Wandering down Chapel Street in Penzance, you cannot fail to recognise that you have entered that part of town where history feels close-by. The sea in the distance, the church and the chapel architecture is impressive, the Turk’s Head Tavern and the baroque wonder of the Egyptian House, the Portuguese consulate and almost opposite the house where George Eliot stayed waiting for calm weather for her voyage to the Scillies. Reading Melissa’s book is like taking a similar peregrination through lost corridors of time to recover a sense of the rich liveliness of Penwith’s past. Welcome to the psychogeography of Bronte’s Territories.
The Brontes are still much in the news. The Irish Times, just two weeks ago, were reporting on the O.U.P. computer analysis of Wuthering Heights apparently confirming it to be the work of Emily and not, as had been suggested, that of her brother Branwell. Iconoclasm may be in vogue. However, a square in Brussels – the city where two of the Bronte sisters studied French – is to be named in honour of the literary siblings. Other authors make claim to curious events in Shropshire in the early years of the 19th century drew the parents of genius together. It is to the intellectual and feminine furore of Penzance and its inspiring hinterland that Hardie’s work appropriately returns us.
In a key chapter on the literature and legend of Cornwall from 1760 much mention is made of the intriguing and taciturn figure of Joseph Carne, a geologist of great renown and an energetic banker. His personality was such that he combined a skill with numbers with a strong Methodist belief and mixed in a variety of literary circles. Nearby Falmouth was a key port for the Packet boats recorded in the poetry and memoirs of Byron and Southey. It too was the home of the Quaker family of Foxes who founded the Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1832. Carne was a friend and shared their Non-Conformist beliefs. Hardie shows how Carne encouraged his daughter in her geological studies and mentions the doctors, engineers, vicars and scientists whose cultural sources were enriched by contacts which included Bretons, Huguenots, Hessians as well as a significant Jewish community. She reminds us that in reading Davy, for example, we encounter not just a socially beneficent scientist, a traveller and a poet. This is the endowment the Branwell sisters took to Haworth.
It is interesting to consider that within this Cornish background at this period there were a number of competing beliefs and attitudes. There were the mythical beliefs fostered from folklore- piskies and stories in the expiring Cornish language. There was the old religion of Rome not far beneath the surface. Yet there were also new discoveries especially in medicine and geology that fostered a scientific empiricism. This can be seen in figures such as Davies Gilbert to whom this book gives due prominence- a polymath, mathematician, engineer and President of the Royal Society and a wonderful diarist to boot. William Temple much later stated, “The Church exists primarily for the sake of those who are still outside it. It is a mistake to suppose that God is only, or even chiefly, concerned with religion.” It was the evangelical zeal of the Wesley brothers and their belief in education, temperance combined with stunningly beautiful hymns. It was also a challenge to superstition. It is often said it averted revolution which France and later Peterloo portended.
Melissa Hardie shows us the other supportive factors that came into this heady mixture and sustained the Branwells and flowered in the Bronte’s work. These are twofold; the societies and the family or kinship links. The Penzance Ladies Reading group who carefully studied together a stunning variety of literature from the classics of the Ancients to the contemporary travel writings. Not forgetting the subversive eloquence of Lord Byron, a gentleman with Cornish links through the Trevanions. The founding of libraries and collection of artefacts had practical even economic benefits. The Royal Cornwall Geological Society studies into metallic intrusions assisted the efficiency of mining. Local banks provided the capital for further developments in the industry as well as the magnificent Wesleyan Chapels that the Carnes, Branwells and Battens founded and fostered.
The author has researched both land and legacy extensively. Her approach is frequently imaginative and sometimes speculative. This is a strength because she is also at pains to inform the reader of the limitations of the evidence. Footnotes and suggested reading in themselves are useful but the illustrations are worthy of pondering- several works of art in themselves. They add significant detail. This patient work by Melissa supported by other members of the resplendent Hypatia Trust must be counted as filling a deep fissure, or as we might say in Cornwall, a zawn in Bronte Studies.
August 5, 2020.
You may like to make a cuppa to get you through this long document! But please read on carefully as it does contain a lot of important information.
Visiting the Library
We are delighted to say that Morrab Library is open again, although in a very limited capacity. The necessity to keep staff, volunteers and members as safe as possible is our first priority, and we will need to continue to work within the context of health and safety legislation and best practice guidelines for libraries to achieve this. So please bear with us as we take a careful and steady approach over a period of time to try and get everything back on track.
We will take gradual steps, offering more services over a number of stages. In this way, we can trial each step, and make sure it’s working effectively, before moving on to the next level.This takes into account factors such as staffing levels and extra time needed for additional tasks.
Sadly of course, this means that things can’t be as they were, at least initially, before we closed. But we hope you understand and will be patient with us as we take these actions, to both mitigate risk and ensure that we’ll be able to get things back on track, as far as possible. We are working within a constantly evolving situation, and the service we can offer will change alongside this.
From current thinking, COVID-19 is transferred via respiratory droplets, and breathing these in presents the biggest infection risk. The more people in an area and the longer they stay, the greater the risk of passing on the disease. Therefore, we will need to limit the number of people in the building, so entry at this time will be by appointment only.
It needs to be said that while the staff will do all it can to make the library as safe as possible, we cannot of course guarantee it 100%, so each member will need to make their own decision about whether they feel they can visit.
At this stage, it won’t be possible for volunteers to help us at the front desk – this goes against guidelines and best practice around safeguarding and multiple people handling the same objects, in our case items such as the loans cards, date stamps, sharing desks etc. so the staff will be extra busy – we ask for your patience.
The following outlines our first stage on the path to one day being fully operational, explaining the action we are taking. Once we have tested the process and see how things work, we’ll then be able to move on to the next stage, and offer more.
Opening hours and access
- The library will open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10.00 am to 3.00pm. This reflects staff capacity, the necessity to spend more time cleaning the library each day, and completing essential tasks when less people are about .
- The library will be open for book loans and returns, and for readers who wish to book a workspace on the first floor.
- Entry will be by appointment only. We need to be very strict about how many people can safely be in the library and share spaces at the one time. You can email us at : email@example.com or telephone 01736 364474 and leave a message with your name and contact entails – staff will contact you to arrange an appointment.
- Please don’t try to visit unless you have received confirmation of your appointment time. We do not want you to have to queue outside for any lengthy period, especially if the weather proves as erratic as it has been of late.
- Please book for an appointment as far in advance as you can to avoid disappointment.
- You do not need to make an appointment if you are only returning or collecting books and do not wish to enter the building beyond the entrance foyer.
For members wishing to borrow books:
- We will be able to welcome you for a visit of 30 minutes. This will hopefully allow enough time to select books to borrow. We need to keep the permitted time short so we can allow as many members as possible to access the building safely over the course of the day. Our statistics show that 75% of all of our loans are from our fiction collections, which is centred in one room, so we need to be aware of how people will be in that room at the same time. Numbers and timings will be constantly reviewed.
- If you are isolating as a household, a couple or family can come in together.
For members wishing to book a workspace:
- Rooms on the first floor will be available to book for members to use for research, study or work.
- Most rooms will allow for solo occupancy, some of the larger rooms will accommodate two people, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
- You will need to book a room in advance, specifying the time you will want to spend in the library. We will need time between appointments to clean the workspace thoroughly before the next person.
- As well as your own thermos or bottled water, you may want to bring your own cushion for the chairs, as ours have had to go into storage! Please see the Amenities section below for more information about available facilities.
- We will try as best we can to accommodate your room preference, but bookings will be made on a first come first served basis.
- We ask that you remain at the desk you have been allocated, and let us know if you move or touch anything outside of this area.
- Only library members (or members of their household) will be able to access the building – we will sadly not be able to welcome any visitors at this stage, unless they are expressly wishing to join as a new member.
- We cannot accept any book donations at this time.
- The Photo Archive will not be open to visitors on Thursday mornings at this time, but please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the library and we can pass on any enquiries.
While you are with us
- It will not be possible to remain in the library beyond choosing or returning books.
- Hand sanitiser will be on offer at the front door, and we will ask that you make use of it BEFORE entering the building. Alternatively, you are very welcome to wear your own gloves.
- If you are able to do so,you will be asked to wear a face covering whilst moving around the building. If you are then working in a room on your own, your mask can be removed at this time.
- There will be additional hand sanitising stations throughout the building.
- Social distancing practices will be in place (working to the 2 metre rule) and staff will be working behind a temporary screen. We don’t relish this latter prospect, but it is sadly a necessity at this time in order to mitigate any risk to staff.
Loans and Returns
- If you are returning library books, please bring them in a bag (preferably one you don’t want back), and include a note with your name on it. There will be special boxes in the foyer where you can leave them – in keeping with health and safety guidelines, they will need to be quarantined for 72 hours before staff can process them.
- The lifting on restrictions on the number of loans will remain, meaning you can borrow more than six books at a time. If you don’t feel comfortable coming to the library yourself, you can nominate a fellow member, friend or family to borrow and collect books on your behalf.
- We will be offering a collection service. If you send us a list of titles you are seeking, we can check our holdings and the shelves, and if they are available, we can bag them up and leave them for you or a friend or family member to collect from the foyer, so you won’t have to come into the rest of the building.
- The magazines and newspapers normally located in the Reading Room will be moved to the tables in the Jenner Room, and be available for loan.
- The ground floor toilet will be available, but we ask that it be accessed only if completely necessary. Please leave the space as clean as possible after use. A hand sanitising station will be located just outside.
- Sadly, the kitchen will be closed to members, and not accessible.
- Lockers will not be in use. Bags must remain with you. They cannot be left at the desk or elsewhere. Again, we are obliged to avoid multiple people touching the same objects.
- The till will be in operation for book and other sales, donations and new memberships and renewals. Payment by card is our preferred option, although we will accept cheques and cash. Appropriate hygiene measures will be in place for using the till.
- The photocopier will only be available for the use of library staff, but we will happily copy anything you need on your behalf.
- The lift will be in operation and hand sanitising stations will be available in the foyers on each floor.
- Parking at the library should generally be possible during this time, although if you would like to be guaranteed a parking spot, please let us know when you make your appointment.
- Library staff will carry out regular cleaning of ‘hotspots’ around the building throughout the day, such as door handles, stair bannisters and the toilet.
- We will also undertake a deep clean of the library after hours each day.
- Desks, chairs and other items will need to be cleaned in between different people using them.
Please contact Lisa ( email@example.com, or leave a message on 01736 364474 and I’ll call you back) if you have any questions or concerns. A detailed reopening plan is available on request for those who might like to see it.
We would also like to offer my assistance to any of you who will need to continue to self-isolate and won’t be able to visit, or do not have anyone who can borrow books on your behalf. Please get in touch so we can find a way to help you if we can.
I know this is not an ideal situation, but hopefully this is just the beginning of a gradual return to the normality of the Morrab Library we all love so much. Thank you so much for your wonderful support throughout lockdown, and as we move forward into this rather unknown territory!
Lisa Di Tommaso
You’ll have seen the news from the Government yesterday confirming permission to reopen libraries from the 4th July. After consultation between Trustees and staff, we are happy to say that Morrab Library will be able to reopen with a limited service from Wednesday July 15th.
This gives us time to bring staff back from furlough, to establish necessary procedures, and undertake a deep clean of the library in the weeks prior to this. The necessity to keep staff, volunteers and members as safe as possible is our first priority, and we will need to work within the context of health and safety legislation and best practice guidelines for libraries to achieve this. So please bear with us as we take a careful and steady approach over a period of time to try and get everything back on track.
More details will follow very soon, but for now, please be aware that initially, the library will be open three days a week – Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 10.00am to 3.00pm by appointment only, and only for loans and returns. You will need to call or email ahead to book a time to visit, as we will need to manage the numbers in the building at any one time and ensure social distancing, which at least for now, will remain at 2 metres to mitigate any risk to our members.
We’ll be able to take bookings for appointments from Tuesday 7th July, and more information will follow soon. We do envisage a busy first rush, so we may need to beg your patience as things settle down.
Once we have established safe processes, we will then, as quickly as possible, look to reopen the rooms upstairs for members to work in. This will also work on an appointment system. The opportunity to host classes and workshops will be reviewed over the summer, based around future Government guidance.
It will be wonderful to see you again, although please be aware that we will need to work to very strict guidelines, at least initially. We will do everything we can to restore the library to full service in due course. Please keep an eye out for more detailed information about our reopening over the next week.
Many thanks for your wonderful support throughout all of this.
The Trustees and Library team