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Chetham's Library Unscripted - Manchester's oldest building opens at night

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 January 2019

The library has more than 100,000 printed volumes (Picture: Chetham's Library)

The library has more than 100,000 printed volumes (Picture: Chetham's Library)

Chetham's Library

Visitors can wander free as one of Lancashire's landmark buildings opens at night for the first time

Inside the atmospheric Chetham's Library in Manchester (Picture Loop/Alamy)Inside the atmospheric Chetham's Library in Manchester (Picture Loop/Alamy)

Chetham’s Library is Manchester’s oldest building and the most ancient public reference library in the English-speaking world so you’d expect it to have a special atmosphere at any time of the day.

But few get to explore its medieval nooks and crannies after dark – until now. For the first time, visitors will be able to wander freely through the library after hours, without a guide and with access to the centuries-old passages and stairways that usually remain closed to the public.

The ‘Chetham’s Library Unscripted’ experience is an exclusive self-guided tour through the medieval stone passages, secret staircases and richly panelled rooms as dusk begins to fall.

Visitors will find their way around with the help of lanterns and twinkling fairy lights as they take a tour of this 598-year-old centre for learning.

To add to the sense of mystery, the library staff will keep noise to a minimum and encourage visitors to do the same.

There will be various surprise ‘incidents’ throughout the building to discover and enjoy, including books from the collection to read by lantern light and illuminated corners as well as objects not normally seen.

It finishes in the spectacular Baronial Hall for a glass of wine and the opportunity to meet the staff and curators of one of the oldest and attractive buildings in the north of England.

Heritage Manager Sue McLoughlin said: ‘We are very excited about this new event, which has been designed for visitors who don’t necessarily want a guided tour and would like to wander through the building at their own pace. The library is an independent charity and we rely largely on donations. All proceeds from this event will help us to preserve Chetham’s Library for future generations.’

Historic England named the library one of the 100 places that tell the story of this country’s history and its impact on the world. Established as a library in 1653 by Humphrey Chetham, it occupies medieval buildings dating to 1421.

It originally accommodated the priests of Manchester’s collegiate church and more recent notable visitors have included Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who carried out research for The Communist Manifesto. Chetham’s Library holds more than 100,000 volumes of printed books, as well as rare manuscripts, deeds and 
paintings.

Tickets are available for January 17 and February 14 visits priced at £20. Visitors need to book through www.chethams.org.uk/whats-on

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