Bishop White Library

Who was Bishop White?
A former Vicar of Newark and later Bishop of Peterborough, by the terms of his will Thomas White’s collection of books was given into the keeping of St. Mary’s church (although the church does not own them) at the end of the seventeenth century, forming the Bishop White Library. It has been added to since then. Many of the books are from the period 1600 to 1800, printed in English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and other languages. The library is also an archive of material linked to the church.

The group was formed in 2015 after Brenda Pask retired as librarian and convenor of the library support group (formerly the history group), a post she had held since 1999. She is the author of the history of the church, published for the millennium. The group had not only worked at cleaning the books, but also worked on other material relevant to the history of the church and the community (for example extracts from the registers of births, marriages and deaths), guided tours, and other events when the church hosted festivals etc. There had also been visits to places of historic interest over many years.

New beginning
The new group formed in 2015 limited itself to focus on the library, with group activity centred on the preservation of the books. At its meetings, usually held in St. Mary’s on the third Thursday morning of the month between March and October, members clean with brushes the pages of a selection of the books and dress (with preserving fluid) their covers. There is the opportunity for light-hearted or serious discussion as we clean, and mid-way through the morning we pause for coffee and cake. Our November meeting is a lunch to celebrate what we have achieved during the year. Most members have reached a stage where they can please how they spend their time. Each year we have about fifteen members.

Other activities
From the outset we developed an action plan to pave the way forward. Apart from the regular cleaning we have been working to establish an e-catalogue which we hope will aid anyone wishing to use the books for research. This has meant transferring all the details from the existing catalogue to a computer spread sheet, and painstakingly checking every title page against this. We hope to complete this in 2021. Selections of books have been sent for rebinding, using funds bequeathed to the church for this purpose.

Each year we have mounted displays of books around church on religious and non-religious themes linked to specific religious festivals and also the Newark Book Festival, some in display cases kindly loaned to us by the National Civil War Centre, with whom we have developed close links.

If you’d like to find out more, or are interested in joining the group, please get in touch with Peter Blakeman –