Liverpool Central Library Picton Reading Room re-emerges as work progresses

After 12 months of painstaking restoration, the full glory of Liverpool Central Library’s historic Picton Reading Room is now emerging as work on the interior reaches its final phase.  Work on the Picton Reading Room is due to be completed in June 2012 and the construction team is now sympathetically restoring the intricate detailing to the domed ceiling and repairing all the timber bookcases.

 The work, which is being carried out by national contractor Shepherd Construction and restoration specialist William Anelay on behalf of Liverpool City Council, has involved thousands of working hours and has included matching plaster and paint as close to the originals used when building of the dome first began in 1875, and replacing gold leaf to the decorative raised panels. 

Scaffolding around the Picton Dome has also progressively been coming down since January as sections of the exterior are completed. The restoration of the walls and roof of the Picton - which was originally designed by Corporation Surveyor Cornelius Sherlock in the early 1870s and based on the rotunda of the British Museum in London - has been just as intricate. 

The dome has been re-clad in 850m² of zinc and a new glazed oculus light has been installed at the apex. To match the original materials new lath and lime plaster has been used on the external colonnades and the exquisite detailing featuring 15 liver birds within the stone masonry has been repaired.

Elsewhere, work on the Hornby Library and historic Oak Room, which will open to the public for the first time when the library re-opens next year, is in the process of being completed and the new section of building is moving on apace, with the roof due to be completed within the next few months. 

The Oak Room will house the magnificent book, Audubon's Birds of America and the Hornby Library, permanent exhibitions from the city's special collections of rare books. The beautiful Picton Hall, beneath the Picton Reading Room, originally built as a lecture theatre, will be re-opened to the public after a decade of closure and transformed into a new library for children and young people.

The £54 million project began in November 2010 and work on the whole library is due to complete at the end of this year before the library and archive re-opens in Spring 2013. 

As well as seeing the full restoration of the Grade ll listed areas of the library, the 1950’s and 1970’s libraries have been taken down and are being replaced with a new building. This will become the new Central Library with reading and information floors, public café, meeting rooms, atrium and roof terrace design features and a purpose-built climate controlled repository to provide storage for the Liverpool Record Office where 14km of archives and some of the city’s most historic treasures from the last 800 years will eventually be housed. 

As well as housing the Liverpool Record Office, children’s library and showcasing books the revamped Central Library will also include state-of-the-art IT facilities which will allow young people to download music and games with wi-fi and public access to computers throughout the building.

At its peak nearly 200 people have been working on the Library at any one time, of which around 43% are from Liverpool and Merseyside.

 Peter Millett, Shepherd Construction’s managing director for the West Division commented: "It is fantastic to see the result of so many hours of work and planning that has been put into the restoration now coming to fruition. It has been a very complex process because of the care and attention to detail needed during the restoration."