Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Christchurch Cathedral Collection, a Lecture by Mr Kieran Cronin.

It is thanks to Bishop Charles Este's initial donation of books that the library at the Christ Church Cathedral was established. Indeed, upon his death in 1745 Bishop Este bequeathed his library to the Mayor and Corporation of Waterford. The collection was not housed in the cathedral until 1779 when John Roberts, under the supervision of Bishop Chenevix, Este's successor, finished the building of the modern cathedral.
Bishop Charles Este

Literally 'A library by the people, for the people', (to paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln) its purpose was to cater for the information needs of the Church’s congregation and the citizens of Waterford. Following Bishop Este's original donation, the collection grew significantly in the subsequent years, thanks to generous bequeaths and donations from the citizens of Waterford. Significant donors to the collection include:
The Dobbyn Family Collection - built over at least three generations. The Dobbyns were a family of lawyers closely associated with Waterford. One third of the collection is made up of early law books of significant historical research interest.
Henry Alcock (1716 - c 1780): theological and legal manuscripts.  61 items recorded directly to his name.
Bishop Robert Daly presented 66 books in 1865
Rev. Patrick Leo - 51 items
Francis Jacob - 33 items
Rev. Robert Bell - who on being appointed Rector of Tipperary presented 50 books before leaving Waterford in January 1867

The majority of the collection was published in the eighteenth (850 items) and nineteenth (1724 items) centuries, with a small number of items printed in the seventeenth (327 items) and twentieth centuries (262 items).  The oldest recorded item from the Christ Church Cathedral Library catalogues compiled by Local Historian Julian Walton was Erasmus’s edition of St Augustine dating back to 1528 which was donated by Rev. Robert Bell in 1867.

 It is a miracle that most of the original collection has reached us in 2014, given its history. In October 1815, a fire broke out in the organ loft, destroying much of the woodwork of the church. Fortunately the library didn't suffer. The Christchurch collection was then forgotten and neglected, for many years, until in 1981 local historian Mr Julian Walton, was asked by Dean Mayne to assess the contents of the library. In Julian's words,
.  "Large plastic sheets covered the bookshelves, but afforded inadequate protection from dust, cobwebs, bits of plaster that fell from the crumbling ceiling, and above all from pigeons who flew through a hole in the window and cheerfully built their nests and deposited their excreta among the ancient tomes”
(Walton’s Waterford 2nd Nov 2007 - A library rescued)
It was to be another 13 years before conservation work on the collection between the years 1994-1996 thanks to the determination of Dean Neill. It was funded by FÁS and supervised by Julian Walton in St John's College where it was stored for the duration of the project. It was then moved and stored in the Church of Ireland Representative Church Body Library in Dublin and would remain largely inaccessible and untouched for the following decade.
In 2006 the collection was to return to its home city of Waterford.  In that year the Christ Church Cathedral Collection went on long-term loan to Waterford Institute of Technology Libraries, who become custodians of collection.  This agreement was facilitated by the Reverend Peter Barrett, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory.
Luke Wadding Library, W.I.T, Cork Road
The Christ Church Cathedral Collection is housed between the Luke Wadding Libraries purposely built special collections room and archive room.  The collection is stored in a secure and suitable environment where access is by appointment or staff swipe card access only.  The Special collections room contains specifically designed display cases with specially constructed ash wooden shelves and UV protective glass.  These units are aerated and sensitively lit to preserve the items they showcase.  These display cases enable WIT Libraries to showcase the collection while ensuring the long term preservation, conservation and security of the collection.
The special collections room

The next step was the creation of detailed inventory, and cataloguing, of the collection, and the creation of an online searchable library catalogue. The project took 5 years to complete, now the collection is searchable from anywhere in the world through the Library catalogue

Going forward, greater emphasis will be placed on the digitisation of important items from the collections.

The Christ Church Cathedral Collection as it stands amounts to 3,379 items.  Individual artefacts vary greatly in size, content and condition.  Call number range of Christ Church 0001 to Christ Church 3354.

A special item in the library is a book published in the Bonmahon Industrial Printing School, founded by Rev. David Alfred Doudney in 1851 for the local boys.
David Alfred Doudney


Thanks to Mr Kieran Cronin of Luke Wadding Library, Waterford Institute of Technology, for the use of his slides and access to the text of his lecture.

The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, Ireland.
Website By: Deise Design