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The work to transform the former city centre church into a library and arts and culture hub will now be entered for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' national awards.

Songs of praise for revitalising former church

A landmark restoration project which delivered a new library and arts and culture hub has won a major architectural award.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) selected the St Mary’s project in the heart of Lichfield as the best building conservation in the West Midlands for 2019.

Staffordshire County Council worked with the Trustees of St Mary’s and invested £1.4m in the Grade II* listed former church building to create a library and tourist information centre on the ground floor, and a versatile venue with gallery, heritage and performance space on the first floor, along with a history access point with access to digitised archive collections.

The work also exposed the church’s 19th century columns, incorporating etched glass screens from the old library into the new layout and retained the altar, organ, choir stalls and pews at the east end in the IT study area.

Announcing the award, judges described the renewed St Mary’s as the catalyst for the revitalisation of the Market Street square and identified how its accessibility encouraged use seven days a week.

They added:

The works have allowed the internal special beauty of the church to be revealed in a sustainable use. The stained glass windows are all now visible and add to the internal experience of light and colour.”

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Libraries, said:

I am delighted by the recognition of all the expertise and high-quality work that has gone into transforming St Mary’s into a first class library and community performance venue that Lichfield, and Staffordshire, can be proud of.

New members and visits to the library have both doubled from the previous building and book loans have rocketed.

This commitment to the future allows St Mary’s Trustees to pursue other grants to develop what it can offer to the people of Lichfield and the increased footfall in the area will also support the local economy.”

Nick Sedgwick, Chair of St Mary’s Trustees, said:

The Trustees are absolutely delighted that the RICS has recognised the contribution that the project made in securing the long-term future for this magnificent Grade II* listed building in the heart of the city.

We are hugely grateful for the skills and expertise demonstrated by our consultant team and contractors to realise this vision.”

As part of its long-term investment in the future of the building Staffordshire County Council committed to a 30-year lease for its library, which includes free wi-fi and contain themed areas for children and teenagers, plus touchscreen tables, computer tablets and 3D printing facilities, as well as access to the digitised history archive.

St Mary’s Arts and Culture Hub offers a mix of theatre, music and activities for children to the growing Lichfield community. Forthcoming events include a classical concert, ‘Diphonon Duo’ on May 22nd and the critically acclaimed family show ‘Sourpuss’ on June 2nd, with more details, full programme and booking information at www.stmaryslichfield.co.uk .

St Mary’s will now be entered into the national award later this year. Judges commended Greenwoods, BHB Architects and Croft Building Conservation for the quality of their work on the project, which, since opening, has been highlighted on national BBC television and in library industry news outlets.

Staffordshire has 43 libraries across the county and this will be the fourth one to move into a new building in recent years.