In late 2019, we were awarded funding for a two-year project to open up Cosin’s Library – created by Bishop John Cosin of Durham in 1669 – to the wider public by Arts Council England under its Designation Development Fund scheme.
Located in the heart of Durham City on Palace Green (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), our library is one of the earliest public libraries in the North East that still survives today. It was owned and managed by the Bishops of Durham until the establishment of Durham University in 1832. Today, the books collected by Bishop Cosin are still housed in the library he had built for this purpose, and large parts of the 17th-century interior remain intact. In 2005, the library and collection were awarded Designated Status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives council (now Arts Council England).
Owing to extensive conservation work, the library has been closed to the public for several years, but we are almost ready to reopen. Our project, which runs until the end of March 2022, will lay the groundwork for reopening the library space by improving access to the building and its collections, creating a deeper and richer experience for local audiences, visitors to the World Heritage Site, and beyond.