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Restoration plan for Wycombe's former library


Design work is being finalised on plans by Buckinghamshire County Council to renovate its former 1930s library in High Wycombe.

The plan is to convert the two-storey building in Queen Victoria Road to modern offices but in a sensitive and creative way which retains its period features.

This will ensure that it continues to blend with its contemporaries, the neighbouring police station, district council offices, and former post office.

Remodelling that retains the former library's historic features will involve restoring and replicating neo-Georgian timber and glazed screens, and restoration of art-deco glazing insets in the ceiling.

Restoration will also include the terrazzo floored reception, and removal of a first floor corridor wall to reinstate the original balcony overlooking the reception. 

Along with roof refurbishment, restoring original timber sash windows, replacing the electrical and heating systems, and upgrading the toilets, a lift will be installed making the building more accessible.

John Chilver, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: "This is an impressive, attractive and important heritage building in a conservation area, and as a responsible custodian of such buildings we want to restore and protect it. 

"We'd like to bring it back into contemporary use, which I believe will be good for the vitality of the town centre, and continue to make a great contribution to the High Wycombe townscape."

A planning application to change the use of the building to offices, along with the part demolition of a single storey rear extension, will be considered by Wycombe District Council next month (March). Work could start in the summer.

Library services transferred to the new, larger library in the Eden shopping centre nine years ago, since when Buckinghamshire County Council has been seeking an alternative use for the 1930s building, but has been limited by a covenant restricting its use to library or educational. After a long legal process, this covenant has now been removed.

High Wycombe has had a public library since the early 1870s when philanthropist James Oliff Griffits paid for the first one to be opened in the old Church Street school "to give the poor the opportunity to further their education".  

It was 60 years later that the new public library in Queen Victoria Road was built, along with the nearby council offices, post office and police station.


IN THE PICTURE:  A 1930s view of the opening of High Wycombe Library in Queen Victoria Road

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