CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR REFURBISHMENT
Due to reopen in Spring 2014
St Peters Square, Manchester
M2 5PD. Tel: 0161-234 1900. 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 caf�, shop and
Local Studies Unit.
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
V 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
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.