Cheshire's archives: a story shared

16 March 2022

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet is supporting the submission of a second stage application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) for the delivery of ‘Cheshire’s archives: a story shared’ project.

The Archives and Local Studies Service is a shared service with Cheshire East Council, currently based at the Cheshire Record Office in Duke Street, Chester.

The requirement to relocate the Archives and Local Studies Service has been recognised by both authorities. The new service will see two new history centres being established in Chester and Crewe, alongside improved service delivery in libraries, extended online services and a more extensive activity and event programme.

In September 2017, Cabinet agreed to allocate the site of the former Enterprise Centre on Lightfoot Street, Hoole, Chester as the site of one of two proposed new history centres.

The submission later this year will follow the completion of planned consultations, further design work and business/cost plans to the NLHF based on a grant application of £4.455m. The Council has set aside funding for the delivery phase of £10 million in its 2022-2026 capital programme, this is being matched by the same amount from Cheshire East Council. The total project cost is estimated to be £26.459 million.

The project has been piloting new digital activities and tools for engaging more people, and a more diverse range of people, with archives. The Archives team have developed online exhibitions for LGBT History Month and Black History Month, live. Web-based training for community history groups. An online training programme for library staff to help them develop their knowledge about the local history collections in their libraries and to support people who visit libraries to research family and local history.

Over the last 12 months the Archives service has been speaking to hundreds of people across Cheshire to gather their views about the proposed new service, through online surveys, workshops and at in person events. These events have included a day at Chester Market to celebrate Browns of Chester, in partnership with West Cheshire Museums and the University of Chester.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said:

“Chester has hosted the archive services for over seventy years, but our current location is no longer able to meet the expectation and requirements of the many people who access this service.

“The exciting plans aim to transform access to the collections and ensure their preservation for future generations.

“A central theme of the project is to make sure the new service is built around the needs of its target audiences. An Equality Impact Assessment will be carried out, to avoid any negative impact on particular groups or communities. We are already talking with groups including the Corporate Disability Access Forum which will continue through the project.”

Cheshire East Councillor, Jill Rhodes, chair of the Shared Services Committee, said:

“Having a new archives site in Crewe will be a fabulous addition to the area and support our town centre regeneration.

“We have already been awarded the development phase grant, though this is not a guarantee that a delivery phase grant application will be successful as the national grant programmes are very competitive.

“However, the project team are continuing to engage with the National Lottery Heritage Fund closely and follow their advice as the project develops. We are taking on board their recommendations and are looking forward to a successful bid for this important shared project, which includes two new history centres in Crewe and Chester.”

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