Protecting Worcestershire's Unique Library
Hart, Linda, Contemporary Review
WORCESTERSHIRE has very few castles. An outstanding example is Hartlebury Castle, a Grade I listed building ten miles north of Worcester. It stands on high ground with views to the Abberley Hills, and has been a principal residence of the Bishops of Worcester for the past eight hundred years. For well over two hundred years it has also been home to an internationally important library, where books that once belonged to Alexander Pope and King George III sit on the original eighteenth-century bookshelves. This is the Hurd Library, built in 1782 as an extension to Hartlebury Castle by Bishop Richard Hurd (1720-1808) when he was resident there.
Hartlebury Castle and the Hurd Library are now facing an uncertain future. The Church Commissioners find the Castle surplus to their requirements. After years of rumours that the estate might be put up for sale to the highest bidder, the last Bishop to live at the Castle moved out on his retirement in September 2007; his successor lives near the Cathedral in Worcester. Two months later the Friends of Hartlebury Castle and the Hurd Library held a very well-attended inaugural meeting in the Castle's medieval great hall. Local residents feared the worst, especially as the Church Commissioners, who administer the property of the Church of England, were considering the sale of other historic properties. Maintaining large episcopal residences is too great a drain on Church finances and this style of living no longer suits modern bishops.
The co-founder and secretary of the Friends, Virginia Wagstaff, recently showed me around the Castle's great hall (with its magnificent arch-braced roof), the rococo saloon (whose papier-mache decorations adorn the walls), and the Gothic Revival chapel (with fan vaulting). She explained that the Friends were formed initially because of their concerns about the magnificent Library and also 'because so many Worcestershire residents …
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Publication information: Article title: Protecting Worcestershire's Unique Library. Contributors: Hart, Linda - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 293. Issue: 1701 Publication date: June 2011. Page number: 227+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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