A COLLECTION of rare books which is among the largest of its kind in the country has been catalogued by a university student.

The books, at St Cuthbert’s Church, in Darlington, include two rare Bibles dating back to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The collection could go on show later this year.

Although the books are not as valuable as other similar Bibles because of their condition, they form the largest parochial library in the Diocese of Durham and one of the largest in the country.

They include annotations and drawings of ships used by Sir Francis Drake, who was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Northumbria University student Liam Temple, from Darlington, has helped St Cuthbert’s reorganise and catalogue its parochial library.

Among the books were two rare Bibles – a Geneva Bible, dating from 1599, and a Breechers Bible from a few years later.

Mr Temple has spent 15 weeks sorting and chronicling the books as part of his university course, with the help of church wardens Joan and Paul Gilmore.

Mr Temple has set up a system that will allow parishioners to look at the books.

They can also be used by historians and scholars.

The history student said: “My interest is in religious history so this is right up my street.

“As my first hands-on experience, it has affirmed my interest in this subject – it’s been very educational.”

After finishing his course, Mr Temple hopes to complete a masters and a PhD before specialising in religious history.

The church hopes to hold heritage weekends, where members of the public can be shown around and learn about the collection.

Mr Gilmore said much of the 50-strong collection included the original parochial library.

Such collections were sent from London to clergies across the country to educate them.

Other books have been added, including the two Bibles – one of which was donated by Sir Eric Miller in the Fifties, but there is no record of who he is or why he presented the book – and books relating to the history of the church.

Mr Gilmore said of the finds: “The books are historically exciting.

“Why these (collections) have been lost, I don’t know.

“Perhaps various incumbents here looked after the collection.”