Last of old Fleet Street at risk amid lease row

By Glynn Davis

One of the last remnants of old Fleet Street could be lost next March if agreement is not reached between the St Bride Institute and the Corporation of London over the future of the 110- year-old National Printing Library.

After taking a 25-year lease to run the 8,500 square foot library from the institute in 1991, the corporation last year served notice to terminate the arrangement that costs it £400,000 per year. This puts the future of the library at risk and could lead to its contents being split up.

Mike Jenkins, St Bride Institute chief executive, said: “They are finding it a bit of a drag and are now looking to split up the collection and possibly sell parts of it abroad. They’d move the last piece of Fleet Street away.”

Based on Bride Lane, just off Fleet Street, it contains a world-renowned collection of books, newspapers and printing-related artefacts, including presses and typefaces, dating back to the 1500s.

David Bradbury, director of libraries and Guildhall Art Gallery for the Corporation of London, denied it was looking to split up the collection and that the corporation’s preference was for it to remain in one place. “We’ve offered [the institute] a very substantial amount to enable it to keep the library in one place, but if negotiations fail then we’ll consider all the options, including [selling to] other libraries,” he said.

A source close to the negotiations revealed the current offer on the table of £1m was unacceptable to the institute, since it believed as much as £5m was needed to ensure the library’s long-term future. Jenkins said: “The corporation is backing out so it should ensure we have enough money to run the library for the rest of the 25 years of the lease.”

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