Chetham’s Library After Hours

Chetham’s Library After Hours

In April, I made a return visit to Chetham’s Library in Manchester’s Medieval Quarter. This time my visit was for a self-guided tour through the medieval stone passages, secret staircases and panelled rooms of Chetham’s Library after hours.

A table in a room at Chetham's Library.
I wonder what might have been said around this table…
Baronial Hall at Chetham's Library.
Baronial Hall at Chetham’s Library – The warden, fellows and of College, and their guests would have gathered to eat here.
Through a window at Chetham's Library.
Looking out…
Stairs at Chetham's Library.
Looking up…

During a rare Chetham’s Library After Hours event, we were given the opportunity to roam freely around the building in our own time. We were allowed to go into any room or passageway as long as the door leading to it was open. This meant I got to see more of the Library than I had on my previous visit.

A study at Chetham's Library.
We couldn’t enter this room, but I wish we could have!
Books, books and more books at Chetham's Library.
Taking a closer look…
Through a doorway at Chetham's Library.
Through the doorway…
The Reading Room at Chetham's Library.
The Reading Room at Chetham’s Library.
From the Reading Room to the Library at Chetham's Library.
From the Reading Room to the Library.

To give you a little history, Chetham’s Library was founded in 1653 and is the oldest surviving public library in Great Britain. The building was originally built in 1421 for the priests of Manchester’s Collegiate Church, before housing the poor boy’s school and the library. These days, the beautiful sandstone building sits within the grounds of Chetham’s School of Music (meaning visitor access needs to be pre-booked).

A corner of Chetham's Library.
A corner of the Library.

Rows of books at Chetham's Library.

Chetham's Library.
Looking back towards the Reading Room.
Typeset at Chetham's
Typeset (something is not quite right here…)
A quiet corner.
A quiet corner.

Chetham’s Library was established under the will of Humphrey Chetham (1580 – 1653). His will stated that the librarian should “require nothing of any man that cometh into the library”. Obviously, a building and book collection of this age needs a lot of upkeep, therefore it’s understandable that they now charge for tours and take donations. I’m sure Humphrey Chetham would have no qualms with this and would be delighted that his library is still here in this very spot, despite the modern development around it.

Chetham's Library.

Another quiet corner at Chetham's Library.
Another quiet corner.

Chetham's Library.

Looking up at the Library.
Looking up at the Library.
Library door at Chetham's Library.
The Library door.

It was a pleasure to be able to roam Chetham’s Library at my own pace, but I would love to know what lies beyond some of the doors, passageways and stairs which we were unable to explore. I could spend all day (and night) in this place and can only imagine the people who have studied and wandered around here over the centuries.

Passageways at Chetham's Library.
Roaming the passageways at Chetham’s Library.

A passageway at Chetham's Library.

A door at Chetham's Library.
Could that be a medieval cat flap?
Roaming the passageways at Chetham's Library.
Roaming the passageways at Chetham’s Library.
Stairs at Chetham's Library.
I wander what’s up there…

You can find Chetham’s Library at Long Millgate, Manchester M3 1SB. It has easy access via public transport with Victoria Railway & Tram Station just around the corner, a tram stop at Exchange Square and numerous bus stops nearby too.

Windows at Chetham's Library.

Looking through a window.
Looking out…
Outside Chetham's Library.
Outside Chetham’s Library.

Outside Chetham's Library.

If you visit, don’t forget to take some time to visit the nearby Manchester Cathedral or wander around the city in search of street art.


  1. lisl says:

    This is all new to me, Nikki. What a wonderful opportunity you had to wander almost freely, and take such a cache of good pictures

  2. Kris P says:

    Wow! It must have felt like stepping into another era, Nikki. I just finished a goth-style mystery novel and I felt that vibe when I viewed your photos.

  3. Kelly says:

    All those books and that beautiful wood! I would love to visit this library. Yes, I always imagine the things said and done in the past when I visit a place like this. My imagination runs wild!

  4. Ginnie Hart says:

    OMG, Nikki. I would be in heaven there, as would my mom, who we 8 kids always saw as our walking encyclopaedia! What a great idea to have an After Hours tour like this, which would be totally worth the cost. And LOL about the cat flap in the door. Of course! 🙂

  5. Anca says:

    On the day I was in Manchester and I could visit it as I had no other plans it was closed for an event or something like that. I will visit it because it’s lovely.

  6. Astrid says:

    I could just get lost in such a place and I Don mind if me lock me up for the night…. That is something else and what great photography here, Nikki. This is worth every penny to have this self guided tour. All those books, all that wood. I just love it.
    Have a wonderful day.

  7. Jo says:

    I remember your previous visit. It’s such a fascinating place with so much history. Glad you got to wander round at your leisure, I’m sure it made it all the more interesting.

  8. WOW – you captured such cool photos of the library. What did it smell like? Clean or old books? Was there one librarian desk or multiple ones? How did someone find the book they were looking for back then? Simply fascinating, thank you for sharing!

    • Nikki says:

      Thank you! It smelled of old books, just like you would imagine. No librarian’s desk. I seem to recall the books being alphabetical, but other than that I think you just had to browse!

  9. jeanie says:

    That building is beyond fantastic. I was going to ask you what it was before it became a library but I see you told us! That’s fascinating — wondered who passed through there before. They’ve done a magnificent job with this in every possible way. And I love the touches, like the lights around the floor and the candles. You must have had a ball exploring this. Who wouldn’t?

    • Nikki says:

      It was wonderful! The only thing that could have made it better would have been if the other visitors hadn’t have been there too! 😀

  10. Marty says:

    Those stone walls, both inside and out! What an utterly fantastic and beautiful place. As a retired librarian, you’ve just given me shivers. I’m so jealous! I’m adding it to the bucket list. Thanks!

  11. Beverley says:

    What a wonderful place to visit. The stories and secrets it must hold and all those wonderful books. The closed doors and no access areas must have been hard to resist but you did get to to see much more than on you last visit. Thank you for sharing your experience there.

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