Historic city landmark explored as potential home for ‘British Library North’

Leeds City Council has revealed the Grade I listed Temple Works building is being explored as a potential home for British Library North.

It follows the Chancellor’s Budget announcement of £25m worth of Government funding to support basing this in Leeds.

The funding has been made available as part of the West Yorkshire devolution deal announced by the Chancellor. The potential facility would complement the British Library’s existing home at Boston Spa itself the subject of a major funding boost in the Budget.

In advance of the funding being agreed, Leeds City Council has been collaborating with the British Library and the CEG Group, who own Temple Works, on exploring the feasibility of what is one of the country’s most important listed buildings being a home for the prospective development.

Leeds City Council leader, Councillor Judith Blake, said: “This is an important and very welcome acknowledgement of our collaborative efforts to achieve national recognition of the significance of Temple Works to Leeds, the North and indeed the country.

“Its historic and modern relevance as one of the main birthplaces of the industrial revolution and an incredibly important Grade I listed building is incalculable.

“While this is just the beginning of a long process of guaranteeing this amazing cultural landmark’s future it is very good news that the Government has endorsed our initial exploratory discussions with the British Library.

“We’re proud to host what is already a significant iconic national cultural asset here in Leeds in Boston Spa and this would further consolidate the British Library as a major Northern base of a national institution and create much greater community access to their rich archive.

“To have the British Library at Temple Works would be a wonderful addition to the ever-growing and flourishing South Bank area of the city and a great boost for the community of Holbeck. Its proximity to both the existing rail station and the planned HS2 station would also open it up to the rest of the country and bring many more visitors to our city.”

CEG says it is making continued significant progress to preserve and enhance Temple Works.

The property, built in an ancient Egyptian style by Leeds industrialist John Marshall between 1836 and 1840, was acquired by CEG in 2018 and forms part of the company’s £350m Temple scheme.

For the past 12 months, CEG has undertaken an “exploration stage”, which has seen it work with partners to look at ways the building can be made more secure.

Responding to its possible use as a base for the British Library, David Hodgson, head of strategic development at CEG, said: “This is great news for Leeds. This ongoing engagement with Temple Works has been made possible through CEG gaining a detailed understanding of the building over the past two years and we look forward to further collaborative working with the council and the British Library as we continue exploring the iconic building’s future potential.

“We can then build on the engagement and consultation activities we have already started with the local community and other stakeholders to ensure the proposals are truly inclusive for all.”

Working with Leeds City Council, Historic England and other consultees, CEG has been investing in building management and operational health and safety activities with the aim of stabilising the building.

A remote monitoring regime has been put in place until safe access to the building can be secured. These include drone surveying, high resolution permanent video cameras, 3D scanning and modelling.

Arup and Adept Consulting Engineers and Faithful & Gould have been retained to undertake the work as part of a wider technical and professional team.

Temple Works has been in a long-term state of advanced decline for decades. It suffered a structural collapse in 2008 and the façade, as well as about 20% of the main roof, is now being supported by scaffold.