Sunday 15 December 2013

Another piece of Catholic heritage bites the dust

I have just heard the sad news that the Talbot Library - "The Library of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster" as it is styled - is to close.  This stark announcement appears on the "Notices" section of the website:
"After careful consideration, the Bishop and Trustees of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster have decided that the Talbot Library will close permanently on 31st December, 2013."
The library holds 50,000 books as well as periodicals, sheet music, parish histories and early printed books.  It holds important collections including collections on Irish history, Lancashire local history (especially the Reformation), the Shrewsbury Diocese Collection and important collections on G K Chesterton and Belloc. 

I don't know what the circumstances are - I presume financial pressures - and I have no information on what is to happen to the library's contents and collections. Perhaps it could go to Maryvale?  The number of Catholic academic institutions continues to dwindle - I don't suppose the library at Ushaw College is likely to be taking on any new collections, now that the seminary itself has closed.  I do hope the contents of the Talbot are not to disappear hither and thither without trace.  It has been used a great deal by many Catholic scholars for research - in other words, it's not just a collection of diocesan ephemera but an important resource for Catholic studies.  The library stands on the same site as the fantastic St Walburge's church, famous for having the tallest spire of any parish church in England - is there a plan for the overall site? Regeneration?  Further decline?  
Interior of St Walburge's, with its hammer-beam ceiling

It does seem that as a Church in this country we place so little value on our history, our historical places, buildings, literature and art.  As the old saying goes, if we don't know our history, we don't know who we are.  “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” (George Orwell)  This lack of interest and even irrational hatred of our past is a sure-fire way to allow ourselves to be blown about in the wind, with no roots (that we're aware of) we go along in the direction of any new fad or fancy that comes along.  Look how well that's been working for us in the last fifty years!


Bob Hayes said...

This is very disappointing news. Resources and locations such as this could and should be integrated into evangelisation as well as education. Depressingly few Catholic churches or other buildings used by the Church participate in events such as the annual Heritage Open Days. Let us pray that the collections are safeguarded and used for the glory of God.

Simon Platt said...

I agree with Bob.

Adam said...

Love for heritage is alive and well in Liverpool. Apparently, your cathedral is "reviving an age old tradition of carol singing", for good causes (whatever they are). Pity the enthusiasm for tradition doesn’t extend to the source and summit of Christian life, in all its diversity and comprehensiveness.

Adam said...

Actually, another tradition was revived last week, the portable cathedra of the 1960s. At a recent school carol service, the archbishop’s cathedra got in the way of the theatrical performance, so rather than working around it; it was shoved behind the MC’s stool. The old cathedra from the pro-cathedral was included in the performance as a lovely stage prop.

Elsewhere, ACTA the pseudo-reform movement is reported as promoting a boycott of Peter’s Pence. In these straightened times, can parishes withhold the “cathedral tax”?

Sixupman said...

Some years ago the Lancaster Diocese sought to emulate the Jesuits, as at The Holy Name, Manchester, in attempting to sell St. Walburghs to the local university as a conference venue. [n.b. The Jesuits are back at The Holy Name, complete with "Cranmer Table".]

Subsequently the Diocese has the wheeze of working with Granada TV to utilise St. Walburghs as a venue for the broadcast of religious services. Some of which gave the distinct impression of Concelebration with Protestant pastors of an hybrid form of NOM. This included all and sundry, including school children,of reception of (C)ommunion. Protests appeared to bring the broadcasts to a close. The 'brains' behing the venture - a local Jesuit!

One of the Traditional societies [ICKSP ?] sought to take over St. Walburghs, which was denied to them, by the then bishop, on the basis it would have a deleterious effect on adjacent parishes. What an admission.

Peter said...

The Lancaster Diocese website has an explanatory note. Cost and lack of users seem to be key with the retirement of the librarian being the trigger for the decision.
The best home for the collection would be an academic institution or monastery so that it remains intact.
Sadly the desire for renewal tends to lead to historic works being discarded rather than reexamined.

Simon Platt said...

Yes, it was the ICKSP that offered to take care of St Walburge's. The offer is still open, so far as I know. I find it hard to understand why Bp. O'Donoghue didn't accept. It would certainly be an answer to prayers if Bp. Campbell were to do so.

I didn't know anything about this TV thing. Although I hardly watch the telly I find that rather disappointing, what with it being in my parish and all. Where could I find out more?

Sixupman said...

Simon Platt:

Granada TV archivist presumably have copies - but it was some years ago.