The smallest library in Wiltshire

Possibly, the smallest collection in the county, if not the country. The Samuel Hey Library, St Mary’s Church, Steeple Ashton is tucked away in the parvise – the room above a church porch.

In 1816, the Rev. Samuel Hey decided to build an extension for the preservation of all the books at the vicarage, collected by previous vicars dating back to the early 16th century. When Hey died in 1828, there were 1,139 volumes.

By the end of Second World War, the collection was sadly depleted. Nine hundred books were lost to the war effort due to the efficient and enthusiastic WVS waste paper salvage campaign across the country, to recycle waste paper into such things as shell containers and cartridge wads.  After the new vicarage was built in 1968, the remaining books were rehoused in its current location.

Two books I loved: The History of Cold Bathing, Ancient and Modern, 1709, and An Introduction to the Skill of Musick, 1697, with beautiful flourishes of handwritten notes on the inside pages of the cover. You can feel the past in your hands as you turn the pages of these precious old books which fortunately did not get pulped.