The preservation of more than 1,000 historic books a Lincolnshire church has been praised by the Princess Royal. Work to manage UV light exposure and humidity was carried out at St Botolph’s in Boston to protect it for the future.
The medieval church, known as the Stump, houses a library containing around 1,200 historic books, including works by Chaucer and St Augustine. The finished project, which also included improving energy efficiency in the main church and neighbouring Blenkin Memorial Hall, was inspected by the Boston Stump Trust’s patron, Princess Anne, on a recent visit.
Lee Marshall, the managing director of the net zero design company Viridis, said: “Princess Anne accompanied me to the library with just a small handful of other staff and proceeded to spend 25 minutes discussing the improvements we had designed. I was amazed at her deep level of interest – she was really keen to find out more about what we had done.”
One of the books, St Augustine’s Commentary on Genesis, dates back to 1170 and there were fears that over-exposure to natural light, temperature and humidity variations would permanently damage an important part of literary history. Other important books stored in the library include a 1542 edition of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, a Book of Common Prayer printed in 1549 and a collection of books by Dutch philosopher Erasmus, published between 1545 and 1548.
Mr Marshall said that the library was being exposed to ‘too much natural light’. He said: “In terms of the library, which is a relatively small space, it was receiving too much natural light through its large, ornate south-facing window and two smaller windows, so we had to address that as it was damaging the books.
“With its thick stone walls, which can keep heat in as well as out, we also manipulated physics to ensure the internal temperate remains at a moderate 17 degrees – which is not too cold and not too hot for the delicate books.” The excess of natural light in the library was reduced by building bookshelves in front of the two smaller windows and installing louvre blinds in the large window, which can be manually controlled by staff according to needs.
Viridis also installed a humidification unit, about the size of a small filing cabinet, to ensure the air was not too wet and not too dry, both of which can damage ancient texts. Workers also reduced the building’s boiler capacity and energy use in order to increase efficiency and lower emissions.
The building is now warmer while costing less to heat, Mr Marshall says. He added: “The church as a whole is now far more sustainable, and we have created an environment in the library that saves some very historic books.”