New Library FAQ
Q: Is the library open to the public?

A: Yes, the Lambeth Palace Library and its collection is open to the public; however, it is not a public lending library where you can take out books.

The library is primarily used by over 2000 scholars, historians, ecclesiastical students every year from across the globe. Access to the collection by a member of the public is free and there is no need to book an appointment.

The library also loans parts of its collection to museums, other parts of the Church and academic institutions. The library and its collections have also featured in a number of TV history, religious and general programmes.

Q: When is the collection open to the public?

A: Currently, the collection is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am-5pm. You can also visit on Thursdays from 10am-7:30pm. The new library will allow better access to the archives through public exhibitions and events.

Q: What types of documents are held in the collection?

A: The collection includes over 200,000 printed books and 4,600 manuscripts, much of which dates back as far as the 9th Century.

Q: What is the extent of the damage to the records?

A: At present, there is considerable wear to most of the collection which is stored in 20 rooms across the Palace. With much of these buildings dating from 1500’s through to late 1800’s, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the existing and future additions to the Collection in the correct temperature and humidity conditions, and is at (general) risk of damage or destruction by light, fire and flooding.

Q: Has the collection not been maintained properly?

A: Great efforts are being made to preserve the archives, despite the unfavourable conditions of the Palace Library. We have an on-site conservation centre staffed by five preservation specialists. Works to the documents include, but are not limited to, cleaning, repair, resewing, rebinding and box making for storage of both the books and manuscripts.

Q: Is the collection in danger of being lost entirely?

A: No – but the collection will continue to deteriorate over time putting them at risk for future generations.

Q: What effect has the collection had on the original palace buildings?

A: In order to accommodate the collection, the palace building has had its interior structure altered as the collection has expanded. The introduction of climate regulators which prevent the archives from deteriorating and storage units are out of keeping with the building’s character and have caused substantial aesthetic damage.

Q: How will the new Library building help preserve the Palace?

A: By relocating the Collection into the new library, restoration and alteration works to the Palace can be undertaken to preserve the buildings and in time make them more accessible to the public.

Q: Are there any protected animals/plants on site?

A: There are no endangered species on the site, however, we are taking every precaution possible to ensure that any flora and fauna are safeguarded and rehomed to the site following the project’s completion. The sheltering effect created by the new building, significantly reducing both air and noise pollution in the gardens, is expected to lead to a significant increase in the biodiversity of the garden following construction.

Q: How high will this new building be?

A: The single storey building rises to a well-proportioned 9-storey tower, the form acknowledging the historically defensive nature of buildings which create an entrance to the otherwise secure Palace gardens. The simple tower form enables the reduction of the building footprint to the minimum necessary for the operation of the library, and, for the first time in recent history, elevates the entire collection above the flood plain, guaranteeing its safety from any future flood risk.

Q: Why does the building need to be 9 storeys high?

A: The building has been designed so that the Collection is stored in an air-tight, temperature controlled ‘box within a box’. Not only does this allow us to house the entire collection in one secure, modern facility, it will also protect the collection from risk of flood damage. By ‘going up’ and not ‘out’ we can also minimise disturbance to the palace gardens and the archaeological sensitivity of the site in general.

Q: Who did you consult?

A: The Church Commissioners undertook a wide ranging consultation exercise including presentations to the Southbank forum and a public display over several days in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace which were visited by over 200 members of the public. As well as our immediate neighbours such as St Thomas’s Hospital and Archbishop’s Park we discussed the plans with LB Lambeth, Historic England, the GLA, TfL and other statutory consultees. 

Q: Is anything being demolished?

A: No buildings will be demolished to accommodate the library. A small section of the perimeter wall which was built in the 1960s when Lambeth Palace Road was realigned will be removed and the new building incorporated into the wall. The site has been chosen to ensure the safeguarding of the Palace and gardens.

Q: Will you be delivering any homes on or off site?

A: No – the sole purpose of this application is to build a new library which will provide a home for the collection and enable the restoration of the existing Palace buildings.

Q: With the collection being rehoused in a new library and archive centre, what will the resultant space be used for?

A: We are still looking at options for use, but it will be a priority to restore the buildings and improve public access to some of the more important and interesting rooms.

Q: Why not relocate the collection elsewhere in London i.e. to the British Library?

A: The Lambeth Palace archives have been open to the public since the early 1600s and have resided here since then. The connection between the Palace and the Library is intrinsically linked - we could not separate the two.

The library is also a cultural asset for Lambeth which we do not want to move from the Borough.

Q: Will there be events at the new public spaces?

A: The library will continue to be open to the public and events will include academic lectures, public exhibitions of the Collection and open days. The new public spaces in the building will enable us to host a much greater number of public events, details of which will be developed during the run up to the library opening in 2020.

Q: How long will construction take?

A: The build is expected to take approximately 2 years from April 2018, which includes an extended period to allow the building to dry and establish stable interior atmospheric conditions before the collection can be relocated. We therefore anticipate opening the library in the latter part of 2020.

Q: How will you minimise disruption to local residents during the construction process?

A: Working hours on site will be pre-approved after discussion with LB Lambeth. We will also abide by the ‘Considerate Constructors Scheme,’ We will also be working with TfL and other stakeholders to ensure that traffic disruptions are kept to a minimum also.

Q: The Lambeth Palace Road is already extremely busy – how will construction traffic be managed?

A: A full traffic management plan will be discussed and implemented with TfL and LB Lambeth before construction begins

Q: Will Lambeth Palace be secure/how?

A: As at present access to the Palace and gardens will be controlled to protect the security and privacy of the Archbishop and others who live and work there. The new library will make it easier for us to manage public access to the gardens and reduce pressure on the current entrance through the Tudor Morton’s Tower.

Q: Will the building dominate views from the palace and in the gardens?

A: No - The library will be nestled among the tall trees of the garden which will shield the building from the view of the palace and from most areas of the gardens.


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