The Leeds Library has received a grant of £249,500 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in support of its Next Chapter Project. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the ambitious plan will secure the future of the city’s oldest cultural institution and create a new home for heritage and learning in the heart of Leeds city centre.

The project began in early 2022 with the purchase of premises next door to the historic library on Commercial Street, and its aims are to make the library accessible, unite its collection of books and archive under one roof, and increase engagement with the history of the library and the wider city. The grant makes possible a range of activities, including appointing a Learning Engagement Officer, a school engagement programme, an event space including PA system, staging, and streaming equipment, and open day Sundays, featuring workshops, talks, tours, and exhibitions.

Founded in 1768 by Joseph Priestley – the discoverer of oxygen – the Leeds Library is the oldest of its kind in the UK, and has been based at its Grade II* listed home since 1808. Its collection now stands at over 140,000 books. An independent members’ subscription library, it became a registered charity in 2008 and now has more members than ever in its history.

Chair of Trustees of the Leeds Library, Paul Ellis, said: “We’re delighted to receive support from the Heritage Fund. Their generous backing will make our beautiful library fully accessible for the first time in its history, and help more people than ever before engage with the story of the library and our city. With our ever-growing collection under one roof, it will help us secure the future of a much-loved institution, and enrich and inspire another generation of readers, writers, students and creatives.”

Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “It is fantastic news, that thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to support ‘The Next Chapter,’ for the Leeds Library which is one of the city’s most treasured heritage buildings. This exciting project will ensure that their important and vast collections are preserved for years to come while giving opportunity to more local people to explore and enjoy them.”

Events at The Leeds Library