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Multi-million pound plans to ‘open up’ Armagh Public Library

Armagh Public Library

A multi-million pound redevelopment is being planned for Armagh Public Library, Armagh I can exclusively reveal.

And a bid is being made to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money towards the cost of the overall development.

The Public Library is badly in need of restoration work and Armagh I understands that a figure in the region of £2.5 million was set some years ago, with volunteers working to raise funding.

The Armagh Public Library – opposite St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral – is one of the oldest libraries on the island and certainly the oldest in Northern Ireland.

It was founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson, who had lived at the Palace in Armagh, in 1771, and it had been his vision to create a university in the city, with the Public Library part of his plans for that.

The Public Library already relies heavily on external funding and has been financially supported in recent years by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Pilgrim Trust, Armagh Council, the Landfill Community Fund, the Northern Ireland Museums Council – as it is also classified as a museum – and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is to the Heritage Lottery Fund that the Public Library is now looking as it sets its sights on a substantial redevelopment.

In 2012, Armagh City and District Council co-funded a feasibility study for a development and fundraising campaign for Armagh Public Library.

The Library – an independent body with charitable status – now aims to realise a significant development so it can more than double the area accessible to the public.

This would allow the display of collections, of which only a fraction can currently be accessed by the public at the present museum at No 5 Vicars’ Hill, which was the former registry, and in The Long Room.

The works would also see full disabled access.

The Library has among its many treasures works relating to St Patrick and the history of County Armagh, as well as Dean Jonathan Swift. An original copy of his world-famous Gulliver’s Travels is located at this cultural gem.

Coins, gems and other historic artefacts are also in the Library’s possession.

The historic building was designed by Thomas Cooley and is home to both the Library and the residence of the Keeper, currently Dean Gregory Dunstan.

A gallery – known as the Long Room – was added to the main public area in 1839, which was to accommodate the growing collections. It was followed nine years later by an extension on either side of the original building.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has agreed to write a letter – on the request of the Keeper – to support a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Armagh I understands that the letter has now been submitted and a decision should be known within the coming months.

Another bid for funding is also be made, it is understood, by St Patrick’s Cathedral.

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