Rare Priory book collection to be preserved

A King James Bible form 1680
A King James Bible form 1680

One of the north’s rarest archives of manuscripts and books - including some written by St Augustine - is to be preserved thanks to Lottery funding.

The Servite Priory library at Benburb, Co. Tyrone, is made up of a number of valuable collections with some material dating back to the mid 16th Century.

Books by St Augustine from 1627

Books by St Augustine from 1627

Now, having secured Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) support of almost £773,000 - including development funding of £83,000 - the collection is to be preserved and opened up to a wider audience.

Fr. Chris O’Brien of the Order of Mary Servite Trust welcomed the funding.

“The Servite Trust welcomes the award from the Heritage Lottery Fund and sees this as a major step forward in the restoration of the stable block at the Priory and preservation of the Servite Heritage of historical books and archives”.

The Servite and Marian collections provide the core of the collection but these are supported by excellent Irish literature and general religious collections. The library also contains extensive archival material relating to the Servites over the past 150 years, including personal records of 300 friars.

Some of the books have been in a Servite Library for over 400 years and have had an amazing journey to reach Benburb.

Initially they would have been in Florence, Vicenza or Innsbruck. At the time of the Servite Friars coming to London in 1864 several volumes were brought there for safe-keeping during the time of Italian reunification.

Paul Mullan, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland also welcomed the initial award:

“We consider the care of this collection a high priority and we are delighted to be able to give the project the necessary support to further develop their plans to secure funding.

“This is an incredibly valuable collection, and the outlined plan will provide the proper care and public access to an absorbing historical collection.”