Up a 600-year-old staircase in Wimborne Minister church is one of the rare surviving chained libraries, a relic of the Middle Ages when books were so valuable they were kept in restraints.
Most of the Wimborne Minister’s architecture dates to the 12th century, and includes a 14th century astronomical clock. The chained library dates to 1686, and is one of the first public libraries in England. However, when it opened the public wasn’t quite trusted with those valuable books, and thus they were put in chains attached to the shelves to keep from being stolen.
Now about 150 of the library’s books, all housed in a small stone room, remain in chains. The oldest is from 1343, a text on how to evade spiritual pitfalls, and the tomes in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew are handwritten on lambskin.