DCS Local Heritage Event : Visit to the Wren Library in Trinity College

Saturday 26th October 2019 Return to Alumni Events

Sandy Paul, the Wren Library librarian, had been most helpful before this trip and it was he who met us and gave us an introductory talk about the history of the library in great detail. He told us that he had worked there for very many years and that plus a good sense of humour made it a smooth and lucid talk.The prècis below is a summary of parts of his talk.

Isaac Barrow, Master of Trinity College from 1673, led had an ambition for a new college library to replace the existing inadequate one. He persuaded his friend, Christopher Wren, to design it for no charge and a public appeal was launched for the cost of building but it took over 20 years to raise £11,000 out of the full cost of £16,425 and then build it to Wren's specifications by 1695.

The final building has 3-sided bays of bookshelves on the East and West walls with large windows above them. The projecting ends of the bookshelves are adorned with wooden carvings by Grinling Gibbons, including a coat-of-arms panel, each for a major benefactor.

There is a large sculpture of Lord Byron who was a former Trinity College scholar by Bertel Thorvaldsen which dominates the South end and which has an amusing history. Originally John Hobson commissioned the statue which he offered determindely over a period of 10 years to Westminster Abbey but the authorities just as determindely turned it down because of Byron's private life excesses. Trinity College offered to house it which was eventually accepted.

There is a large central aisle with glasst-opped cabinets which house the books which the College treasures and the D.C.S. party spent the rest of the time perusing these. They included Isaac Newton's first edition copy of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica with handwritten notes for the second edition and his notebook, first editions of Daniel Defoes books including Robinson Crusoe, Papers and notes by Chandra Wickramasinghe, a special exhibition of Trinity poets and A. A. Milne's manuscript of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

Eventually we retired to Harriets for lunch where, fortunately we have booked a table as it was congregation day. Our thanks go to Sandy Paul and to Harriets who efficiently dealt with a changing numbers of our party with a smile.

This trip by Darwin College Society was very popular and oversubscribed and we have been able to book a second trip on Saturday December 7th.

Sandy Paul

Our Guide, Sandy Paul


Northerly aspect


Sotherly aspect

Pictures by Terry Moore (Click on the pictures for larger versions)

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