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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Mallett's Gladstone library plea
St Deiniol's Library
St Deiniol's Library houses William Gladstone's books
Britain's only prime ministerial library is appealing for help in carrying out a major refurbishment programme.

St Deiniol's Library in Hawarden, Flintshire, houses more than 30,000 books which once belonged to the former prime minister William Gladstone.

The library needs 500,000 to complete the necessary improvements.

One of its patrons, former TV presenter Timmy Mallett, will host a reception at the library on Tuesday evening.

Mr Mallett's clergyman father, Michael, studied there in the 1960s when Mr Mallett was a child.

It's a place to come and reflect and think. It's an amazing, wonderful, international treasure, and so unexpected
Timmy Mallett

"My dad used to write home every day and his letters are full of all the things that happened - they're a little window on life here 40 years ago," he said.

"The other night I was sitting here, on one side of me was a woman. I said: 'What are you studying?'. She said: 'I'm studying the English in Florence in 1861'. On the other side was an A-level student - he said: 'I'm studying the use of language in Jamie Oliver's TV shows.'

"That's the joy of it really, it's a place to come and reflect and think. It's an amazing, wonderful, international treasure, and so unexpected."

The Victorian building also houses letters and papers donated by the 19th Century MP, who lived a mile-and-a-half from the site.

Timmy Mallet
The former children's presenter Timmy Mallet is a patron of the library

In total, repairs to the roof and improving and expanding the residential part of the building, which dates back to 1899, will cost 1.3m.

After donations from patrons and trustees of the library and grants from Cadw and the Lottery fund, organisers have said they are going to have to raise 500,000 to complete the work.

The Grade I listed building - which is residential with 30 bedrooms - is a centre for theological study with its collection of 250,000 books.

Library warden Peter Francis said the theology room had "strange three sided shelves" which Gladstone invented when he was an MP in Oxford.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone died at Hawarden in 1898

They were refurbishing the Bodleian Library and he suggested that the three sided shelves would be effective and would encourage people to browse.

Mr Francis said Gladstone's core collection was still on the shelves and occasionally letters to or from the prime minister would fall out of his books if they had not been opened before.

Gladstone was known as a religious-minded politician who dominated British politics in the 19th Century.

The Liverpool-born statesman moved to the village of Hawarden when he married his wife Catherine Glynne and it was where he eventually died.

He founded St Deiniol's Library in 1889, nine years before his death at the age of 88.

There are numerous presidential libraries in the United States but Gladstone's is the only one in the UK.

The library is opened to external readers from 0900-1830 GMT Monday to Saturday and for residents 0900-2200 daily.

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