The Francis Trigge Chained Library

Living History

The Francis Trigge Chained Library

Founded in 1598, the Francis Trigge Library in Grantham, Lincolnshire is the oldest public library in England, and one of the last of the great medieval chained collections. It was founded by a local clergyman who was concerned about access to knowledge by the average citizen.

Trigge left one hundred pounds for the creation of a library for “the better encreasinge of learnings and knowledge in divinitie & other liberall sciences & learning by such of the cleargie & others as well as beinge inhabitantes in or near Grantham & the soake thereof as in other places in the said Countie.

These valuable works were originally chained to the shelves to protect them from theft, and to this day some 80 volumes remain chained, making this one of the last remaining chained libraries in the world.

Much of the collection is devoted to religious works, but it also includes classical texts and books on natural history and the arts. All the books are printed, the earliest being a volume printed in Venice in 1472, only 16 years after the Gutenberg Bible, which was the first substantial book produced using the recently invented printing using movable type.

It is possible that Isaac Newton, who attended the next door King's School, used the library and although there is no evidence of this, we do have a number of books donated by Henry More, their author, a noted theologian, who also studied at the King's School a little before Newton.

Although there are very few chained libraries left in existence, a few others exist at Hereford Cathedral, and Marsh’s Library in Dublin, and small chained collections are at at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, Surrey, and Chelsea Old Church in London.

The library is located at St Wulfram's Church, Grantham, and is open to visitors at various times, which can be checked on the church website.

Further reading

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