Manchester UK

Manchester Libraries

The Central Library

St Peters Square, Manchester M2 5PD.
Tel: 0161-234 1900.

Central Library, St Peters Square & GMEX, Manchester
Central Library, St Peters Square & GMEX.
Aerial Photo Courtesy of © 2005

An important British library, which serves
the city and the region, and one of the largest outside London, it has
an extensive collection of books for lending and for reference, as befits
a major university city. It also houses audio-visual material and exhibitions.
Manchester had been the first local authority in Britain to introduce
a public lending and reference library, under powers granted by the
Public Libraries & Museums Act of 1850. Lending of books was free, costs
being supported by ratepayers.
The existing building came as a result of many years searching for a
suitable place to house Manchester’s growing collection of books and
printed materials. Amongst these are 30 incunabula – books printed before
1501. It also houses the Library Theatre, a café, shop and Local Studies

Central Reference Library 4Central Reference Library , ManchesterCentral Reference LibraryManchester Central  Library

It was designed by London architect E.
Vincent Harris, who won the competition for its design as well as the
adjacent Town Hall Extension (built later).
The foundation stone of the library was laid by Prime Minister Ramsey
MacDonald in 1930, and it was officially opened by King George on 17
July 1934. It is regarded as one of Harris’s most confident and impressive
buildings – a Manchester landmark which dominates St Peter’s Square,
and commands an imposing position when approaching from the south along
one of Manchester’s busiest thoroughfares, Oxford Street.
The building was constructed as an underlying 4 storey high steel frame,
clad in Portland stone, and rising 90 feet, with attic and storage facilities
below ground. It is clearly influenced by the Pantheon in Rome. Rustication
is employed on the two lower floors to give the whole building a feeling
of massiveness and strength. Above this level are two storeys behind
giant Doric columns
Its southern front is dominated by an imposing 5 bay portico of Corinthian
columns with rounded arches at each side. On top is a large domed glass
roof covering the central reading room, (similar to that at the British
Museum), but this is hidden from street level by a higher surrounding
lead-covered roof. Harris also designed the furniture which is in evidence
throughout the building. It cost some £410,000 and the site on
which it stands cost £187,800.
It is also home to an extensive local history collection and a wide
range of specialist materials for visually and hearing impaired people
is available. It also has a Chinese book collection, reflecting the
large ethnic influence in Chinatown which is nearby.

John Rylands University Library

150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH. Tel: 0161- 834

John Rylands Library, Manchester
Statue of John Ryland in his library – photo
copyright © 2010 Gloria Moss, Papillon Graphics

This is a superb Neo-Gothic building
of the 1890s housing one of the finest collections of rare books and
manuscripts in the north of England, including a copy of the Gutenberg
Bible of 1455, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales printed by William
Caxton in the early 16th Century. The library’s international renown
lies with its rare books, many of which were purchased initially by
Mrs Rylands; these include the Spencer Collection of printed books,
purchased for £210,000 in 1892, as well as many valuable manuscripts
from the Biblioteca Lindesiana acquired in 1901 for £155,000.

John Rylands LibraryJohn Rylands LibraryJohn Rylands Library, SeansgateJohn Rylands Library

The building has many notable fine architectural
features, including its early Art Nouveau bronze fittings – among them
are light switches, gates and radiator grilles. It was one of Manchester’s
first electrically lit buildings, and had air conditioning. Stone for
the building came from Penrith in Cumbria; known as shawk, it varies
from grey to buff and pink. Woodwork is in Polish oak and there are
many fine pieces of detailed carving.
There is a substantial collection of portrait busts of great writers
such as Darwin, Shakespeare and Bacon, as well as symbolic statuary
representing Theology, Science and the Arts. White marble portraits
of John Rylands
and his wife, Enriqueta are to be found at either end of the Reading
When John Rylands, a Manchester cotton merchant died in 1888, he left
a personal fortune of some £2,750,000, which provided the finance for
building the library, commissioned by his third wife and widow Enriqueta

New entrance to the Rylands Library
New entrance – from modern into Victorian – c opyright © 2010 Gloria
Moss, Papillon Graphics

The commission was granted to the architect
Basil Champneys (later knighted), who was to produce a design that would
make it one of the finest libraries in Britain. Champneys also designed
all the furnishings and fittings to maintain the consistent Neo-Gothic
style. Taking 10 years to build, the library was opened to the public
on New Year’s Day 1900, and it remained an independent public library
until 1972, when it merged with Manchester University Library. It still
boasts that it is the 3rd largest academic library in the United Kingdom.
Open : Monday-Friday 10.00am-5.30pm. Saturdays 10.00am-1.00pm. Closed
on Sundays. Other times by appointment. Visitors and group parties are
welcome, and guided tours are available by prior arrangement. There
are frequent special exhibitions and imaginative displays of printed
material. Toilets and facilities for the disabled.
Library accessible to serious students by arrangement. Enrolment as
a reader is free. Guided tours are available for groups of up to 50
people by prior arrangement. Tours last about 1 hour and there is a
small charge of about £1.50 with half price concessions. Members of
Library Staff welcome the opportunity to give outside illustrated talks
on the history and work of the library. Rooms available for hire for
seminars, receptions and private functions. Bookshop on site with postcards
and library publications are on sale in the entrance hall to the library.

John Rylands Library, interior
Photo Copyright © 2010 Gloria Moss, Papillon Graphics

See Also: Plan
of Jo
hn Rylands Library

Chetham’s Library

Long Millgate, Manchester. Telephone:
0161-834 9644 / 7961.

Sign at entrance to Chetham's Library

In 1655 Chetham’s Hospital and Chetham’s Library were established from
monies left by Sir Humphrey
, a wealthy local textile merchant, in his will at his death
in 1653. The term “Hospital” is an interesting point – it referred to
the poor (who in those days were invariably also the sick – wealthy
people had their own private “surgeons”). “Chets”, (as it became known)
was set up as a charitable free school to provide education for about
40 boys (girls were not then regarded as worth educating!!) from poor
families, who showed aptitude to learn.

Chetham's Library, Manchester
Photo Copyright © 2010 Gloria Moss, Papillon Graphics

The site also included a free library
– the first free public library in the world with over 100,000 books,
many of them quite rare, and over half printed before 1850. The public
may still access this library by appointment with the warden. Built
in red sandstone, like the cathedral, it originally formed dormitories
and quarters for cathedral clergy. The buildings, grouped around a central
courtyard with a defensive entrance gate, were typical of medieval building
From 1547, after the reformation, when Henry VIII closed and dissolved
monasteries, the premises were the town dwellings of the Earl of Derby.
The college was refounded in 1557, but by the time of the outbreak of
the Civil Wars, the buildings were in a dilapidated state. Their purchase
by Humphrey Chetham almost certainly saved them from demolition. He
purchased the lot for £400 just prior to his death.
Chetham’s is now a music school for musically gifted young men and women,
and attracts young proteges from all over the north-west of England.
It still largely maintains the original principle of admitting talented
youngsters, and barring none because of financial hardship. The school
is well funded and maintains poorer pupils. Lunchtime concerts are held
every Wednesday in the Baronial Hall. Concerts can be combined with
a guided tour of the school and library. The library, containing a large
collection of books, specialises in local history material. In this
library, Frederick Engels
spent many hours researching for his numerous w ritings.

The Portico Library

57 Mosley Street, Manchester 2. Telephone:
0161-236 6785. Website:

Portico Library ManchesterPortico Library Manchester

Situated on the corner of Mosley Street
and Charlotte Street, this narrow elegant classical building was designed
by Thomas Harrison of Chester in 1806, at the height of the so-called
classical revival. It was commissioned by the wealthier gentlemen of
Manchester, as a reading room to compete with the one which they had
seen in Liverpool. Not to be outdone by Liverpudlians, they even installed
a wind measuring machine in the building!
The library contains over 25,000 volumes. It is also the home base of
the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. Its imposing pediment
dominates the street, rising high on slender Ionic Columns to create
the Portico after which it is known.
Sadly, the ground floor was lost in recent times, due largely to financial
considerations, and the private library now occupies only the upper
floor. The ground floor has become a bar Café.
Until the Public Libraries Act of 1850, this was the only circulating
Library in Manchester. Initially, its 400 shareholders paid an annual
subscription of £2.10s.0d (£2.05) for use of the ground floor newspaper
reading room and the upstairs gallery. This gallery is supported on
iron columns and is topped by a glass dome. Unfortunately, the building
was divided in two at the time of the Second World War, and the ground
floor subsequently became a branch of Lloyds Bank.
Frequent exhibitions are held, and certain areas are still open to non-members.
Well worth the climb upstairs to see this prize of e arly 19th century

Instituto Cervantes

Instituto Cervantes Manchester

326-330 Deansgate, Campfield Avenue Arcade,
Manchester M3 4FN. Tel: 0161-661 4201.
A non-profit cultural institution belonging to the Spanish government.
There is a library where you can find a large collection of Spanish
and Latin American literature available in different formats, materials
of Spanish as a foreign language, films, music, history, arts, geography,
politics, economy, etc.

Working Class Movement Library, Salford

Jubilee House, 51 The Crescent, Salford
M5 4WX. Tel: 0161-736 3601. Email:
History of working people is stored here. Extensive archives. Open to
the general public, researchers, students and schoolchildren – please
ring to make an appointment.

Working Class Movement Library, Salford

The Working Class Movement Library began
in 1953 and now has a large archive collection of 50,000 books, pamphlets,
manuscripts and memorabilia related to the development and history of
the labour movement since the late eighteenth century. It is a major
educational resource for the region, and is an independent charitable
trust supported by the City of Salford’s Heritage Department. It is
located in Jubilee House on The Crescent (the A6) opposite the University
of Salford. The library welcomes students, researchers as well as general
Material has to be studied on site as materials cannot be borrowed,
but there is a photocopying service. Admission is free. Prior to visiting
the library you must make an appointment, during normal opening hours.
Organised groups are also welcome.
Computerised cataloguing of the archive began in 1996, financed by a
grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Opening Hours
Closed all day on Mondays and Saturdays. Sunday opening from 2.00pm
to 5.00pm on alternate weeks – please check. Weekdays open from 10.00am
to 5.00pm from Tuesday to Friday with late opening till 7.00pm on Wednesdays.

Friends of WCML
The Friends of the Working Class Movement Library are devoted to the
support and advancement of the Library’s aims including fund-raising
from lectures, Open Days, book sales, and financial donations, in order
to promote the growth of the Library. Membership: Annual subscription
is £5 for emplo yed and £2 for unemployed members.

See Also:
North West Film Archive

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This page last updated 21 Jan 15..