Chetham’s Library was founded in 1653 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, although we suggest a minimum donation of £3.
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.
The 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.
Chetham’s Library, which was founded in 1653, is the oldest surviving public library in Britain. It was established under the will of Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653), a prosperous Manchester textile merchant, banker and landowner. Chetham also made provision for a school for forty poor boys, now a specialist music school of world renown, and for five chained libraries to be placed in local churches.
The building that houses Chetham’s is even older than the foundation of the School and Library. It was built in 1421 to accommodate a college of priests and remains one of the most complete medieval complexes to survive in the north west of England. The beautiful old sandstone buildings, together with the magnificent Library interior, create a unique atmosphere for readers and visitors alike.