Ampleforth College revealed the secrets behind the library cards of its historic library to celebrate National Library Week, on 8-13 October.
The library is reputed to house some of Robert “Mouseman” Thompson’s best furniture and fixtures and A Short History of Monastical Orders, which was presented to the library by Thompson himself in 1952 and now 325 years old, remains one of the school’s near 20,000 library books today.
This, and treasures such as the 1816 reprint of Thomas Bewick’s, A History of British Birds, sit alongside the daily newspapers, ICT facilities and laptop friendly carrels required for study by the classes of 2018.
The first of the carrels, places for private study, were constructed in 1925. Carved with intricate decoration and emblazoned with family shields of arms, they are a popular choice for students studying today. Thompson is said to have called the library “my room” and regarded it as one of his finest achievements. The final piece he personally made for the library was the door. It got damaged on the short journey from his workshop in 1955, which almost reduced him to tears but he quickly fixed it before installation.
Indeed, since the school opened in the nineteenth century, Ampleforth College has educated some of Britain’s most notable authors and writers. This included the novelist, historian and biographer Piers Paul Read, Hugh Dormer, whose book War Diaries, paid for the Mouseman shelving in the Upper Library, Julian Fellowes, historian William Dalrymple, military historian Saul David, and Luke Jennings, author of Killing Eve. Also, novelists Guy Mankowski and Alice Warrender.
While Jennings recalls that his reading mentor was Robert Nairac, the British Army Officer who was posthumously awarded the George Cross, actor Rupert Everett also appeared on the register of student librarians in 1975.
Portraits of Dormer, Nairac and Michael Allmand hang in the library. Allmand was a Second World War recipient of the Victoria Cross. Major Blackford, the College’s CCF Contingent Commander, recently gave the library a copy of the letter of condolence written by the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion, The 6th Gurkha Rifles to Professor Allmand, Michael Allmand’s father in 1944.
Director of Studies, Hannah Pomroy, commented: “A love of reading and an ability to study independently is one of the most important legacies we leave our pupils with at Ampleforth so it is great to see that our library remains a hugely important fixture in school life.”