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Britain’s leading Catholic library closes today amid uncertain future

By on Friday, 27 June 2014

The Catholic National Library contains rare 18th- and 19th-century pamphlets as well as first editions of works by writers such as Evelyn Waugh and G K Chesterton (Photo: CNS)

The Catholic National Library contains rare 18th- and 19th-century pamphlets as well as first editions of works by writers such as Evelyn Waugh and G K Chesterton (Photo: CNS)

Britain’s Catholic National Library at St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, is to close today because of a shortage of volunteer staff.

The library, which contains 70,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals and was established in London in 1912, has been seeking a new home for several years.

Antony Tyler, secretary to the library’s trustees, said of the long-awaited move: “Discussions are still taking place and we hope it may be possible to take a decision shortly.”

In a letter to subscribers Mr Tyler said all books on loan will be automatically renewed and should no longer be left at the monastery at Farnborough.

He said: “The trustees will write to you again when a clearer picture emerges as to what is to happen to the library and whether or not it will be possible to provide any kind of service at Farnborough in the foreseeable future.

“After the closing date [June 27] it will not be possible for us to reply to emails, letters or telephone calls,” Mr Tyler said.

The Catholic Central Library was founded by American philanthropist William Reed Lewis with the aim of educating the laity.

It contains a collection of rare 18th- and 19th-century pamphlets as well as first editions of works by writers such as Evelyn Waugh, G K Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Mgr Ronald Knox and Gerard Manley Hopkins. 



In 1997 the library sold off its London premises and for a period was housed in an Anglican church hall in Euston before costs forced it to move out.

The library was only saved after a campaign by peers such as Lord Longford and Lord Alton and novelists Alice Thomas Ellis and Piers Paul Read. Cardinal Basil Hume had planned to split the collection between Allen Hall and Heythrop.