Bristol Central Library And Blaise Castle Closure Plans Shelved

by Roz Tappenden | 03 February 2006
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colour photograph of a manor house with children on bicycles in the foreground

Blaise Castle House Museum houses most of Bristol's social history collections. Courtesy Bristol City Council.

Proposals to relocate Bristol’s Central Library and close Blaise Castle House Museum have been shelved pending a council review of cultural services in the city.

A plan to relocate the library came after fears were raised about the cost of maintaining the current listed building on Deanery Road. Council cultural and leisure service managers warned that heating, lighting and maintenance costs were eating up funds that could be used to fund the wider library network.

It was initially thought that a move to a new building would release around £150,000 a year and eventually free-up £300,000 a year for reinvestment in new neighbourhood cultural centres and library services.

The proposals will now be removed from the council’s three year financial plan, due to be considered on Monday, February 6 2006, following concerns from staff, library users and other councillors.

a sketch of Bristol Central Library showing a tall building with a smaller round tower on its right side

Bristol Central Library was opened in 1906. Courtesy Bristol City Council.

A proposal to close Blaise Castle House Museum has also been scrapped. Closure of the 18th century manor house museum was hoped to save a further £130,000 to support other museum and leisure services.

Councillor Anne White, who is responsible for the management of the council’s buildings and assets, said: “Clearly we have to consider the best way to free up resources to invest in and improve our libraries and develop our museums.”

“These facilities have suffered from decades of under-funding and we are determined that over time such services will be brought up to date to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

In 1613, Bristol’s library was the second public library to be established in the country. The current building, opened in 1906, cost £30,000 and was designed by Charles Holden.

Blaise Castle House is also an important Bristol landmark. The Blaise Estate, just north of the city, was described by Jane Austen in her book, Northanger Abbey, as “the finest place in England”.

aerial photo of Blaise Estate showing a large manor house at the centre of a green park surrounded by trees

Blaise Castle House was built for John Harford in 1798. Courtesy Bristol City Council.

The house was built in 1798 for John Harford, a prominent Bristol merchant and banker. Today it houses most of Bristol’s social history collection of more than 30,000 objects including a major costume collection, picture gallery and toy displays.

Blaise Castle House Museum was originally set to close in three years with the relocation of the library planned for 2008. The city’s councillors have since listened to public concerns after the plan was announced.

“If the library service is to meet public expectations and government standards, then more investment is needed,” said Cllr White. “However, further work has to be done to establish the needs of the city’s communities and this requires a full and proper public discussion before any plan is adopted.”

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