This month my friend Julie Sweeten has kindly contributed a piece on a superb library that she visited recently. Thank you, Julie.
Tucked away in an old area of the city of Manchester is a wonderful unexpected library gem, the oldest surviving public library in Britain.
Chetham’s Library was established in 1653 under the will of Humphrey Chetham, a prosperous Manchester textile merchant, banker and landowner, which also established a school for 40 poor boys plus 5 chained libraries in local churches.
Chetham’s Library is situated in a beautiful medieval complex which dates from 1421, which had been housing for the priests of Manchester’s Collegiate Church.
Chetham’s Library has been in continuous use as a free public library for over 350 years and remains a significant centre for study and research, but is also a very special place to visit. I was fortunate to be given a private tour after I explained that I was a librarian from the oldest library in Australia (the State Library of NSW)! I was shown the beautiful Reading Room, the historic bookcases and gated wall presses with books arranged alphabetically, treasures from the collection, the chained library from Gorton Church, and the lovely alcove where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels worked together on The Communist Manifesto in 1845. There are also lovely medieval cloisters complete with a cat flap.