Webpage created: September 15, 2019
Webpage updated: January 02, 2020
WILLIAM HENRY KEARLEY WRIGHT (1844-1915)
William Henry Kearley Wright was born at Plymouth on September 15th 1844, the son of William and Mary Ann Wright.
After being educated at the Plymouth Public Free School under Mr George Jago, he joined the Bank of Deposit in Plymouth. Unfortunately the Bank failed so he then went to work for the South Devon Railway Company, where he soon rose to a position of honour and trust. During this time he became the honorary librarian for the Plymouth Working Men’s Association and of the Railway Servants’ Library and the experience he gained in those posts was to stand him in good stead when in 1876 the committee of the Borough Free Library then being created in Plymouth were seeking to appoint a librarian.
William was one of the earliest members of the Library Association, having been elected in 1877, and later served as a member of its Council and as vice-president.
It is said that he was the person largely responsible for suggesting that a statue of Sir Francis Drake be placed upon the Hoe and for organising the Armada Tercentenary Commemoration that took place in July 1888. He was also chiefly instrumental in the commencement of the Ex Libris Society, becoming its honorary secretary and editor of its Journal. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the Devonshire Association, the Somersetshire Archaeological Society and the Plymouth Institution.
During his time as Borough Librarian, he was responsible for putting together a special collection of material on Devon and Cornwall, the catalyst of the present Local Studies Collection, and also edited the “Western Antiquary” for many years.
In addition, the name of W H K Wright appeared on many books of local interest, including “The Visitors’ Guide to Mount Edgcumbe” in 1871; “The Illustrated Newquay Guide and Visitors’ Hand Book”; and “The Illustrated Hand Book to Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse”, both in 1885. His major local work was two volumes on the story of the Blue Friars of Plymouth. He also contributed many articles to other magazines and papers on librarianship to the “Transactions of the Library Association”, in addition to editing “Gay’s Fables” for the Frederick Warne Chandos Classics series.
At the time of the 1881 census, he was living at 7 Headland Park, Plymouth, with his wife, formerly Miss Jeanette E R Duprez, and his 72-years-old widowed mother.
Mr William Henry Kearley Wright died on April 27th 1915 at the age of 71 years.