Chetham’s Library is on my must-see list for anyone visiting Manchester. It’s housed on the first floor of a medieval building inside Chetham’s School of Music, right in the centre of Manchester.
The library was established in 1653 from money donated by Humphrey Chetham. In his will, he stated that the library would be for the education of “the sons of honest, industrious and painful parents”, making it the oldest free public library in the English-speaking world. Chetham’s began acquiring its extensive library collection in 1655 and now holds more than 100,000 volumes.
To visit the library you’ll need to book a tour in advance. Tours are usually held at 11:00 and 14:30 on various days from Monday to Friday, though not everyday. Check their website for availability. A friendly guide meets visitors at the gate of the Chetham’s old campus and guides them over to the library building. They were also great at answering all my questions.
The building oozes history. A corner of the reading room is devoted to a story about Marx and Engels’ visit to the library to conduct economic research in 1850s. And wandering around, I get the feeling that the place has many more stories to tell.