Our latest Curiosity of the Week is one of the oldest and most unusual libraries in the country. The Chained Library at Wimborne Minster in Dorset was founded in 1686 and is the second largest library of its kind in the country.
But what is a chained library? Well, strangely enough, it is pretty much as it sounds! A chained library is where the books are attached to the shelves, by chains, to prevent removal. This rather unusual arrangement was once fairly commonplace in the libraries belonging to churches and schools, before the more modern-day public libraries were established. Chaining the more expensive reference books allowed them to be read by local people, but not taken away (by borrowing or theft).
There are still some fine examples of Chained Libraries in the UK, that have been carefully preserved, with the Francis Trigge Chained Library in Grantham, Lincolnshire, being the oldest (established in 1598).
Wimborne’s library was first chained in 1695, to allow respectable members of the public free access to the books (no riff-raff were allowed in). Today, visitors to the library will be able to see an array of old books on subjects as varied as gardening, medicine, law, etiquette, and building (all preserved with their chains of course). Wimborne’s Chained Library has just reopened for the season and can now be visited until October (phone ahead for opening times).
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We are always on the lookout for interesting customs, hidden places, and unique buildings and landmarks, to share with our readers.