Rosegill Library

From 'Middlesex Library News', Southside Sentinel, May 22, 2003

by Sherry B. Inabinet


Books have been an important part of Middlesex County's heritage. According to Paul Wilstach in his book Tidewater Virginia, the library at Rosegill was "one of the largest in Tidewater, and probably in all the colonies at the beginning of the eighteenth century, for in 1701 it embraced 500 titles." These included "50 comedies and tragedies in folio," Every Man in His Humor, Don Quixote, Hudibras, Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, Burnet's History of the Reformation, Herbert's Poems, Camden's Brittania, and the works of Jeremy Taylor, Gower, Baxter, Montaigne, Bacon, Quarles, etc.

The Wormeleys, who occupied Rosegill with only one interruption from 1649 to 1806, were conspicuous characters educated, for the most part, in English universities. They occupied first place positions in the colonial government.

The builder of Rosegill and founder of the library was Ralph Wormeley. He entered Oxford at age 15, completed his studies in 1665, and eventually became a member of the House of Burgesses, a member of the Council, secretary of state, a trustee of William and Mary College, naval officer of the Rappahannock, and eventually president of the Council. One of his contemporaries declared Ralph Wormeley was "the most powerful man in Virginia."

It was also noted it was "the fifth Ralph Wormeley who, having completed his studies at Eton and Cambridge, returned home about 1761 and became one of the greatest book collectors in all Tidewater."

What happened to the library at Rosegill will require more research. Board member Judy Richwine brought the Wilstach book to my attention. It and many other fascinating books about the Old Dominion are in our Virginia Reference collection. These books, old and fragile, may be enjoyed at our Urbanna Branch.