Wimborne’s Minster dates from around 1120 but a Benedictine Monastery occupied the site from before 705 when St Cuthberga, sister of King Ina,
King of the West Saxons founded the order there.
The Minster is home to the second largest Chained Library in England and one of the first to be set up. At a time when printing was in its infancy following Gutenberg’s developing of the printing press between 1440 and 1450 books were the preserve of the wealthy and the educated. Only as printed books became more accessible were those who could read and have access to expensive books able to extend their knowledge - but then generally only by those able to afford and own them. As with modern lending libraries books don’t need to be owned to be appreciated and if wealthy benefactors set up libraries such as the one at Wimborne - then knowledge
became more accessible to others.
Wimborne’s library was started in 1686 by the Reverend William Stone [now you know why Stone Lane got its name … ] who in the unsettled and troubled times of the medieval ages had seen many book burned by authorities who perhaps held different views on religion, on science, philosophy and the world; topics often covered in books of the time. In donating these, he felt
it would ensure their survival.
Once the library had started, a wealthy attorney Roger Gillingham [see the stone above the doorway at Pamphill First School] contributed a further ninety books - in 1695 -but rather than the Greek, Latin and Hebrew religious texts that Stone had given - these were covering a much wider range of subjects such as medicine, law and gardening. Gillingham wanted the books accessible and to be freely viewed - but as he said … providing they were viewed by
‘shopkeepers or the better class of person’!
He also asked that they be chained, to prevent theft and to preserve the information in the volumes. The chains are attached to the cover of the books to avoid excessive wear on the binding and spine and so when stored on the shelves the spine faces away from the reader. This prevented unnecessary tangling of the chains and reduced wear against the binding.
The only other Chained Libraries in England are at Hereford Cathedral (1611) and at
Wells Cathedral - a library there was opened in 1450.
There are just five in the world that have the original books and furniture.