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.

You can explore some of Chetham's treasures, search the online catalogue and find out more about our collections by following the links in the menu above.

Chetham's Library is open to visitors Monday to Friday 9.00am-12.30 and 1.30-4.30pm. Please make an appointment if you wish to read. Groups of more than about five or six visitors are asked to phone or email in advance.


Chetham's Library
Long Millgate
M3 1SB
0161 834 7961

Link to Facebook Link to Twitter Link to e-newsletter sign-up flickr link tumblr link

Search this website:

Virtual Belle Vue

A fabulous new searchable, interactive resource on Belle Vue Zoo and Pleasure Gardens - find out more and get involved!

101 Treasures of Chetham's

A weekly series in which we highlight some of the Library's most interesting stuff, which as well as famous books and manuscripts includes furniture, paintings, and objects from the museum collection.

Digital Resources

A small but growing number of Library items is now free to view online in pdf format on our Digital Resources page.

Designation logo

Museum Accreditation Scheme

Chapbooks in Manchester Libraries

Several chapbooks from the Chetham's Library and Manchester City Library collections are available as pdfs here.

The Leech Family Archive

A permanent online exhibition examining the history and significance of the Leech family in Manchester from the early 1800s to the last years of the twentieth century.

Chetham's Library Publications

Several publications about the history of the Library are available to buy here, along with a limited number of high-quality facsimile reprints.

The Axon Ballad Collection

Chetham's is pleased to host the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society's collection of broadsides here.

Reproduction and Licensing

For the reproduction and licensing of images from Chetham's Library, please click on the Bridgeman Art Library link:

Bridgeman Art Library logo


A new view of Chetham's : 1821 and all that

We're enjoying a new acquisition, a picture of Chetham's that is the best part of two hundred years old, but which we seemed not to have, until last week. See it now on our blog.

The Manchester Ballads

The Library is featured in a Radio Four programme on nineteenth-century broadside ballads presented by folk musician Eliza Carthy. Find out more...

Heritage Open Day

On Saturday 12th September we will once again be opening our doors for Heritage Open Day. Come along between 10am-4pm and see the Library and medieval buildings, and join in on one of our free tours. All welcome.

Sense and Diagnosis

From 17 July to 9 October: Sense and Diagnosis is an exhibition exploring patient-doctor relationships from the medical collections at Chetham's Library and the Manchester Museum of Medicine and Health.

Belle Vue Live

Fans of Belle Vue now have another chance to relive memories and find out more about Manchester's favourite piece of history. Belle Vue's zoo, circus, gardens, boating lakes, speedway, boxing, special events, restaurants and attractions generated thousands of photos, programmes, guides and documents, and the library has been collecting them since the 1930s. Now, thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, those collections are online for the first time.

The launch of this new site is only the start – there's more material to add, and the Library would like your help online to put names to faces, put dates to events and get your stories about your experiences and memories, good or bad. You can add your comments to the site. Belle Vue material of all kinds will also find a permanent home in the Library's collections, and could become part of the online experience, available to all. Visit Virtual Belle Vue now!

Jeanette Winterson at Chetham's Library

Look out for Chetham's Library on Jeanette Winterson's Radio 4 programme 'Manchester: Alchemical City' which is available to listen to on demand on BBC iPlayer. Read more...

Lunchtime Closure

After trialling lunchtime opening since the beginning of the academic year, we regret to announce that until further notice the Library will revert to closing for an hour each lunchtime between 12.30 and 1.30pm.

Chetham's Library is a Fully Accredited Museum!

We are very pleased to announce that we have been awarded Fully Accredited Museum status by Arts Council England. Read more...

The Diaries of Dora Turnor

Read more about this extraordinary collection of journals written by a young girl in the 1870s...

A new Honorary Patron for the Library

Hot on the heels of Jeremy Deller, we are delighted to welcome Michael Wood as our third Honorary Patron. Michael has spent time at the Library recently with first-year History students, as part of his role of Professor of Public History at Manchester University. Find out how you can become a Patron here...

Sir Edward Watkin

We have recently acquired a collection of material relating to Sir Edward Watkin, unsung Manchester hero, radical politician and forgotten pioneer, who became arguably the most important and best-known railwayman of the late nineteenth century. Find out more...

Jeremy Deller becomes our newest Honorary Patron

We are thrilled to announce that Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller has agreed to become the Library's latest Honorary Patron. We have been working with Jeremy over the last few weeks on his latest exhibition 'All That is Solid Melts into Air', which opens in October at Manchester Art Gallery. Find out how to become a Patron of the Library here...

Incline Press Archive

Incline Press in Oldham produce exquisite handmade books and we are delighted to hold a large collection of their work. Read more...

Walker's Croft Burial Ground

Some of the bodies buried underneath Manchester Victoria railway station may be exhumed as part of the restoration work. Find out more...

Richard Hills' History of the Museum of Science and Industry

We are very pleased to make available a new history of the Museum of Science and Industry by its founding director Richard L. Hills. The pdf of the work can be found on our Digital Resources page. Read more...

The Diaries of John Reed (1929-2012)

We have recently acquired a lifetime of daily diaries by the academic and political activist John Reed. Read more...

Dame Joan Bakewell

We are delighted to welcome Dame Joan Bakewell as our first Honorary Patron. Anybody can become a Patron of the Library: your donation helps to ensure the long-term survival of the Library and entitles you to special benefits such as lectures, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours and invitations to exhibition previews. Read more...

Sign up for our e-newsletter

Our e-newsletter is a great way to receive regular news and updates from Chetham's Library in digest form, straight to your inbox. If you'd like to start receiving our e-news, click here. We're also on Twitter and Facebook, and regularly update our popular blog. Follow the links on this page to find out more and get in touch!

The Robert Holt Collection of Manchester Street Songs and Ballads

We have acquired a large collection of street songs and ballads published in Manchester and the North West during the mid-nineteenth century. Read more...

Conservation Grants

We are delighted to announce that the Library has recently been awarded two significant grants, which will enable the preservation of some of our most important and valuable books. Read more...

Industrial Archaeology

In recent years the Library has acquired a number of important collections on the industrial archaeology of the region. Read more...

Chetham's Library awarded MLA Designation Status

We are proud to announce that Chetham's has been officially awarded Designation Status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Read more...

Raines Lancashire Manuscripts now available on DVD

The forty-five volumes of transcripts and original material compiled by Canon F. R. Raines represent the largest collection of antiquarian papers held at Chetham's. We are very pleased to announce that these are now available to buy on a beautiful new DVD produced by the Family History Society of Cheshire. Read more...

Chetham's Treasures Digitised

We are delighted to announce that a number of our eighteenth century periodicals and nine Middle English manuscripts have been digitised and made available online. Read more...