Kent History and Library Centre



Aims and objectives

The main driver for this project was to consolidate the County Archives from three separate centres into one central location. Furthermore, the existing Archive facilities at the Centre for Kentish Studies in County Hall were no longer fit for purpose and were in real need of modernisation.


The new Kent History and Library Centre contributes directly to the aims of the Cultural Strategy for Kent 2010-2015 which are:

  1. .


The Cultural Strategy encourages Kent to work towards becoming a


The story


A further feasibility study turned its attention to a project on a more manageable and fundable scale. This looked at sites around Kent for a History Centre development and also to sources of appropriate funding. The site selected was the Kent County Council-owned land on the corner of James Whatman Way and the A229 in Maidstone. Following a failed HLF bid, a revised proposal for the Kent History and Library Centre (KHLC) was put forward and a funding package was devised using the income generated from the sale of the County Central Library.


A full brief was prepared by archives expert Kevin Presland from Atkins Consulting, who had previously worked on the design of other modern archives centres. The main concept of his design was the seamless direction of travel through open areas (library) through semi-secure areas (community history) to the secure core of the building (search room and repositories).


The specification was put out to tender in Estates Gazette and a consortium of Bouygues UK, Astudio architects and West Kent Housing Association were appointed in December 2008 on the basis of the most financially viable and comprehensive proposal. The panel was impressed by the design of the building and the understanding of the space required for integrated library and archives services, plus the necessary standards for archive security, storage and display.



The duration of this project was around five years in total. Key milestones were as follows:

  • December 2008: design team appointed
  • December 2009: developer Agreement signed
  • February 2010: ground breaking ceremony to start works
  • April 2012: the new building opened to the public
  • December 2012:. official launch by HRH The Duke of Kent


Services offered

The Kent History and Library Centre provides a new state-of-the art centre for integrated service provision including:

  • Kent Archives including public search room, conservation studio, and strong rooms to house 14 kilometres of archives and records dating back to 699 A.D.
  • Maidstone public library including  40,000 books, CDs, DVDs (including Talking Books), author events, Book Groups and other activities (Baby Rhyme Time/Talk Time), community activities, 25 computers with free internet access, Microsoft Office, Ability net and IT assistance, Local and Family History resources (including maps, photographs, books, online resources), self-service book issue and return,  photocopier, print magnifier and volunteering opportunities.
  • Ask a Kent Librarian on-line public information and enquiry service 
  • Registration of births and deaths
  • Blue Badges
  • Volunteering opportunities to support Library, Registration and Archive services
  • Headquarters for Kent County Council Libraries Registration and Archives service including support teams.  This is based on an open plan mezzanine with 2 meeting rooms and break out spaces.  A whole new way of working including hot-desking was introduced and is proving very effective in reducing the need for meetings, e-mails etc.  It has also enabled significant reduction in paperwork and hard copy files as staff have limited storage space.


The future for the Centre


Growth pressures, the cultural agenda and its priorities

West Kent Housing Association has provided 57 affordable homes as part of a programme of 600 affordable homes they are currently building across Kent.  Housing 21 has provided sheltered accommodation for older people.   The new accommodation is adjacent to the History and Library Centre and well connected to other local facilities and transport.




: we want to secure and grow our creative offer; grow a position which will stand out nationally by increasing the number of creative industries in the county; develop the right infrastructure to equip a Kent workforce to enter the sector; and support our existing creative industries so that we will be regarded as a creative region.


enjoying open space, engaging in creative activity, discovering the local history of an area, contributing to the maintenance and improvement of your physical surroundings are all cultural pursuits which benefit individual physical and mental health and wellbeing.




Business/operational model


Working arrangement amongst stakeholders


Planning and delivery



No significant difficulties were experienced in planning or delivering the Kent History and Library Centre as there was universal support for the project. In terms of planning obligations, section 106 highway work has included a new shared surface outside the History and Library centre, highway lighting improvements, and linking the site to the Millennium Walk by the river Medway which is adjacent. There are also a number of innovative public art features in place for the new centre, funded by S106 monies.


Financing and funding arrangement


Success factors and outcomes

         to help the Kent economy grow

         to put the citizen in control

         to tackle disadvantage

Without the innovative partnership with Housing 21 and West Kent Housing it would not have been possible to achieve the ambition for the new Centre. This partnership has had the added benefit of bringing new and disadvantaged audiences, including older people, into the centre and the opportunity for joint events.



The TNA inspected the centre in the autumn 2012 and reported that they were stFollowing this, the Centre was formally opened by the Duke of Kent in December 2012 and has attracted media attention from Meridian and BBC South East TV.





Risk factors

Political support, strategic leadership and excellent management throughout the life of the project meant that any risks were mitigated and avoided.


Measurement and Monitoring

A range of performance indicators are used for measuring success, including:

  • Visits to the building
  • Visits to archive search room
  • Book issues
  • Computer use
  • Births and deaths registered
  • No of events and activities
  • Volunteer hours


Customer feedback is monitored - some examples of positive feedback include:


Lord. The new library in Maidstone is beautiful. Absolutely amazing

Very impressive indeed. Service at reception desk outside & inside archive centre, & from the archivist, was prompt, efficient, courteous & helpful - particularly accommodating as I attended with three of my students from the Kent Law School in the University of Kent. Thank you

You cannot improve on perfection. Many thanks to all

Registered death of grandmother - both my mother and I were greatly impressed by the highly professional and considerate manner of the registrar. She was diligent and prompt in attending to the task at hand while being very generous spirited and sympathetic


Extremely helpful and efficient service. A well organised centre


Thank you for the tour, having now seen it in action and seen how some of the ideas are supposed to work I am warming to it rapidly. It was surreal walking out of an archive and into a library but it felt very positive


Loved light and airy library & spaced shelves, plenty of computers, good newspaper area


Thank you for making us so welcome on our recent visit. Everyone really enjoyed the day, found many interesting things to research. We were fortunate to be taken 'behind the scenes'  see how  documents/ registers are kept and the  special conservation area. I could not believe I was looking at a paper bearing the signature 'Oliver Cromwell'


From a group visit of 7 mental health carers:




Contact Details for Further Information

Gill Bromley, Service Improvement Manager:  Community Cohesion and Heritage

[email protected], 01622 605202