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Nantwich Parochial Library

The Reverend Dr Thomas Bray (1656–1730), concerned to improve the education and standing of Anglican clergymen, devised a scheme for establishing parochial libraries in England and its colonies during the 1690s. This project led to the formation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) on 8 March 1699.

In 1705 Bray formed a special committee for creating libraries, styled the Trustees for Erecting Parochial Libraries and Promoting other Charitable Designs.

By 1729, when the Associates of Dr Bray was formed as a new management group, the Trustees had set up at least fifty-six parochial libraries in England and ten in Wales, each costing more than £20.

A grant for a parochial library at St Mary’s Nantwich was included in Bray’s accounts for 1695–99, and the existence of such a library by 1700 is recorded in a letter to the SPCK.

The collection was augmented in 1699 with a donation from Samuel Edgley (d. 1721), vicar of Acton.

The present catalogue records that there were 181 titles in the library in 1712, of which 96 now survive.

Little is known about the subsequent history of the collection until December 1889, when the contents of the parochial library were transferred en bloc to the newly-founded Nantwich Free Public Library, where they remained until 1952. The books were then returned to St Mary’s and housed in a room above the south porch, which may have been where they were originally housed.

The parochial library was generously donated to The University of Manchester Library in 2009.

The most significant printed book in St Mary’s parochial library is Wynkyn de Worde’s 1502 Sarum Hymnal, Expositio Hymnorum, one of only three known copies. 

The earliest work is a copy of Johannes de Turrecremata’s Summa de ecclesia contra impugnatores potestatis summi pontificis et LXXIII quaestiones super potestate et auctoritate Papali ex sententiis sancti Thomae Aquinatis, printed by Johannes Trechsel (Lyon, 1496).

Notable early English books include Samuel Purchas’s Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), and a copy of Eikon Basilike (London, 1648).

There are a number of pieces of provincial printing, mostly sermons and guidebooks printed in Nantwich and Shrewsbury, including two copies of William Tunnicliff’s Topographical Survey of the Counties of Stafford, Chester and Lancaster (Nantwich, 1787), and John Smith’s A Vindication of the Freedom of Pastoral Advice (Nantwich, 1775?). 

There is also a copy of The Complete Family Bible (Manchester, 1783).

See also the Poulton-le-Fylde Parish Bray Library.

Finding aids

Cataloguing in progress; majority of items recorded in .


The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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