Liskeard’s Victorian-era library building about to enter a new era, with refurbishment due to start in January

Posted By on 6th September 2020

By Rashleigh MacFarlane

Book lovers in Liskeard will have to wait quite a while before they are able to return to the town’s Passmore Edwards library, despite the imminent conclusion of a deal which will lead to the refurbishment and reopening of the building.

Liskeard library services are currently provided from the Cornwall Council offices at Luxstowe House.

The Passmore Edwards building is one of several in Cornwall donated to local communities by the philanthropist John Passmore Edwards in the late 19th century.

Over the years, various alterations stripped out many of the heritage features, adding partitions and sub-divisions to create a complex set of rooms, some of which are now unused.

Now a community interest company, called the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) is proposing to take over the building, having secured a £150,000 grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund.  Cornwall Council and RIO hope to complete the legal details of the transfer imminently, with work due to start in January.  County Hall hopes to building will re-open to the public, as a library, in late 2021 or 2022.

RIO has been in talks with Cornwall Council about the project since at least 2015.

Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for libraries, councillor Edwina Hannaford, said: “The transfer of a Cornwall Council building to a community interest company like RIO has been complicated and necessarily cautious.

“But we have persevered by never losing sight of the exciting opportunity this partnership offers to Liskeard, its residents, and its local economy.  Cornwall Council and RIO are solidly dedicated to the same aim - providing Liskeard with a re-invigorated library that will be the pride of the town and do justice to John Passmore Edwards’s legacy.

“It is far from ideal that it has had to weather such a long period unused, but we couldn’t embark on expensive works until the contract was agreed by both parties. Now we have agreed the last hurdles, the rest should be straightforward.”

Lindsey Hall, chief executive of RIO, said: “It has been a long and at times, frustrating journey, unfortunately now further complicated by the pandemic, but we are delighted to have reached this important milestone.

“The design team has been working hard during lockdown and we’re looking forward to restrictions lifting soon, so we can begin the practical work of giving some much needed love to a beautiful building.  Achieving this agreement is a very significant step, which will help to unlock further resources and ensure we can move ahead towards our goal of restoring the library to its rightful place in the town centre and adding much needed town centre co-working and creative facilities.”