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Chetham's Library

Last Updated: April 19, 2024 Manchester
Tripadvisor Rating 4.5/5
5 46
Google Rating 4.6/5
avatar By Sam Baldwin

Cletham’s Library is the oldest library in the English-speaking world. Its marvelous collection of printed books includes some as old as a 1539 copy of Prosper of Aquitaine, curated especially for Henry VIII and wrapped in white deerskin.

Long Millgate, Manchester M3 1SB, United Kingdom


This library in Manchester is the oldest in England and other English-speaking countries. Since its establishment in 1653, the library has operated solely on charity, providing free book access to readers.

The building of the library, however, is even older. It was built in 1421 and is one of the few completely intact structures from medieval times in England

Besides an invaluable collection of printed books and manuscripts, The library houses several paintings, digital resources, Belle Vue archives, prints, and photographs

The Story

The building came to being in 1421 to accommodate the priests of Manchester’s Collegiate Church. The building was later expanded and used as a church, college, catholic foundation, and even a prison and arsenal during the Civil War.

In 1653, Humphrey Chetham essentially bought it and opened a free library and a charity school for poor boys. According to Chetham’s will, the library began acquiring books in August 1655, and soon the collection was comparable to the college libraries of Oxford and Cambridge.

The books in the library were chained by their bookcases, and S-shaped wooden stools seated the readers.

It became a meeting point for Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The two politicians later became the authors of the world’s most influential political document, The Communist Manifesto.

Schoolroom at Chetham's Library photo by Mike Peel

Did You Know?

What Is Chetham’s Library Famous For?

Besides being a hub for free knowledge and antique books, the library is famous for its sandstone architecture. The interiors smell of old wood and books, the floors creak, and the baronial hall is majestic. Guided tours are famous among all history and literature enthusiasts.

How To Get To The Meeting Place for Marx, Engels, and Revolutionary Ideas?

The closest bus station is the Victoria Rail Station (NW stop), and the nearest Metrolink station is the Exchange Square (Manchester Metrolink).

Here are a few transport lines you can take to reach the place:

Bus: 135, 41, 50, 59, 67A, 83, 86



Nearby Parking And Charges

Q-Park Deansgate North has collaborated with the library to offer a £5-parking for all visitors with a discount voucher.

Nearby Attractions – Make A Day Of It!

Visit Manchester’s premium space for concerts and performances.

Delve into the history of football in the world’s biggest museum dedicated to the sport.

Top 3 Closest Hidden Gems – Recommended By Adventure Clues

Destination Distance
St Mary’s Church Manchester 0.5 mile
Greater Manchester Police Museum 0.6 mile
Manchester Roman Ruins 1.8 miles

Your Hidden Gems Itinerary

  1. Start your day at Chetham’s Library. 
  2. Continue on foot to St Mary’s Church Manchester, enjoying the architectural and historical significance.
  3. Visit and stroll to the Greater Manchester Police Museum, gaining insights into the evolution of law enforcement in the region.
  4. Conclude your day to the Manchester Roman Ruins, delving into the remnants of the city’s ancient past.

Manchester’s hidden gem locations offer a rich tapestry of history, culture, and literature. Navigating these sites on foot allows for a genuine and immersive experience, connecting with the city’s past and present.

Best Eateries Around

Several good eateries surround the library.

Riva Blu is rated 5 stars for its Italian cuisine.

It is famous for its fajitas and other Mexican delicacies.

Entry Price

The Chetham Library is public and accessible to everyone.

inside view at Chetham's Library photo by Sam Hancock

Final Thoughts

This library in Manchester, founded in 1653, stands as the oldest public library in Britain and the English-speaking world, with historical significance as a meeting place for figures like Marx and Engels, serving as a free library for over 350 years and housing a diverse collection of texts of local and international importance.

Walk where a socialist ideology was born. Book Manchester Scavenger Hunts by Adventure Clues to discover Manchester’s fantastic history and spell-bounding locations!

Chetham’s Library in Manchester FAQs

Explore more details about the rich history and remarkable contributions of this library, known as the Manchester Public Library – the oldest public reference library.

What is the history of the library?

It has a rich history, rooted in the Medieval age. Established in 1653 by wealthy merchant Humphrey Chetham, the library with its impressive Collection holds the distinction of being the oldest public library in the world of English language. Interestingly, this library has been in continuous operation at its original site on Long Millgate since its inauguration.

What is the significance of Manchester in the history of libraries?

The city of Manchester holds a significant place in the history of libraries as it is home to the largest free public library. This library was established in 1653 and it has a long legacy of promoting knowledge and learning.

What is unique about the collection there?

The collection at this library is unique as it is an extensive archive of printed books and manuscripts, most of which were published before 1851. There are significant 16th- and 17th-century works in the collection, making it a great treasure for scholars.

Can you tell me more about Humphrey Chetham and his contribution to the library?

Humphrey Chetham, a wealthy Manchester merchant, is the founder of the library. His vision ensured that the library has been in continuous use since its inception in 1653. He believed in the power of knowledge and wanted this library to be accessible to the public for free.

How is it significant in the library in the English-speaking world?

It holds a significant place as the oldest publicly-accessible library in the UK. It has a rich history and has played a crucial role as a center for knowledge for the English-speaking world since its inception in 1653.

What is the association of the Collegiate church with the library?

The Collegiate church is closely associated with it. As part of Humphrey’s vision, the library was established in the buildings that previously formed the collegiate church.


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