National Archives hoping to launch bar and live music venue to open up ‘hidden treasures’

Sophia Sleigh
New party spot: the National Archives could becomes a bar and live music venue: Getty Images

The National Archives could serve alcohol and stage music concerts as part of moves to open its “hidden treasures” to the public.

A drinks licence is being sought by the home of some of the country’s most important documents, which include the Domesday Book.

Under the proposals, wine and beer could be served from 9am to 11pm, seven days a week, in the library’s ground-floor restaurant and balcony café in Kew. The licence would allow the screening of films and live music performances. The archives’ paper collection dates back more than 1,000 years. It includes previously top secret MI5 files, a desperate telegram from the Titanic as it started sinking and confession statements by Guy Fawkes.

Kew councillor David Linnette told the Standard: “The National Archives tends to attract people from all over the country. In the past they have really just been a research establishment. They want to become a better local neighbour. They now want to engage more and hold events, seminars and exhibits.

“I’m in favour of the National Archives becoming more flexible and open to the public this really good institution that is filled with hidden treasures.”

However, dozens of residents have raised concerns about noise and parking. One said the noise impact would be a “terrible infringement to our daily lives, our rest and our sleep”. Others said they will be “constantly battling” to find parking spaces and “suffer constant noise disturbance”.

A letter from 20 homes called for a decision to be put off so a public meeting could be held with residents.

Mr Linnette added: “If they have made one mistake — it’s not consulting local residents.”

The National Archives spokeswoman said it had never received a complaint about noise and that it had proposed 20 conditions on the licence to address noise and security.

Caroline Ottaway-Searle, director of public engagement, said the archives had no intention of holding events every night, adding: “We are always looking at new ways of making our collection more accessible to the public.

“In recent years we have been developing our events programme to reach a wider audience, with evening film screenings, family days and talks by historians and authors.”

More than 11 million paper records are held at the National Archives. It takes up to 250km of shelving to house the documents — which grows at a rate of one kilometre each year.

Richmond council’s licensing sub-committee will decide on Monday.