In March 2007, Usk Town Council hosted a Reception at the Sessions House, Usk to celebrate the re-establishment, after 65 years, of the Trust to oversee and maintain the most interesting, mainly Victorian, law library housed there. It comprises almost 3000 volumes of law reports, statutes and commentaries dating from 1698 to 1971, including many local and personal Acts which have a particular interest from a social history viewpoint.
The original Trust was established in 1886 by Sir Henry Mather-Jackson, later Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire, in memory of, and to preserve the book collection of, his father, the 2nd Baronet who was also a Sir Henry! He had been a Member of Parliament and, briefly, a High Court Judge. The last of the original Trustees died in 1942 and, as a consequence, the Trust then became moribund. Usk Town Council was keen that the Trust should be re-established and, through the efforts of the Honorary Curator, Tony Fleming, and with considerable assistance from many others, this was achieved in 2007. Seven new Trustees were appointed, including three Members of the Town Council (the Mayor and the Chairmen of the Finance and the Sessions House Management Committees), Lord Raglan (whose grandfather had been one of the original Trustees), Sir Roland Jackson (the current Baronet) and Dr Susan Sloman, (a great-great granddaughter of the 2nd Baronet).
After the inaugural meeting of the new Trustees, Tony Fleming expressed his pleasure that more active management of the collection could now take place. The Trust has also been very appreciative of the sterling work being undertaken by trained Heritage Volunteers from the Monmouthshire Decorative and Fine Arts Association (affiliated to NADFAS) in the cleaning and undertaking of minor repairs to the books. It is, however, still necessary for fund-raising to be undertaken, to enable more complex re-bindings, where necessary, to be commissioned professionally and donations will always be most appreciated, either generally to the work of the Trustees, or to sponsor repairs to a particular volume – which would be suitably credited to the donor. “At last, I feel the Library is in good hands and can be safeguarded in this delightful building for the future, as Sir Henry intended”, he said.
Access to the Library is available to lawyers, researchers and other interested parties, by appointment, through the Town Clerk at the Sessions House (01291) 673011.
The ongoing programme of repair to the books does cost money! Donations are always appreciated and, as the Mather-Jackson Library Trust is recognised as having charitable status by H.M. Revenue and Customs, donations may be gift-Aided to the considerable financial advantage of the Trust. Forms for this purpose are available from Jonathan Stephens.