thomas plume's library
Thomas Plume's Library founded 1704
Thomas Plume’s Library was founded in 1704 under the terms of the will of Dr Thomas Plume, Vicar of Greenwich and Archdeacon of Rochester, who had been born in Maldon in 1630. He bequeathed to his native town his collection of some 8,200 books and pamphlets, to be kept in the building which he had constructed from the ruins of the old St Peter’s Church in the centre of the town, on the corner of Market Hill and the High Street.
The church building still stands, very little changed, and still houses his books, as well as his small collection of paintings. Although they may no longer be borrowed, books from the Library may be consulted without appointment during normal opening hours and the catalogue may be consulted online.
The Friends of Thomas Plume’s Library was formed in 1988 in order to help the Trustees to preserve the Library in a good state for future generations. The Friends raise funds for repair and renovation of the books, but, above all, help to find and acquire replacements for more than 700 works lost since the Library was formed. Some 180 titles have been found so far.
The core Plume Collection consists of books that were purchased by Dr Thomas Plume and comprises some 8,200 books and pamphlets, as well as manuscripts and portraits of English monarchs and divines. The books cover a wide range of subjects from theology to science, astronomy, medicine, and travel. The chief value of the Library, however, lies not so much in the individual volumes, which can mostly be found elsewhere, but in the survival of the collection as a separate entity. The Manuscript Collection consists of Plume’s own papers which include sermon notes by other theologians such as Robert Boreman, Edward Hyde and many others.
The post-Plume Collection consists of some 2,000 books which have been added to the collection since 1704. These have arrived from various sources, for example Plume left twenty shillings a year for the purchase of new books, some of which came from the Maldon Mechanics’ Institute when it closed in the late nineteenth century. Others have been donated by Dr J.H. Salter DL JP of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Mr R.E. Thomas of Beeleigh Abbey, and former Plume Librarians Revd. Edward Russell Horwood, Vicar of All Saints’ Maldon, and Dr William Petchey, to name but a few.
Thomas Plume built his library on the site of the medieval Church of St Peter, retaining only the west tower. When Plume planned his library in the 1690s he decided to restore the Tower, which had been built (or rebuilt) in the fifteenth century. Plume’s new building, in contrast to the tower, is essentially domestic in character, being built of red brick with stone dressings, coved cornice beneath the eaves, and slate roof. It was originally five bays long; the two eastern bays were added in 1817, to accommodate the new National School that was housed in the building until 1840.
Registered charity no. 310661