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Unsilencing the Library

Wed 28 June 2017

Unsilencing the Library

This exciting reinterpretation, developed jointly with Oxford University, reimagines the Women’s Library which was created in around 1860 by the Mistress of Compton Verney, Georgiana Verney, wife of the reclusive 17th Lord Willoughby de Broke.

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 two missing panels were re-created by an expert bookbinder in collaboration with academics at the University of Oxford.

Georgiana was an enthusiastic champion of women’s reading, women’s education and ultimately, women’s suffrage and we invite to visitors to sit in the room as Georgiana would have done and use the tablets provided to learn about Georgiana, the history of the room, and about what women read in the late Victorian era.

You can also browse through a selection of books chosen by six guest curators – who range from actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson to students from nearby Kineton High School.  You can even buy any – or all – of their book choices in the gift shop.

‘Each of these books gives a reader imaginative courage, the will and desire to see and think in her own way.’

MARGO JEFFERSON (Writer, Professor and Pulitzer Prize Winner)


FREE for Members and Annual Pass holders

Access to the library is included in DAY TICKET admission


Please note that the women’s library will be closed 26th October 2017 for a private event.


TORCH Oxford