Why This Room is Special

The Women's Library at Compton Verney

When Compton Verney was rescued by the Peter Moores Foundation in 1993, the house was in a very poor state of repair. Almost all of the ceilings had collapsed, and very few of the original fittings survived. However, the last room of the south wing’s ground floor retains its original furniture, in the form of a large chimney surround, three corner bookcases with painted parchment panels, and a doorcase into which has been set panels of faux or ‘dummy’ book spines. The dummy spines are a fascinating historical feature – and they are also remarkably unusual. These rare spines are making a bold statement – for all the authors cited in the book spine panels are female. Two out of the original eight book-spine panels have been lost, but the rest remained in good condition.

In 2017 the Women’s Library was the focus of a restoration and research project developed jointly with the University of Oxford. ‘Unsilencing the Library’ involved the conservation and refurbishment of the dummy book spines and vellum panels, as well as research into what the titles might originally have been and into how the room might have been used. This project won the Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Award from the University of Oxford in 2017.

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