Roman Catholic fury at sale of historic library

Some of Britain's most notable Roman Catholic writers are joining forces to save a historic collection of books which is about to be broken up.

The Catholic Central Library contains a collection of rare 18th-and 19th-century pamphlets as well as first editions of works by Catholic writers such as Evelyn Waugh, GK Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Mgr Ronald Knox and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

It is to be closed on Tuesday after a decision was made to sell off its premises in London.

Novelists Piers Paul Read and Alice Thomas Ellis and the Catholic politicians Lord Longford and Lord Alton have all expressed dismay at the closure of the library, which opened in 1959, behind Westminster Cathedral. The dispersal of its 65,000 volumes was described by Ms Thomas Ellis as "an absolute scandal which is being repeated in libraries all over the country. Great works are just being consigned to the rubbish skip."

The library, which has more than 1,000 subscribers and a valuable reference section and reading room, has been run by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, a New York-based religious order, which says it has been forced to give it up by financial pressures.

In a letter to the subscribers, Cardinal Basil Hume, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and head of the English Catholic Church, said: "I have made further attempts to preserve the library in its present state, but have failed... I could not risk launching an appeal which I believe would not have been successful."

But several prominent Catholics and subscribers say they were not fully consulted over the closure and sale, and are keen to set up a trust to ensure that the collection remains intact. If they fail, the collection is likely to be split between Allen Hall, a Roman Catholic seminary in Chelsea, and Heythrop College, part of London University.

Lord Alton, the former Liberal Democrat MP David Alton, described the loss of the library as "an unmitigated tragedy" and"criminal folly". He said: "This historical collection will be dismembered and made inaccessible to the public. Given the renewed interest in the Catholic novel, it would be an unmitigated disaster. It is madness to allow a building in the heart of London to disappear."

Piers Paul Read said: "The great thing about the library was that it was open to all Catholics. I doubt if ordinary Catholics will have access to a place like Heythrop College."

Fr Ian Ker, a Catholic priest and Cardinal Newman biographer, described the situation as an "absolute cock-up" and added: "The big mistake was handing control of the library to the Cardinal. The Friars showed a naivety which is typical of religious orders; they should have turned to the subscribers."

Westminster Cathedral sources hit back. One said: "The running costs of the library are nearly pounds 100,000 a year. You need to employ two or three staff full-time. It is a lot of money. These people should put money where their mouth is."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living