The new year will see the start of a new era at Midhurst’s historic library, which has been taken under the wing of Midhurst Town Council in one of its most ambitious projects.
The council moved its offices from Capron House to the Old Library in Knockhundred Row four years ago after town councillors took the ambitious decision to rent the building with a view to buying it outright from West Sussex County Council as its permanent home and to provide much needed new community facilities there.
The sale finally went ahead at the start of December after protracted negotiations and the town council has now moved its offices temporarily to Rosemary’s Parlour while the restoration work is carried out.
“The work is now well underway as our plans to give the building a new lease of life as an office and community space kick-start,” said vice chairman of the town council Gordon McAra, who has led the Old Library project along with fellow town councillor John Quilter, who headed the sale negotiations with the county council.
“After the long, drawn out process of buying the building, which has now been concluded, it is good to get going with the renovation work. We have already cleaned up and protected the outside of this iconic grade 2 listed building and are now working on the interior arrangements. We are adding new toilets, including disabled facilities, and a small kitchen but more importantly, we are opening out the Tudor interior, removing the internal clutter, including the former vestibule at the entrance, improving the lighting so we can see the spectacular ceiling and repainting the interior in eco-friendly clay paint. The building is also being rewired and more efficient heating will also be installed.
“We anticipate it will be ready in April in time for the town’s annual meeting and it will be open to residents and visitors to have a look around.
“Part of the money to pay for the work has come from the town council’s annual precept and as we reach the end of the project, we have been able to reduce the precept next year by 25 per cent.”