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Central Library

Next tour: Fri 18 January 2019, 2.30pm.
BookingPlease book here with eventbrite.
Meet: At the Library entrance.

Manchester’s magnificent municipal library re-opened in March 2014 after a £40 million pound refit and has proved an endless source of fascination to locals, visitors and tourists.

At once it is reassuringly familiar (the exquisitely domed reading room) and mind-bogglingly different (the ground floor area, so wonderfully opened up and now so hi-tech).

The building, which opened in 1934, has even been segued with the adjacent Town Hall Extension in various ingenious ways. (Both were designed by Emmanuel Vincent Harris, whose best known work is the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall).

Crowds greet George V for the royal opening in 1934
Crowds greet George V for the royal opening in 1934

Since reopening the good folk who run the Library have allowed us to host monthly talks on aspects of Manchester history (see the Library’s Archives+ website). They have also sent a number of groups (U3A, Probus etc) our way to conduct private tours of the newly-revamped buildings, and we have also decided to run public tours.

We will show you around this Romanesque revival masterpiece updated for the 21st century while revealing the surprising history of the various incarnations of this library (the first such library in Manchester was opened by Charles Dickens in 1852), outline the best stories of this building, show off fascinating pictures of the earlier Manchester libraries and explain who all the famous folk are on the top floor. At the end we’ll even let you play with the funky hands-on gadgets on the ground floor, but not till we’ve perused some extraordinary first editions and rarities – Shakespeare 1st Folio, Newton’s Principia Mathematica – that the good folk at the Library will extract for us.