Lambeth Palace Library contains an unrivalled collection of precious books and manuscripts, documenting nearly 1000 years of ecclesiastical and cultural life of the Church and Great Britain.
This website showcases the Church Commissioners plans to build a new library at Lambeth Palace – the first purpose-built home for the collection since it opened to the public in 1610.
Designed by award winning architects Wright & Wright, the proposals will safeguard the future of the library and increase the accessibility of its world class collection.
The Church Commissioners are fully committed to engaging with the local community throughout the development of our design proposals and would encourage interested parties to get in contact with us.
We will be keep this website regularly updated with the latest information on our proposals and the application the LB Lambeth.
UPDATE (18/04/2017) - Following the decision by LB Lambeth Planning Officers to recommend that the application be approved, we are pleased to announce that the proposals for the new Lambeth Palace Library were voted 5-1 in favour of the recommendation, by LB Lambeth Planning Committee.
We would like to thank everyone who took time to engage with the proposals and supported the application.
You can download a full copy of the exhibition boards on display at our public consultation on our downloads page.
For more information on our proposals please get in contact with us at:
Lambeth Palace Library was founded in 1610 after Archbishop Bancroft bequeathed his private collection of books and manuscripts to the public. Currently housed in cramped conditions across 20 rooms within the Grade I listed Palace buildings the collection is available to the public to use.
While the Library's focus is on ecclesiastical history, its diverse collection is an anthology of British and international politics and culture, colonial and local history and genealogy. Dating back as far as the 9th Century, the Collection contain over 4,600 manuscripts and nearly 200,000 printed books.
The Church Commissioners are looking as ways to preserve and protect this precious collection, which has begun to deteriorate due to unfavourable environmental conditions within the Palace.
By re-housing it in a new purpose-built library within the Palace grounds, we can keep the Collection on the site at the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The new library
Located on the edge of the gardens so as to minimise disruption to the Palace, the new library building is intended to form a protective barrier between the busy street and the Archbishop’s garden.
We have sought to create a building that places paramount importance on the quality of materials and architecture, reflecting the grandeur and status of the library collection, which will provide space for its future growth, including modern reading room facilities, conservation studio and staff workplaces and display space.
The Archbishop’s garden is greatly valued by those who live and work on the site. With many distinct features, from formal areas and an open lawn, to wilder enclaves, the garden has evolved over centuries. During the 1980s, the then Archbishop’s wife, Rosalind Runcie began restoration works to the site after decades of neglect following extensive damage suffered during World War II bombing raids.
In order to preserve such a sensitive site, the footprint of the library building has been kept to the absolute minimum with much of it pulled back to the boundary wall. This allows us to enlarge the existing pond and to introduce new planting, particularly of mature trees which help soften the outline of the building and create a sense of peace and seclusion.
The design team for this important and prominent new public building were chosen following a highly competitive design competition which involved some of the leading architectural practices working today.
A panel of judges were delighted to award the design brief for the building to Wright & Wright Architects, who have extensive experience of designing buildings in a historic setting.
Dan Pearson Studios - Established in 1987 by Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal winning landscape designer, Dan Pearson. They have collaborated with architects on a wide range of projects to deliver public parks, civic landscapes and large rural estates.
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 are you consulting?
A: The Church Commissioners are committed to a wide ranging consultation exercise and welcome comments from everyone. As well as our immediate neighbours such as St Thomas’s Hospital and Archbishop’s Park we are discussing the plans with LB Lambeth, Historic England, the GLA, TfL and other statutory consultees. Between Thursday 8th September and Saturday 10th September, the full plans went on public display in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace and were visited by over 200 members of the public.
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, which includes an extended period to allow the building to dry and establish stable interior atmospheric conditions before the collection can be relocated.
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.
A planning application was submitted to Lambeth Council in December 2016.
On the 8th, 9th and 10th of September we hosted a public exhibition to showcase our proposals. You can find the feedback survey and a copy of the exhibition boards that were on display available for download below: