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GALLERY: Art, craft and storytelling as Duchess of Cornwall opens revamped library

By Deborah Hardiman | Walsall | News | Published: | Last Updated:

A smiling Duchess of Cornwall was a given hearty Walsall welcome when she paid a visit to officially open the revamped Central Library and Archives.

The Duchess of Cornwall meeting library users young and old at the Lichfield Street Hub

Wearing a light grey check Dior coat dress she arrived at the Lichfield Street building to meet the staff and view of of the borough's historic treasures, including letters penned by Three Men in a Boat author Jerome K Jerome, nursing heroine Sister Dora and the town's charter dating to the 11th century.

Both delighted residents waiting outside to catch a glimpse of her and library users alike said they were both "surprised" but "happy"to see a senior member of the Royal Family visiting the town, amid the furore surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's decision to step back from main duties.

GALLERY: Highlights of the day

During her whistle-stop tour she chatted to Walsall Council's collection's librarian Cath Yates about the archives which have been rehomed from Essex Street to the library hub under a £4.6 million improvement project.

Ms Yates also presented her with a fresh rose bouquet featuring pink, purple and cream petals.

The duchess also spent time meeting young families in the children's area where she read an excerpt from The Gruffalo by author Julia Donaldson.

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The Duchess of Cornwall reads The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson to a Tiny Tots group

She met members of the library's new Mindfulness Colouring group and helped to colour in a giant copy of the borough's official crest telling them that her husband The Prince of Wales, was "much better at drawing" than her which drew chuckles from the group.

During her visit she unveiled a new wall plaque by untying a purple satin ribbon that was wrapped round it. The plaque will be fitted to the wall at at a later date.

She also gave a short speech in which she praised the council and the library staff for the work carried out, describing the facilities as "beautiful".

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The duchess said: "The work you have done both this library area and the archives is wonderful. As I came in I could see it was a really good space. Thank you very much for inviting me."

Ms Yates said: "It is very exciting and an honour for us to meet the duchess. She took a lot of interest in the archives and seemed very knowledgeable about them. She was very interest in our oldest document, the charter.

"Another document that she looked at was from John Leckie, who was involved in saddlery,

The Duchess of Cornwall is greeted by members of the public during the official opening of Lichfield Street Hub at the Walsall Central Library and Archives

"She was asking about how long we have had archives and I explained that some of it dated from medieval times."

Walsall’s Central Library was shut for almost a year in 2017 as part of the £4.6m improvement work and to make space for the archives and local history resources.

The visit was part of a full day's tour of the region which also saw her visit Birmingham Children's Hospital; the prestigious Elmhurst Ballet School, in Edgbaston; and while in Walsall she also called into the Royal leather goods suppliers' Launer.

Around a dozen curious passer-bys were waiting to catch a glimpse of the duchess when she arrived on Wednesday afternoon amid secrecy and security.

Among the waiting group was retired social worker Anthea Gullick, 75, of Park Hall, Walsall, who captured the arrival on her camera phone.

The Duchess of Cornwall during a visit to the Launer factory

Mrs Gullick said: "It is about time a senior Royal came to visit. The last one I can remember was when the Queen opened the New Art Gallery Walsall all those years ago. It's a pity is wasn't publicised as more people would have been here, after all the duchess is going to be queen on day.

"My grandfather Victor Murray was an artist and his work was put on exhibition here about 50 years ago. I have got very good memories and close links to the library."

Marcia Campbell, 51, a hospital worker, of Dyson Close, Bentley, said: "I am very happy that the duchess has come today. Walsall needed something like this to give it a bit of a boost. When it comes to Harry and Megan they are doing what their hearts tell them.

The Duchess of Cornwall during a visit to the factory of the high-end handbag firm Launer

"When it comes to the Royal Family as a whole I have got a lot of respect for them, but they need to listen to real people like us, with real problems, such as financial worries and life issues."

Her visit to see the renovated library and archives centre in Walsall was part of a full day’s tour of the region, which also saw her visit Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the prestigious Elmhurst Ballet School, in Edgbaston.

While in Walsall she also called into the Royal leather goods suppliers’ Launer where she was presented with her own handbag.

The Duchess of Cornwall with Felicity Dahl (left) during a visit to Birmingham Children's Hospital

Among the group waiting to see her arrive in the town was retired social worker Anthea Gullick, 75, of Park Hall, who captured the scenes on her camera phone.

Mrs Gullick said: “It is about time a senior Royal came to visit. The last one I can remember was when the Queen opened the New Art Gallery Walsall all those years ago.

"My grandfather Victor Murray was an artist and his work was put on exhibition here about 50 years ago.

The Duchess of Cornwall poses onstage with pupils during a visit to Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham

"I have got very good memories and close links to the library.”

Marcia Campbell, 51, a hospital worker, of Dyson Close, Bentley, said: “I am very happy that the duchess has come today. Walsall needed something like this to give it a bit of a boost.

“When it comes to the Royal Family as a whole I have got a lot of respect for them, but they need to listen to real people like us, with real problems, such as financial worries and life issues.”

The Duchess of Cornwall receives a pair of ballet shoes from a pupil on stage during a visit to Elmhurst Ballet School

While at Birmingham Children’s Hospital the Duchess unveiled a unique stained-glass window installation, featuring some of Roald Dahl’s most iconic characters, specially designed by the world-famous children’s illustrator Sir Quentin Blake.

The new stained-glass windows at Birmingham Children’s Hospital were created by leading glass art specialist Andrew Moor, working with Proto Glass Studios.

Deborah Hardiman

By Deborah Hardiman
@Deborahh_Star

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based out of the head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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