Northern Design Scene: Manchester’s Libraries

Some of the worlds bestselling Authors came from Manchester, you may have read some of their work; Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange, Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret garden and poet Carol Ann Duffy to name a few. 

With that in mind, it’s not a surprise that Manchester is home to some of the most beautiful library and archive buildings in the country. As part of the run up to the Manchester Open this October, we took some time to take a look around…

The John Rylands Library

rylands vaultsPart of the University of Manchester and one of Europe’s best examples of baroque architecture is the John Rylands Library. It has held a vast collection of rare books and manuscripts since its completion in 1899 and was designed by Architect Basil Champneys.

The original Entrance Hall, has extremely high pillars and vaulting, and is quite beautiful. It has a wonderful example of an 1820’s iron printing press with intricate detailing.ryalnds printing pressAs you follow the historic staircase up, which provides a close up view of the Gothic architecture, you are led to the library’s centrepiece, the famous Historic Reading Room.

The Historic Reading Room is still used today and remains part of the study areas available to students of Manchester University. The stained-glass window depict historical figures that have achieved success for literature, the arts and science. As a Grade 1 listed building the fittings and furniture are well preserved and on each side are alcoves filled with books and historic volumes for personal study.ryalnds books

Chetham’s Library

The oldest surviving public library in Britain was founded in 1653 by order of a wealthy textile merchant, Humphrey Chetham in his will. The old medieval building was entrusted to local craftsmen, and a joiner Richard Martinscroft, who was given the task of fitting and furnishing the Library. 2 years later, in 1655 the shelves were filled with books, manuscripts and archives in theology, law, history, medicine and science.

The building is small but with its dark beamed ceilings and carved stone walls its captivating example of Gothic architecture. Take a look at the snaps from our visit below.



About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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