The Sarum College Library – A Whirlwind Tour

The library at Sarum College was created in 1860 with the formation of the Salisbury Theological College.

As an initial deposit it received the 274-volume collection of Bishop Walter Kerr Hamilton which mostly comprised nineteenth century pamphlets, tracts, sermons and charges. Over the next century the collection grew. The college merged with the Wells Theological College in 1971, and the library was given a further major boost in 1998 when it inherited several thousand books from the Sowter and Clerical Library that had previously operated from Church House.

The oldest book in the collection is a Bible that was published in 1545. Just two years later the Rituum ecclesiasticorum … was published by the Roman Catholic Church and there is a copy in the library. This provides a real insight into the Roman liturgy at the highest levels. The first part deals with the ceremonies that surrounded the consecration of a Pope, the coronation of emperors, canonization of saints and the creation of cardinals along with the related Canon Law. Then there are detailed instructions regarding the ritual that will accompany any service when the Pope is present and this is followed by the same information for when cardinals are the main religious leaders.

There are seven other volumes that date from before 1600. These include S. Austines manuell, or little booke of the contemplation of Christ, or of Gods worde, whereby the remembraunce of the heauenly desires whiche is falne a sleepe may be quickened vp agayne of 1577.

A 1603 volume by Samuel Harsnett titled A declaration of egregious Popish imposters … is something of a rant against the Roman Catholic practice of calling out devils. Harsnett was Archbishop of York 1628-31, and his book was aimed at the ‘Seduced and disunited Brethren’ who still followed the Roman practices. He concluded that the witching powers ‘have many years since combined and united themselves in the Pope of Rome, and his disciples’ who believe that they can command unclean spirits.

There are 23 volumes in the collection that were published between 1600 and 1649, perhaps the most high-profile are two by Erasmus, one by Thomas Cranmer, a book of 1603 titled A declaration of egregious Popish impostures … and Thomas Fuller’s The historie of the holy warre which was published in 1639.

Several of these volumes are in Latin, including that by Cranmer which outlines the principal changes introduced into the church during the reformation, and is titled Reformatio legume ecclesiasticarum, ex authoritate primum Regis Henrici 8. Inchoate: deinde per regum edovardum 6. Provecta adauctaque in hunc modum, atq; nunc ad pleniorem ipsarum reformationemin lucem edita. (Reformation of the church on the authority of Henry 8 …). The preface cites Greek, Roman and Saxon law, and that of the Roman Catholic Church to justify the beliefs of the Church of England. It is therefore important as an early statement defining what was distinctive about Anglicanism.

Amongst the 13 volumes published between 1650-69 that the library holds is Peter Heylyn’s Ecclesia restaurata: or, the history of the reformation of the Church of England. This was published in 1661, with new editions in 1670 and 1674. It was edited and republished in 1849 by the Rev. J.C. Robertson for the Ecclesiastical History Society. It covers the period from the accession of Edward to completion of the Elizabethan Settlement in 1566.

The volume in the library is the 1661 edition and also contains substantial manuscript notes that were added during the nineteenth century. It is dedicated to Charles II and is important as an exposition of the views of the Laudian school, Laud being the ‘first writer to attempted to estimate the losses as well as the gains of the religious convulsions of the sixteenth century’. The book extends to 545 pages and is concluded by a manuscript page in support of Laud and against Roman Catholicism. Laud ‘cared deeply for the unity of the church, was keen to destroy controversy, opposed the Roman pseudo-Catholic faith but defended true Catholicism. He was ‘slaughtered by the people’.

There is also a copy of the Book of Common Prayer dated 1662, a version in Greek published in the same year, and an 1661 volume entitled The grand debate between the most Reverend the Bishops and the Presbyterian Divines, appointed by His Sacred Majesty, as Commissioners for the review and alteration of the Book of Common Prayer being an exact account of their whole proceedings.

There are ten further books that were published between 1670-79, another 15 between 1680-89 and a massive 28 published between 1690-1699. This is all excellent source material for those wishing to research the ebb and flow of change which occurred as the reformation developed and changed practices and beliefs started to define what was to become unique about the English church.

Of a more recent origin there are eight books on John Jewel who was Bishop of Salisbury and who worked hard to define what was different about Anglicanism. Two are modern, but the other five are all from the nineteenth century and were published between 1833 and 1850.

More modern materials…

If you want something more recent then the library has an extensive collection of modern material including a wide range of journals, some printed and others electronic.

In pride of place amongst the library’s modern collection is a full set of the 60 volumes that comprise the Dictionary of National Biography (often called the DNB). This is the national record of those who have shaped British history and culture, from the Romans to the 21st century. It covers people born in the British Isles, but also includes inhabitants of the USA and Commonwealth countries before independence, many British-born people whose main impact was made overseas, and many who were born elsewhere but whose impact within the United Kingdom was substantial. The Dictionary offers concise, up-to-date biographies written by named, specialist authors. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2004. In total there are just over 58,000 individual biographies, about 67m words and more than 11,000 portraits.

Access to printed volumes is rarely available simply because a full set costs about £1,500. However, thanks to the generosity of a donor, Sarum College has a full 60-volume set and it is available on the open shelves for reference.

So if you need a short biographical introduction this is the place to look. For instance, if you were writing about medieval Salisbury and its affluent merchants you might care to cite John Halle as an example, and a quick look in the DNB will produce the following:

Halle, John (d. 1479), merchant, was possibly the son of Thomas Halle of Salisbury, who was a member of the city’s corporation from 1437 to 1442, during which time he served as custodian of the mace and as mayor’s serjeant. John Halle, a mercer and member of the staple, appears in Salisbury’s ledger as early as 1421. By 1445 he was a member of the common council, and in the same year was appointed an assessor; he was made an auditor in 1447 and rose to the select council in the same year. Subsequently he served as constable of the city, overseer of the city’s wealth, alderman, arbitrator, and delegate of the corporation. He represented Salisbury in four parliaments between 1453 and 1461, and was elected mayor of the city in 1451, 1456, 1464, and 1465. Directly involved in attempts to augment the liberties of the city from 1455 onwards, in 1465 he represented the corporation before the king in its dispute with Richard Beauchamp, bishop of Salisbury (d. 1481). In presenting the city’s petition Halle showed himself ‘right seditious, hasty, willful and of full unworthy disposition’ (Salisbury ledger B, fol. 77r), which resulted in his imprisonment in London. The corporation refused four royal orders to elect a new mayor, though he was replaced as a delegate after the last order. Halle, then released, was re-elected mayor for the fourth time.

By 1469, Edward IV had confirmed episcopal authority over Salisbury, which may explain Halle’s actions in 1470. In September of that year Halle, in his capacity as the mayor’s deputy, received 40 marks to raise forty men—who were to be under his own command—on behalf of the earl of Warwick, now in rebellion against Edward IV. It may be doubted if he did so, since on Easter Sunday (14 April) 1471 the earl of Somerset, acting in the name of Henry VI, presented letters under the great seal authorizing him to raise soldiers in Salisbury. The corporation, on Halle’s advice, complied, and also ordered that the money levied earlier be paid to King Henry. But within a month the Lancastrian cause was ruined and Somerset was dead. The men of Salisbury were probably able to buy their way back into King Edward’s favour. Nevertheless, by 1472 the corporation had relinquished its claims to greater liberty from episcopal control; Halle witnessed the mayor’s oath to the bishop. Despite his earlier animosity towards the bishop, Halle repeatedly represented the corporation in negotiations with Beauchamp between 1474 and 1478. He continued to be a merchant of the staple, and wellnigh dominated the wool trade of Salisbury Plain. Styled ‘esquire’ by 1476, Halle acquired considerable wealth and property, and ranked as the second largest landholder in Salisbury. Some time after 1455 he built a residence, now 15 New Canal, the hall of which was restored in the early twentieth century as the foyer to a cinema. Its stained glass and chimney-piece bear Halle’s merchant mark and arms. At his death, on 14 October 1479, he held property in Salisbury and at Shipton Bellinger, Hampshire. With his wife, Joan, he had two surviving children. Their son William was attainted in 1483 for taking part in Buckingham’s unsuccessful rebellion, but had that sentence reversed in 1485. William’s daughter married Thomas Wriothesley (d. 1534), Garter king of arms under Henry VII. John Halle’s daughter, Chrystian, married Sir Thomas Hungerford, son of Sir Edmund Hungerford and grandson of Walter, first Baron Hungerford of Hungerford (d. 1449).


– John Elliott
February 2013

 For more library titbits, go back to the main From The Stacks page

2 Responses to The Sarum College Library – A Whirlwind Tour

  1. Andrew Thomson says:

    Interesting. Important. Very helpful. Please keep me on the mailing list.
    I cannot resist adding that, as I am sure you know, the ODNB is on the internet; and that, splendid though it is in many ways, it was (inevitably?) full of errors, especially for the ‘lesser’ clergy of the Winchester Diocese. I have had some correspondence with one of the editors on the subject, in light of which some corrections have been made – but not entirely to my satisfaction……

    • Christine Nielsen-Craig says:

      Thanks for your comment, Andrew. Will pass it onto library staff. In the meantime, we’ll send you our monthly enewsletter to keep you informed of courses and events at Sarum College.

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