Visiting The Oldest Public Library In Britain

Recorded as the oldest library which still stands till today, Chethams Public Library located in Manchester city centre was founded in 1653 to facilitate for the non-existent places for independent study. All thanks to Humphrey Chetham (d. 1653), the newly established library back then was converted from a Collegiate Church, accommodating priests which originally dates back to 1421. What does that mean? It means that this is probably one of the oldest surviving buildings in the north west region of Manchester.

Due to its longstanding history, sandstone buildings and majestic interior, the library provides one of the best atmospheres for visitors. Chetham took charge in gathering and acquiring collections of books covering a range of knowledge and intended to compete with the likes of Oxford and Cambridge.

One of my favourite things about this library is the statement Humphrey Chetham made when he left his will. Instructing the librarian he said, ‘to require nothing of any man that cometh into the library’ (, 2020). This basically means, Chetham is promoting the use of the library to be by anyone and everyone. In other words, he is declaring it as a free library. It has been a free public library for over 350 years and the only reason why tours have introduced prices is due to the requirement of maintenance and upkeep.

Today the library has become a very popular tourist spot and therefore below we have outlined all the information you’ll need for visiting this amazing library.

Opening Times For Readers

Chetham’s Library is open to readers Monday to Friday 09.00-12.30 and 13.30-16.30pm by prior appointment. If there is something on their catalogue you’d like to read, get in touch with them in advance by emailing them or calling on 0161 834 7961.

Visiting & Tours

In order to visit the library, you must arrive for the tour hours which are 11.00 AM and 2.30 PM on all weekdays. This excludes weekends, public holidays and the period between Christmas and New Years.

Ticket Costs

Tickets costs are outlined below which includes a tour of the library. The tour lasts 40 – 45 minutes (as of March 2020).

Full Price: £6.50
Age 65+: £5.50
Student: £5.50
Under 12: £5.50
Under 19: £5.50

It is strongly recommended to book in advance. Click here to book your tickets.

Address & Phone Number

Chetham’s Library
Long Millgate
M3 1SB

0161 834 7961

The Library is opposite close to the Manchester Cathedral and is opposite the National Football Museum. Entry to the Library is through the main gate on Long Millgate, M3 1SB, just off Cathedral Gardens.

References (2020). A History of Chetham’s. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].

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