Unlock Manchester Visitor Guide

Manchester What's On, Entertainment, Tickets and Eating Out Guide

Monday 02 Oct 2023

[@]The John Rylands Library

The John Rylands Library
Wam Bam Photography

The gothic interior of the John Rylands Library is an often overlooked gem located between Manchester’s bustling Deansgate and stylish Spinningfields areas containing one of the world’s finest collections of rare books and manuscripts. Researchers will find the collections essential, and for visitors it’s a magnificent architectural triumph and a portal to another time.

Founded in 1888, the library opened in 1900, becoming part of the University of Manchester in 1972. John Rylands was one of the most successful businessmen in Victorian England, becoming Manchester’s first multi-millionaire on the back of the textile industry the city would become famous for. The library founded in his name is home to one of the world’s richest and most unique collections of books and manuscripts, with objects dating back as far as the 1500s.

Harry Potter fans may feel as if they have tumbled into the magical world of Hogwarts such is the classical styling of the building. And don’t forget to look up as you marvel at the building - the vast, ornate ceilings are often overlooked by visitors.

The iconic Historic Reading Room with it’s high vaulted roof and private alcoves has the stylings of a cathedral. The spectacular window floods the room with light creating an atmospheric and absorbing space. Nowadays, the alcoves allow for private study and visitor displays in the Reading Room encourage you to relax, take in and be inspired by the amazing surroundings.

Another must see is the original staircase that would have been used by readers to enter the library. With it’s impressive stonework, this staircase affords stunning views of the building and its Neo-Gothic architecture.

Located at the base of this staircase are the original 1900’s Victorian toilets - the oldest working Victorian toilets in Manchester, which themselves form part of a unique tour that can be taken of Manchester’s Victorian toilets (through Manchester Guided Tours)!

Regular exhibitions take in stimulating topics that delve into the library’s collection and make use of the warren of reading rooms, with evening discussion talks, readings and events also proving to be popular. A gift shop with literary, tasteful and quirky items and lovely food at the cafe make the John Rylands Library a peaceful diversion from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

For music lovers, you might want to pair a visit to the John Rylands Library with a visit to the Chetham’s School of Music (Long Millgate, Manchester, M3 1SB. A working school, you can book access to the medieval library (also the oldest public library in Britain) and see where Karl Marx met Friedrich Engels and the ideas that spawned The Communist Manifesto were developed. And if you time it right, you might even be able to pop in to listen to the students perform a lunchtime concert.

Opening times: Thursday to Saturday, 10am-12pm, 1.30pm-5pm. Free to visit, but tickets must be pre-booked

Recommended visit time: 1-2 hours

The John Rylands Library

150 Deansgate
M3 3EH