The Oldest Public Library in the UK Looks Like Whaaa???

If you’re ever planning a trip to the UK, you’ll definitely want to make plans to visit Chetham’s Library in Manchester. Established all the way back in 1653, Chetham’s is the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom. In his will, Humphrey Chetham—who, let’s be honest, has one of the most English names ever—made provisions for the creation of Chetham’s Hospital, which contains both the library and a school of music.



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In his will, Chetham stipulated the Library should be “for the use of schollars and others well affected,” and he instructed the librarian “to require nothing of any man that cometh into the library.” So the library has been free and open to the public ever since. Nowadays, it operates as an independent charity. You can take a tour of the library if you’re in the area, and you can even book it for your own event on some days!


Image Via Chetham’s Library

With so much history, you can bet Chetham’s library has created quite the collection over the years. It currently houses more than 100,000 volumes, and 60,000 of those were published before 1851. Some of the stools made for readers when the library first began are even still in use!



There’s even bit of political history at Chetham’s Library. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels met in the window alcove to study economics when Marx visited Manchester in 1845. The research they undertook there would eventually lead to their writing The Communist Manifesto. The librarians have even taken it upon themselves to decorate the table in the alcove with facsimiles of books Marx and Engels would have studied.


Image via Wikimedia


But hey, if history’s not really your thing, you can still just bask in the bookish beauty of Chetham’s Library! Some of the stools and stacks in use today are hundreds of years old!


Becky Mary Chapel, Image via chetham’s Library


Baronial Hall,  via Chetham’s Library




Featured Image via Creative Tourist