Saving the Leighton Library – Dunblane’s best kept secret


A £ 400,000 fundraising campaign to help fund the renovation and maintenance of the well-known Scottish library has been launched.

Leighton Library is located in Dunblane, near Stirling, from the late 17th century, and it contains some 4500 books from 1504.

But the building, opposite Andy Murray’s gold box, needs renovation.

Many people pass by and only a handful of Dunblane residents have ever lived in it.

It is the Leighton Library, Scotland’s oldest purpose-built library, built in 1687, with some 4,500 books, dating back to 1504.

Originally wanted to be inhabited by Bishop Robert Leighton (1611 – 1684, Bishop of Dunblane and Archbishop of Glasgow), who donated his library to Dunblane expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries and is now making important world history.

The building itself is a Class A reference and has a lot of special interest and architecture.

The most popular books in the group are:

  • Edinburgh Edition of Robert Burns Poetry (1787)
  • Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755)
  • The first edition of The Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott
  • The Rights of Thomas Paine (1791)
  • A copy of Queen Victoria’s Highland Journal, donated to the Library by Queen Victoria herself
  • A good collection of early maps, including the missing American Atlas from 1776
  • Lady Jane Gray Prayer Book
  • The first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations
  • Several early Bibles are missing

When it was first opened in 1687, the library was originally designed for the clergy of Dunblane Cathedral.

Inside Leighton Library

It later became a registration library and reading room until the middle of the 19th century when it was successfully closed until restored by volunteers in the late 1980s.

It is now run with a little confidence of compassion and open to the public in the summer.

While the library is in excellent condition, the existing building, now 333 years old, needs renovation. In particular, cement materials used 40 years ago are now considered to be durable, as they effectively prevent the house from breathing and promote moisture in the walls.

This should be removed and put on a harling with a breathing lime. In addition, several stone areas have been washed away and need to be repaired and the roof and chimney need to be repaired.

In front of the house is a magnificent latex 17th-century marble katouche that originally housed a bishop’s coat. Expert advice has been received that this should be removed, the changes should be adjusted and reinstated by care professionals.

The Trustees have set up an Executive Group to tackle this task and a skilled craftsman has been appointed.

Here is a detailed list of essential services for which the current cost is around £ 390,000. The Trust has very little in common with donations and sometimes benefits from inputs but savings may not start to cover the cost of repairs.

A request has been made to various donor agencies, including Historic Environment Scotland but it still requires a concerted effort to raise £ 150,000 for these assets to be preserved for future generations. We hope that, if money can be secured, we can begin the early 2022 reform.

Following discussions with the Stirling Council and taking feedback from potential donors, the Group is also looking at how to open Undercroft (on the way; Library on the first floor) as a community resource and library and work with neighboring pages to promote the Library.

For more information, go to www.leightonlibrary.org.uk


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