on which began in January and will see Lyceum Square transformed into an exciting events and performance space.”

Completion of a second and final phase of public realm works next to the planned history centre, which is also supported by the government’s Towns Fund, is planned to be delivered following construction of the centre.

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