The library room shows dark wood panelling, wooden floorboard and dark wood bookcases with a long table to the left, covered in historic books. Historic portraits line the walls.
Interior of Thomas Plume's Library, Maldon, Essex. © Historic England/Patricia Payne
Interior of Thomas Plume's Library, Maldon, Essex. © Historic England/Patricia Payne

Grant Funding to Save Thomas Plume's Library in Essex

Historic England has awarded a grant of £67,962 for the repair of Grade I listed Thomas Plume’s Library in Maldon, Essex.

The Plume Library is one of the oldest public libraries in England, containing over 8,000 volumes dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

An early purpose-built library

The library was built on the site of the former church of St Peter of which only the 15th-century west tower remains following the collapse of the church nave in around 1665.

By 1699 Dr Thomas Plume (1630-1704) had built a two-storey brick and timber library building to house his collection of rare and important 16th- and 17th-century texts. In contrast to the church tower, Plume’s new building was domestic in character, built of red brick with stone dressings, coved cornices and slate roof. On the first floor of the library, original 17th-century fittings can be seen including early-17th-century panelling.

Urgent repairs needed

Purpose-built libraries of this period are extremely rare. The Plume Library was added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register in 2020. Urgent repairs are needed to the room that contains Plume’s collection, including replacement of the ceiling and works to the library floor, external masonry and windows. The restoration work is essential to protect Plume’s rare and remarkable books, manuscripts and paintings and to ensure future public access to this unique collection in its original setting.

Thomas Plume's gift to the town of Maldon

Plume gifted the library to the town of Maldon on his death in 1704. His bequest included a small collection of paintings which reflect his personal interests and the times he lived in.

Baptised at All Saints Church Maldon, he was educated in Chelmsford and at Christ’s College Cambridge. He became a Bachelor of Arts and a Doctor of Divinity and his ecclesiastical career culminated in the role of Archdeacon of Rochester, Kent.

He held strong Royalist sympathies and was deeply committed to the Church of England. Amongst the 13 paintings he bequeathed, prominently displayed within the library, are portraits of English monarchs and churchmen, while a Salvator Mundi painting illustrates his devotion to Jesus Christ.

Plume Library is one of the oldest public libraries in England, and the home to internationally important 16th- and 17th-century artistic works. We’re pleased to support the urgent repair work needed for this historic building so that we help to ensure that Dr Thomas Plume’s remarkable collection can fascinate future generations as it does us.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director (East of England) Historic England
Was this page helpful?