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Chetham's Library

wooden library hall with shelves

Chetham's Library founded 1653

  1. Chetham's Library does not function as a membership library


Chetham's Library was founded in 1653 by Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653), a Manchester merchant, and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. It is an independent charity and remains open to readers and visitors free of charge.The entire collection at Chetham's Library has been designated as one of national and international importance, an accolade of which we are extremely proud.


Library shelving subjects under U, WThe Library began acquiring books in August 1655, and has been adding to its collections ever since. As well as a fine collection of early printed books, the collections include a wealth of ephemera, manuscript diaries, letters and deeds, prints, paintings and glass lantern-slides. Around 130,000 volumes of printed books, of which about 60,000 pre-date 1850. 450 linear metres of manuscript and archives. Now specialises in the history of the Manchester region.


brick building with green lawnThe present Grade I listed building dates from the second quarter of the fifteenth century. In 1421 Thomas de la Warre, Lord of Manchester and rector of the parish church, obtained a licence from Henry V to re-found the church as a collegiate body, with a warden, eight fellows, four clerks and six lay choristers.The survival of such a complete medieval domestic building is rare in itself, and its troubled history makes that survival all the more surprising. In 1547 the College was dissolved and the Stanley family acquired the property as a town residence. The College was re-founded, closed down and re-opened, but gradually fell into a state of disrepair until its triumphant resurrection as the vessel for Humphrey Chetham’s glorious legacy.


Registered charity no 526702