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Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 16:24 UK
Lyme Park library is given a Victorian makeover
The library at Lyme Park

Lyme Park curator James Rothwell on his 'chance of a lifetime'

The historic library at Lyme Park in Cheshire has been officially opened after undergoing a two year transformation.

The library been restored to how it would have looked in the Victorian era.

It is home to many precious books, including the Sarum Missal, a rare prayer book which is 600 years old.

James Rothwell, curator at Lyme Park, said that the completed restoration of the library was "the greatest achievement of my career."

Lyme Park sits on the border of Greater Manchester and Cheshire, and was once home to the Legh family, who were resident in the hall from 1388 to 1946.

The Sarum Missal (detail)
Also known as the Lyme Caxton Missal, it was printed by early publisher William Caxton
Contains a liturgy for the Sarum Rite, a Roman Catholic mass
Has 243 of its original 266 pages, including two full-page woodcuts
In recent years, it has been used as a location for films and TV dramas, famously portraying Pemberley, the seat of Mr Darcy, in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Printed in 1487, it was in the Legh family's ownership until 2008, when it was purchased by the National Trust

The hall's library was cleared out two years ago for a major renovation project, which Mr Rothwell took charge of.

He explained that "to have the opportunity to transform one of the great rooms in one of England's stately homes is a chance of a lifetime."

The restoration of the library and return the Caxton Missal to Lyme Park, which was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund and many other organisations and donors, has seen soft furnishings re-upholstered, new windows fitted and woven carpets cleaned.

It has also seen period wallpaper recreated from an imprint the team found underneath the existing covering when it was stripped back.

Mr Rothwell has watched the process at every step and he said it is "unbelievably wonderful to come in and see all those different patterns and textures back in the room again and all working together."

Adding: "To see the reflection of the light glinting on the wallpaper is hugely exciting."

The library restoration is now open to the visitors to Lyme Park and includes a digital display of the Caxton Sarum Missal, which allows people to leaf through a virtual version of the ancient text.

Mr Rothwell said that the importance of the text couldn't be underestimated and explained that he felt privileged to be involved with both the book and the library.

"For a curator, to be dealing with an object that is seen as the single most important of its type in the National Trust is also the chance of a lifetime.

"So the combination of these two things is the greatest achievement of my career and I think it would be very difficult to better that."

The house at Lyme Park is open until Sunday 31 October, when it will close for the winter. The surrounding park remains open all year round.

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