Take part in the ILA Annual General Meeting – 30th-31st May 2024: Call for papers.

We are delighted to invite you to take part in the ILA Annual Meeting, to be held on the 30th and 31st May at The Morrab Library in Penzance, Cornwall.

Library staff, trustees, and volunteers are all welcome to deliver a paper, lead a discussion, or share your experiences around the theme of “Facing the Future: Responding to the challenges faced by Independent Libraries”, either in person, or via ZOOM.

Fundraising, governance, volunteers, the climate crisis and more – independent libraries need to confront a range of challenges in order to remain sustainable and future-proof. How are our libraries addressing the issues that are crucial to ensuring our survival and relevance? Proposals could include:

  • Successful fundraising projects at your library, large or small;
  • Tips and tricks on writing successful fundraising  applications;
  • Encouraging and supporting volunteers in the various roles they play;
  • Managing a significant volunteer project;
  • Experience of making old and even listed buildings more environmentally sustainable;
  • How good library governance can support change management.

We emphasise that your paper, or the session you lead, does not need to be scholarly, and all staff, trustees and volunteers of independent libraries are welcome to deliver sessions.

We would love to welcome you and help to share your stories about the wonderful world of Independent Libraries!

We shall open up bookings for attendance at this hybrid event at a later date.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Looking for Christmas gifts?



We have a variety of other uniquely ‘Morrab’ gift options which all help to support the work of the library –

Gift Membership

Share your love of Morrab Library with friends or family – a gift that include access to 70,000 books(!), tranquil work spaces, our marvellous library community and more (£40 for a year’s household membership – we also offer a discounted student membership at £20).


Morrab Library Christmas Cards

A beautiful design by our own staff member, Harriet-Jade Harrow. £1 each, £2.75 for 3 or £4.75 for a pack of 5.



John Trigg prints

Choose a high quality print from one of twelve beautiful images, taken from the collection of drawing books donated to the library by the artist John Trigg (£65).



Penzance Map

A high quality reproduction of the 1841 map of the Borough of Penzance (£20).




Second hand books

There’s a  brilliant, eclectic selection of second-hand books for sale – a perfect Christmas gift for a like-minded book lover.




Morrab Medicament

A whimsical creation by members Sue Lewington and Steph Haxton – it’s Morrab Library in a bottle! Each jar contains a library poem, a drawing of a library scene, as well as a charm. Limited edition (£10).



Morrab Library Pens

High quality black ink pens with the library logo and name embossed on it (£2.50).




Acorn event with Morrab Library – Elizabeth I and Churchill talk

Tickets are on sale for the next talk by Mark Cottle on Feb 29th. Studies in Leadership – Elizabeth I and Churchill will focus on the life times and similarities of each leader. (£10 from the Acorn Theatre).



Get some Christmas shopping done and support the library at the same time!


Meet our new Artists-in-Residence

We are delighted to announce that Rebecca Harvey and Lucy Sparrow are our new Artists in Residence from November 2023 into 2024.

Their joint residency is titled “Revealing Morrab Library: Poetry & Porcelain” and will draw from their respective disciplines. Rebecca Harvey is an artist working in porcelain and Lucy Sparrow is a poet. They are both members of The Morrab Library and it was spending time amidst the bookshelves of the library which inspired them to work together. Their creative affinity has manifested in, as Lucy describes, “a collaboration of porcelain and poetry”.

Over a period of time, members and visitors alike will spot installations taking shape and evolving in various unexpected places throughout the building.  Work will draw on the themes of the different collections within each room, revealing and illuminating features of the spaces in which they are sited as well as their interplay with the surrounding gardens beyond the windows.

The pair agreed that “Morrab Library is More than Books. Whilst it is an archive of treasures revealing the past it also embraces the contemporary speaking to the future” (italics here are a reference to the  Treasures of the Morrab: A Penzance Library That Has More Than Books (2005, p. 31) by Penwith Local History Group).

Through their residency they hope to “to raise awareness within the local community and beyond of the library’s rich diversity of resources and archive”.

Lucy Sparrow evocatively describes the character of The Morrab:

“Morrab Library and Gardens is such a special place. The gardens are achingly beautiful in Spring and Summer and people picnic or read or just lie on the grass cloud watching. Inside the library rooms steeped in history buzz with members, volunteers and visitors attending workshops, lectures, residencies and exhibitions. Books are browsed, borrowed and bought. Laughter, chatter and silent corners co-exist, there is a warm, quiet energy. Morrab Library is a living library where the past can be preserved, examined and re-evaluated to inform and illuminate the present. This is made achievable by the commitment of the library staff who work tirelessly to keep this wonderful institution accessible and relevant.”

At the moment in the Reading Room (Ground Floor) Lucy’s poem is titled ‘Her Installation’. It is about a mother’s experience of war, loss and survival. She wrote it after attending writing workshops in the Reading Room, coupled with the experience of seeing Rebecca’s porcelain sculptures in her studio.

The installations seek to reveal spaces unseen or overlooked. Rebecca describes the way in which she hopes that their work will draw attention to things that people may not have noticed, “to stop and really look at something and think about the interlinked nature of things and that everything is interwoven”. Lucy adds, “In the history room, barely noticed between and beyond the spines of dictators is a rather ornate fire-place now cold, boarded up, blackened. Here, the energy of grief expressed in poetry hangs, visible, surrounded in the room by strung porcelain sculptures. This simple domestic space with its picture frames on the mantle-piece reveals the hidden history of an individual and yet has wider connotations contextualised by Auschwitz and the Crimea. In this first installation the past is revealed afresh in the present through the window of collaborative contemporary art.”

Rebecca’s first piece has been inspired by Lucy’s poem and similarly draws from the collection of books it is held within, without being directly representational. It is titled “Yet     the Gorse Flowers”, and is site specific, made from gorse collected over the year, porcelain, local wild clay and horse hair. Suspended in one of the windows of the Reading Room, on the threshold between inside and outside, porcelain petals, skin or bone-like structures catch in the sunlight. The work explores the materiality of porcelain, from raw to fired, translucent to dense. The installation is intentionally a work in progress and will evolve in response to its location throughout the next few weeks.

Rebecca is an alumni of the Royal College of Art working primarily in porcelain and represented by the Belgrave Gallery. A grant from the Arts Council to develop her creative practice first drew her to the Elizabeth Treffry Room, to browse this special collection of books by and about women in Cornwall, donated to The Morrab Library by The Hypatia Trust. The room contains lots of books about Virginia Woolf, as well as beautiful editions of her work, and spending time in this space inspired Rebecca to think about a residency in the library.

Rebecca first visited The Morrab as a child, as part of a regular Sunday walk with her grandfather, through Penlee Park, to Morrab Gardens and on to St Mary’s Church. She has early memories of being tiny here; gazing up at the floor to ceiling bookcases in awe. She has always had a multigenerational experience of the library and has passed down the connection to her daughter, regularly popping in to borrow books, attend classes and workshops, and recently enjoyed a visit to see the collection of pressed seaweeds.

Penzance is Lucy’s home town and she also remembers visiting The Morrab Library as a child. She re-discovered The Morrab Library when attending writing workshops and lectures as part of Penzance Literary Festival. She says, “The first time I walked in I recognised a librarian from school! The library exudes a sense of timelessness and relaxed ambiance. It appeals to all readers of all ages offering quiet places to sit and read or think whilst also encouraging new writers, artists and historians to attend talks or share and explore its environs.”

Lucy studied English and History at University and in her professional role as a nurse has maintained an interest in these subjects.

She says “Literature and writing have always been an important part of my life but recently the focus has shifted from a therapeutic function to creative experimentation. I am currently working on a  collection of poems for publication. Spending time with Rebecca in her studio, surrounded by her porcelain, I saw an affinity between this material and human bone  and skin, in texture, shape and translucence. We bury our bones in the earth and from this we extract clay. Through this conversation came the idea of the current collaboration.”

The pair hope that their collaborative residency will help to illuminate what a “rare and special place Morrab Library is” and “actively support its continued presence within Penzance”. You are warmly invited to a ‘drop-in’ session held in the Reading Room on the 15th December 10-12: pop in to see their work and chat to them more about their creative practice.

Morrab Library Christmas Cards now on sale

This year’s Morrab Library Christmas Cards are now on sale, featuring a beautiful image by own staff member Harriet. 

You can purchase them from reception at £1.00 per card, £2.75 for a pack of three, or £4.75 for a pack of five.

All proceeds go to the care of the Library. 

We’re happy to post cards to you for a small additional fee if you can’t make it into the Library.

Illustration: @harrietjadeharrow

Archives, Jane Austen and a love affair with Morrab Library – a student’s perspective.

In 2021, Exeter University student J.T. Albright made his first visit to Morrab Library, one which would change the course of his academic career and, through our archives, immerse him into the world of Regency Penzance. Having now graduated and moved further afield to York to continue his studies, J.T. has not only shared this beautiful blog about his time with us at the Library (see below), but also given us access to his brilliant dissertation, which clearly demonstrates the value of our archive collections. You can click here to read his paper, wonderfully titled : ‘It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged That There are no Secrets: Gossip’s Role in the Regency Era Ballroom’

Where does one begin when extolling the virtues of the Morrab Library? Many of them are self-evident: the elegant house full of old books, the sea views and picturesque surroundings of Morrab Gardens, friendly faces and cups of tea, the list could go on infinitely, yet I would say its delights go far deeper than those, lovely as they are. My relationship with the Morrab Library started on a rainy autumn day in 2021 when, at the behest of a dear professor of mine from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, I decided to make the long journey by bus from my home in Penryn in order to see the magical environment for myself. If the vast collection of books and quaint ambience did not seal the deal immediately, impossible as that sounds, the rich and varied archive did. Little did I know that when I first entered through that wonderful red portal, the trajectory of my life would change entirely.

It would be correct to say that I have always had an interest in the eighteenth-century, alongside my undying love of rural England, but I had previously thought that my interest in English society would tend more towards the Victorians rather than the Georgians. Now, that position has completely reversed. For my undergraduate, which was an interdisciplinary degree combining English Literature and History, I decided to tackle my three biggest interests when writing my dissertation: Jane Austen and her world, sociability and gossip, and how novels can be used to study history. The Morrab Library, with its archive and special collections, was the primary way that I was able to turn fiction into reality, though perhaps one could say that fiction may come from reality. Through investigating their catalogue, I was able to travel back to Penzance of the 1790s and become a part of this wonderful town’s life in a unique and intimate way.

With Lisa’s help and guidance, I had the privilege of meeting Catharine Tremenheere, nee Borlase, and through her letters I attended balls at the Penzance Assembly Rooms in 1792 and 1793. I would describe her as a slightly more sensible version of the immortal Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, their minds seem to have been in a similar place though Mrs Tremenheere showed a bit more gentility than dear Mrs Bennet. Alongside Catharine Tremenheere’s letters, which are numerous and a treat to read, I used the 1791 Penzance Assembly Book, which recorded all the accounts and details of the social seasons from 1791-1794, to find out who her neighbours were and how often they saw each other. In addition to her records of balls and assemblies, Catharine Tremenheere also writes about dinner parties, visits to the theatre, and even about riots in Penzance around the time of the French Revolution.

Through her eyes, I saw just how vibrant the Georgians were and that the events in Jane Austen’s novels were not as unrealistic as one may have thought. That is the joy of researching the past and reading books, is it not? The drama and sensibility we find in novels, and think so silly as a result, may not be too far-fetched as we originally believed. Catharine Tremenheere records all sorts of novel-like happenings in Penzance society and in such an endearing way that by the time I reached the letter where her son Walter tells his brother Harry Pendarves that their mother is dead, I was near to tears. This intense journey, both intellectually and emotionally, would never have happened without the Morrab Library and its archive.

From all this foraying into Penzance’s past, in this fantastic setting which we all are a part of, my life has now taken a turn towards making the eighteenth-century its gravitational centre. Soon I shall begin a masters course in eighteenth-century studies to continue my research into the function of assembly rooms in rural society and, hopefully, turning that into a PhD once I complete the next step. All this stemmed from two deeply important sources: my love of Pride and Prejudice and the ability to see how the world Jane Austen wrote about still exists in delightfully large quantities all around us through the archive at the Morrab Library. Certainly, it has been a journey of love and passion through discovery and investigation.

Appointment of Trustees – YOUR LIBRARY NEEDS YOU!

The Trustees of Morrab Library are proposing a significant change in its governance arrangements which will be presented to members at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 13th November – we hope you will be able to attend. In tandem with this exercise, we are looking to appoint a number of people to strengthen the Board of Trustees.

Our priority is to find a new Treasurer.  In recent years we have improved our financial systems and we seek someone with experience in finance to take over this essential role, to provide financial oversight and planning.  Further information on this role is available here: The Morrab Library Treasurer

We are also seeking people with skills and attributes to complement other Trustees in the following areas:-

  • fundraising and reputation management
  • building maintenance and development

The Trustees meet monthly, either by Zoom or in person. Sub Committees are in place to support the Board – and working groups are occasionally formed for specific purposes.

More information about the Library and the current Trustees can be found here: https://morrablibrary.org.uk/trustee/ 

If you are interested in joining us, or if you know someone who might be, we should be delighted to hear. Please send a short CV (no more than two pages) together with a covering letter of application outlining what you can contribute and why you wish to serve as a Trustee.

Responses should be sent by email to secretary@morrablibrary.org.uk as soon as possible. If you would like an informal discussion with one of the Trustees before expressing an interest please write to the same email address with a brief summary of your relevant experience.

If you use social media and can share this information with your followers to help us expand the search please share the links you’ll find on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Harry Spry-Leverton, Chairman, on behalf of the Trustees of Morrab Library