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Historic England awards grant to save Thomas Plume’s Library in Essex

18 Feb Historic England awards grant to save Thomas Plume’s Library in Essex

Historic England has awarded a grant of £67,962 for the repair of Grade I listed Thomas Plume’s Library in Maldon, Essex.

The Plume Library is one of the oldest public libraries in England, containing over 8,000 volumes dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The library was built on the site of the former church of St Peter of which only the 15th century west tower remains following the collapse of the church nave in around 1665.

By 1699 Dr Thomas Plume (1630-1704) had built a two-storey brick and timber library building to house his collection of rare and important 16th and 17th century texts. In contrast to the church tower, Plume’s new building was domestic in character, built of red brick with stone dressings, coved cornices and slate roof. On the first floor of the library, original 17th century fittings can be seen including early 17th century panelling.

Purpose-built libraries of this period are extremely rare. The Plume Library was added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register in 2020. Urgent repairs are needed to the room that contains Plume’s collection, including replacement of the ceiling and works to the library floor, external masonry and windows. The restoration work is essential to protect Plume’s rare and remarkable books, manuscripts and paintings and to ensure future public access to this unique collection in its original setting.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director for Historic England in the East of England said: “Plume Library is one of the oldest public libraries in England, and the home to internationally important 16th and 17th century artistic works. We’re pleased to support the urgent repair work needed for this historic building so that we help to ensure that Dr Thomas Plume’s remarkable collection can fascinate future generations as it does us.”

Councillor Abdul Hafiz, Town Mayor of Maldon, added that: “The Town Council is very pleased to be working in partnership with the Thomas Plume’s Library Trustees and Historic England. This is a significant building in Maldon and many people visit our town to see this unique library.”

Plume gifted the library to the town of Maldon on his death in 1704. His bequest included a small collection of paintings which reflect his personal interests and the times through which he lived. Baptised at All Saints Church Maldon, he was educated in Chelmsford and at Christ’s College Cambridge. He became a Bachelor of Arts and a Doctor of Divinity and his ecclesiastical career culminated in the role of Archdeacon of Rochester, Kent. He held strong Royalist sympathies and was deeply committed to the Church of England. Amongst the thirteen paintings he bequeathed, prominently displayed within the library, are portraits of English monarchs and churchmen, while a Salvator Mundi painting illustrates his devotion to Jesus Christ.