Crewe History Centre

Cheshire East Council is advancing plans for Crewe to be the location of one of two new state-of-the art history centres to co-host Cheshire’s archives.

Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, a shared service of Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council, needs a new home as its current one in Duke Street, Chester, is no longer fit for purpose.

Plans have been developed to rehouse the archive in two new bespoke history centres – a completely new history centre built in Crewe, which is proposed for the site of the town’s former library in Memorial Square, and a new centre in Hoole, Chester.

The project, called ‘Cheshire’s archives: a story shared’, will bring the collections closer to people and provide more opportunities for them to interact with them more easily – helping them to celebrate their personal and communities’ histories.

The centres will be climate-controlled and create improved spaces for staff and volunteers to work with the collections, as well as provide more spaces for research, performances, and exhibitions, and act as a base for activities which will take archives to a wider audience across the county.

The centre in Crewe will help the town to celebrate its heritage, while also supporting the town’s ongoing regeneration and the aims of the Crewe Cultural Strategy.

This would include:

  • a large gallery space to host cultural exhibitions of regional and national interest, workshops and talks
  • railway archives for Crewe and the local region and archives relating to the development of the town over the past 180 years
  • access to film and sound archives
  • local newspapers and photographs
  • supervised access to archive materials not on display
  • a potential home for the Family History Society of Cheshire, with access to its genealogical resources and expertise

Funding

The scheme, if approved, would be funded by each local authority, alongside funding from successful bids to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, made possible through money raised by National Lottery players.

The Heritage Fund awarded the project a grant of £544,000 in 2019 to help fund the development of plans for the new centres in more detail. 

In November 2022, the Heritage Fund awarded a grant of £4.45m to contribute towards the delivery of the two proposed history centres.

Crewe civic and cultural space regeneration

The council has submitted plans to transform an area between the Lifestyle Centre and Memorial Square, in Crewe, and create a high-quality and attractive setting for Crewe’s proposed new history centre.

The project would see the delivery of the first phase of a public realm scheme, which would include new planting, lighting, and seating, as well as the clearance of the site of Crewe’s former library and the structure over the existing Civic Centre car park, which would then give the clear site needed for the proposed new history centre building.

The plans include a new car park and a new two-storey entrance to the Magistrates’ Courts.

The project is part of a package of projects being progressed following Cheshire East Council’s successful £14.1m bid to the government’s Future High Streets Fund and is also supported through Crewe’s allocation of up to £22.9m from the government’s Towns Fund.

History centre public space project

This project, which is led by the council and supported by Crewe’s allocation of up to £22.9m from the government’s Towns Fund, would see a further phase of works to create new public space around the proposed history centre in Crewe.

High-quality paving and planting areas, activity space, new seating and bike racks and public art are proposed.

There are also plans to deliver a joint project between Cheshire College – South and West and world leading ice cream van manufacturers Whitby Morrison.

It would see the refurbishment of an ice cream van, which would then be run by students as a standalone enterprise. The ice cream van would be in use across the town, while having an allocated area in the public space around the history centre.

The project, alongside the first phase of public realm works, will provide a high quality new focal point for the town centre and enhance the link between the Market Hall, Memorial Square, Lifestyle Centre and the proposed Southern Gateway that together will better connect Mill St with the town centre.

  Northern Powerhouse Logo and HM Gov v2

Planning

Planning applications for the history centre in Crewe and the civic and cultural space regeneration project were submitted in November 2022.

The plans can be viewed on our website by searching for application reference numbers 22/4451N (history centre) and 22/4472N.

The last date for commenting on both applications is 21 December 2022. A decision on application 22/4472N is expected to be made by the Local Planning Authority in January, and a decision on application 22/4451N is expected to be made in February 2023.

The history centre is a future home for Cheshire’s unique and irreplaceable archives, which record the development of county and its communities from the Middle Ages to the present day. It will keep the archives safe for future generations, as well as making them – and the stories they tell – accessible in all sorts of different ways. The history centre will give people opportunities to explore their past, through research, talking to expert staff and volunteers, exhibitions and events. It will also act as a base for the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies service and its staff team, which Cheshire East Council shares with Cheshire West and Chester council. An equivalent centre is proposed for Chester. These two centres will replace the Cheshire Record Office, in Chester.

Subject to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and planning permission, we are currently expecting the centre to be open in 2025.

The design of the Crewe History Centre aims to help set this new building on a pathway to net zero carbon. To accomplish this, a design approach that follows the UK Green Building Council framework has been adopted from the early stages of the project.

With this approach, the carbon dioxide associated with the building’s operation will be minimised by applying the following:

  • Incorporate passive measures
  • Design energy efficient mechanical and electrical systems
  • Use an electric-only heating system.
  • Incorporate on or off-site renewable technologies

The energy performance of the Crewe History Centre has been assessed following the National Calculation Methodology (NCM) compliance modelling methodology. The results show the building achieves a high EPC A rating.

The 1960s library building was purpose-built as a library, but the history centre is something very different and there are a number of reasons why the existing building is not being reused.

As well as providing new exhibition and event spaces, the history centre would store unique and irreplaceable archives, in some case dating back to the Middle Ages, which require specific conditions to make sure that they are preserved permanently.

The archives need to be stored in airtight conditions to manage the temperature and humidity levels required 24 hours a day.

The project’s architects, structural engineers and mechanical and electrical engineers have considered the requirements of the history centre in detail, with standards such as BS 4971: Conservation and Care of Archive and Library Collections guiding their work.

Some of the most important reasons why a new building is required include:

  • The required airtightness is almost impossible to achieve when converting an existing building.
  • Protecting the collections in the event of a fire and achieving sufficient ‘fire separation’ for all walls and floors adjacent to where the archives will be stored is essential according to BS4971. It would be difficult to achieve this through making changes to the current building’s walls and floors.
  • BS4971 identify that ‘Wet services’ should not run through an archive facility. Drainpipes drop down through the existing building and would be difficult to relocate, due to difficulties relating to the roof construction and the location of the drainage points below ground. It is also likely that additional drainage would be required, which could involve significant alteration works.
  • It is important that the entrance to the centre is ‘transparent’ and welcoming and therefore the proposed history centre is designed in a way which allows people to easily see into the centre so that the exhibitions are visible from the outside. It is intended that people can see others enjoying the exhibitions, talking to staff and volunteers and using the archives to find out more about their past. The existing building, podium and ramp, create a barrier which make it impossible to deliver this vision.
  • The area where the archives would be stored must be designed and constructed with enough thermal mass to maintain environmental conditions for 24 hours without any input from a mechanical plant within the building. This requirement will be difficult or even impossible to achieve.
  • To prevent uncontrolled air changes, a new storage area for the archives should be built to an air infiltration rate not exceeding two air changes per day. This requirement would be very difficult to achieve in the existing building.
  • The stable environmental conditions in terms of temperature and relative humidity are required to meet the appropriate standards for an archive centre as set out by BS 4971 would be extremely difficult to achieve.
  • There is insufficient headroom in the existing building to route the required ductwork to achieve the necessary thermal mass and air tightness.
  • When stored efficiently on mobile racking, archives are extremely heavy. It is very unlikely that the existing floors and superstructure would be able to accommodate the increased imposed load.
  • In addition, the increase in imposed floor load would also lead to an increase in foundation loads and it is quite likely that the existing foundations would be inadequate for this and would require significant works. Slab deflection criteria required to fit the mobile racking is also highly unlikely to meet the British Standard requirements in the existing building.

The history centre proposals seek to enhance the setting of Memorial Square and include contemporary seating and hardwood benches.

Further landscaping and public realm improvements are also proposed in the Crewe Civic and Cultural Space regeneration project. This project seeks to create a high-quality and attractive wider setting for the proposed history centre and would also deliver new pedestrianised public space, a replacement new two-storey main entrance to the Law Courts and a new car park.  

Yes, there are plans to deliver a programme of community events from the history centre. Further information about these will be developed over the course of the next two years.

Some events may be charged for, but the centre will be free to visit for research and to explore the different exhibitions which tell stories about Crewe’s communities, as well as explaining more about the archive collections and the ways in which the Archives Service conserves them and makes them accessible for everyone to enjoy.

Yes. We will be looking for a community-based business to run this.

A total of 35 parking spaces are proposed across the two planning applications, which is considered sufficient to accommodate peak demands associated with the archives on site, with some extra capacity available.

It is also noted that, following the opening of the new multi-storey car park – which is part of phase one of the Royal Arcade scheme and is expected to open at the end of 2023 – there will be a total of approximately 1,400 vehicle spaces available within a 500-metre walk (7 min walk) from the proposed history centre. This level of provision is considered appropriate for the scale, nature, and location of the proposed scheme.

Page last reviewed: 17 November 2022