Thomas Hall 1610-1665

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Thomas HALL 1610-1665

Biographical Note

Born at Worcester, son of Richard Hall, clothier. BA Pembroke College, Oxford 1629; in the same year he became master of the grammar school at King’s Norton, near Birmingham. Curate at Wythall 1632, at Moseley 1635, at King’s Norton 1640. Theologically a Presbyterian, he remained based at King’s Norton throughout the Civil War and Interregnum, ministering and publishing a series of polemical tracts covering such topics as infant baptism, fashion (Comarum akosmia: the loathsomenesse of long haire, 1654) and popular revels. Ejected from his posts in 1662, he remained at King’s Norton as an independent minister, in poverty. He published a number of expository and polemical theological works during the last ten years or so of his life.


Hall accumulated a library of over 1000 volumes; there are numerous references in his writings to his belief in the importance of books, and he estimated that the financial investment he made in his library amounted to about a third of his lifetime earnings. His catalogues are prefaced with the sentiment 'Libri sunt oculorum epulae' (Books are the banquet of the eyes). There is evidence that he lost some books during the Civil War period. He directed in his will that the books be divided between St Martin’s Church, Birmingham (ca.300 books, to be a library for ministers at Birmingham), the parish of King’s Norton (ca.700 books, for the ministers of Kings Norton), and the school there (ca.265 books, intended to support the grammar school curriculum). In practice it seems that all or nearly all his books stayed in King’s Norton as a parish library there, in cupboards in a building in the churchyard, until the entire collection was transferred to Birmingham Public Library in 1892, where ca.1140 of the books remain today, including books not mentioned in the catalogues of the three specific bequests. The majority are 17th-century books with a high proportion of theology (from many theological traditions, not only Presbyterian), with a number of earlier items (Perkin notes 215 STC books and 605 Wing ones). Hall’s list of the books which he intended to go to Birmingham (ca. 150 titles, which he regarded as “the best”, i.e. the most scholarly and substantial) is transcribed at the end of Powicke’s 1924 article. Examples: numerous in the Library of Birmingham.

Characteristic Markings

Hall was an extensive annotator of his books, regularly marking endleaves and texts. His annotations are described by Denise Thomas in her 2015 article where she notes that "in general they are not notes on the texts themselves but his responses to them and include cross references to other supportive works". His bindings are typically plain and simple, with a few more decorated exceptions having been acquired as a consequence of the books being second-hand.


  • Gilbert, C. D. "Hall, Thomas (1610–1665), clergyman and ejected minister." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Kelly, T. Early public libraries, 1966, 80.
  • Perkin, M. A directory of the parochial libraries of the Church of England. London, 2004.
  • Powicke, F. New light on an old English Presbyterian and bookman, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 8 (1924), 166-190.
  • Thomas, D. Collecting and godly reading in mid-seventeenth century Worcestershire, Midland History 40 (2015), 24-52.
  • Thomas, D. (ed), The autobiography and library of Thomas Hall, Worcester Historical Society, NS 26 (2016).