Unique collection gifted to Windsor Library shines a light on town’s rich history

The Mayor, Councillor Christine Bateson, third left, receives some of the books in the collection from chairman of trustees Peter Gray. They are joined by, left to right, Samantha Davidson, team leader: library advocacy, performance and business improvement, Barbara Story, local studies librarian, Councillor Samantha Rayner, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for business, corporate & residents services, culture & heritage, & Windsor, and Louisa Knight, museum arts and local studies officer.

A fascinating collection of historic books and documents about Windsor and the surrounding area has been officially handed over to the town’s library as a valuable part of the Royal Borough’s local studies archive.

The Luff Collection comprises early newspapers, historic books, press cuttings and other documents covering the period 1714 to 1990. It was the personal library of Thomas Edmund Luff, a well known Windsor printer, stationer and publisher who was a councillor for 15 years and Mayor in 1912/13.

It forms part of the wider local studies collection at Windsor Library, a fantastic resource for researchers of local and family history.

After Mr Luff's death in 1933 the collection continued to be kept in a bookcase above his shop in St Leonards Road, Windsor. In 1985 a large part of the collection was purchased by the trustees of the Royal Albert Institute Fund (RAIF) and placed on permanent loan to The Princess Margaret Royal Free School in the town. When the school closed in 2000 the collection was moved to Windsor Library.

At a trustee meeting earlier this year it was agreed that in commemoration of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and in memory of the late John Handcock – who was clerk to the RAIF for more than 50 years - the RAIF would donate the collection and £1,000, the amount Mr Handcock left to the RAIF in his will, to Windsor Library.

The library put the money towards a new cabinet for the collection, and the items are now on display in their new home.

The collection was formally handed over to the library in a recent ceremony by the fund’s chairman of trustees, Peter Gray, to the Mayor, Councillor Christine Bateson. They were joined by members of Mr Handcock’s family, other trustees, councillors, and library staff.

Councillor Bateson said: “Thomas Luff was Mayor of Windsor 110 years ago, so it's a great honour for me, on behalf of the Royal Borough, to accept this donation of his personal library from the trust. 

“The Royal Albert Institute, which was a few steps away from the library in Sheet Street, was the centre of cultural life in Windsor and the Luff library is one of the most important collections in the Royal Borough's library service. It will be on display in Windsor Library for many years to come.

“Our thanks to the trust for this generous donation and for everything it has done over the years in making a major contribution to the cultural life of Windsor and the Royal Borough.”

Councillor Samantha Rayner, deputy leader and cabinet member for business, corporate & residents services, culture & heritage, & Windsor, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to add this collection to our historical local studies archive and display for everyone to see. The archive is a valuable resource containing many photographs, books, maps and other resources relating to the Royal Borough which can be used to research local and family history.

“Our local studies collections are an integral part of what we have on offer, preserving not only the heritage and rich history of our borough, but enabling current and future generations to research this and learn more. The Luff library is a vital part of the collection in Windsor.” 

Mr Gray said: “John Handcock was very much a Windsorian who knew more about the locality than anybody else I know and who had a great interest in the Luff Collection. John would have been delighted and very proud that anyone can now have the opportunity to visit this wonderful collection in its new setting and we hope that many people will enjoy looking at it in the future. The trustees of the Royal Albert Institute Fund and myself wish to thank everyone involved in making this possible.”