Shropshire Star

Amazing photographs show behind the scenes of massive Shrewsbury Library renovation project 40 years on

Shrewsbury Library is celebrating 40 years since the Grade I listed building was reopened by royalty following an extensive restoration project.


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It's been 40 years since HRH The Princess Margaret reopened Shrewsbury Library following nine years of extensive restoration and development.

The buildings on Castle Gates were originally constructed for Shrewsbury School. The timber-framed building, now at the rear of the site, was part of the original school which was founded by Royal Charter by King Edward VI in 1552.

Additional stone buildings were added later, including a chapel, dormitories, library and classrooms. The school later relocated in 1882 and the buildings became the borough library and museum.

After being taken over by Shropshire County Council, investigations began into the state of the historic site. The buildings were found to be in very poor condition and the library moved to a temporary home in Raven Meadows in 1976 so that work could begin.

Designs and drawings were developed by the County Architects between 1978 and 1980 and plans were drawn up to fully integrate the existing buildings with a new, modern link block.

Scaffolding on the south wing and staircase tower. Photo: Shropshire Libraries

Costing over £3m - £12m in today's money - the renovation work was partly funded by a Historic Buildings Council grant and was one of the most expensive building projects ever undertaken by the council.

Inside the building during renovations. Photo: Shropshire Libraries

Building work began in the early 80s and included removal of all rotten timber, construction of concrete walls and supporting beams, demolition of unwanted structures and replacement of the roofs.

Rigg's Hall, reconstruction. Photo: Shropshire Libraries

The Georgian wing was beyond repair and was demolished while the oldest part - Rigg’s Hall - was stripped back to its original timber frame and rebuilt. Traditional materials such as oak and lead were used extensively and highly skilled carpenters, technicians and craftsmen worked to bring the buildings back to life.

Arrival of Princess Margaret to Open the Library in 1984. Photo: Shropshire Libraries

The library was officially reopened by HRH The Princess Margaret on May 18, 1984, and the restoration work was awarded a Civic Trust award the same year in recognition of its quality.

Princess Margaret receiving flowers at the opening in 1984. Photo: Shropshire Libraries

A special display marking the anniversary will soon be going up in the foyer of Shrewsbury Library.

Visitors also have the chance to go behind the scenes of the historic building on a series of tours that are being held at the library.

The tours will take place from 10am to 11am on May 25, June 29, July 27 and August 31. Tickets cost £5 and include tea and cake in the Hobbs Room afterwards. Booking is essential and can be done by popping into the library, or by phoning 01743 255308.