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Volunteers help clear Lichfield Cathedral library ahead of roof repair work

A small band of volunteers have completed a 400-hour operation to empty Lichfield Cathedral’s library ahead of repair works to the roof.

Volunteers packing up books in Lichfield Cathedral's library

Volunteers packing up books in Lichfield Cathedral’s library

Eighteen people helped to transfer the historic collection of more than 8,000 books, maps, manuscripts and religious scriptures.

Michael Diamond, Lay Member of Chapter, said: “The library move was a very delicate operation, but all those who took part were well aware of the historical and cultural importance of all the items involved.

“Everything required recording and putting into order, so the job was incredibly time-consuming and we’re so relieved now that the task is complete and we can begin the urgent works to the roof.

“The repairs have been funded by major grants from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund and the Headley Trust, with many other generous donations from individual donors and grant-making foundations.”

Built in 1249, the library is believed to have originally been used as a treasury to store the cathedral’s plate and manuscript collections.

During the Civil War, it was looted and stripped of all its books and fittings, but a new library was constructed in 1673 for the reception of the Duchess of Somerset’s bequest. This building was demolished in 1758 and the cathedral library has occupied the top floor of the Chapter House ever since.

The library’s current collection, which has grown through gifts and loans, includes a 15th Century illuminated manuscript copy of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, as well as a 15th century manuscript of Wycliffe’s Bible, a printed 16th Century book of hours, the 1641 Orders of Charles I for the regulation of the Prince’s household signed by the king, bundles of historical maps and the St Chad Gospels dating back to the 8th Century.

“The library has a rich and wonderful history,” Michael added. “Its contents are of profound international importance and it is imperative that the items are handled with care.

“Our volunteers did a tremendous job on which they are to be hugely congratulated.

Now that the library is clear, we anticipate the repair works to the Chapter House roof will be completed in March 2018 – after which the operation to move the items back into the library must begin.”

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