Chetham’s Library – The Oldest Public Library in the UK

Chethams Public Library located in Manchester city centre was founded in 1653 to facilitate the non-existent places for independent study. All thanks to Humphrey Chetham (d. 1653), the newly established library back then was converted from a Collegiate Church to a public library. The church itself was established in 1421 which means that Chethams Public Library is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the northwest region of Manchester and one of the oldest public libraries in the UK.

Due to its longstanding history, sandstone buildings and majestic interior, the library provides visitors with a thought-provoking atmosphere. With Chetham Library taking charge of gathering and acquiring collections of books covering a range of knowledge, the library intended to compete with the likes of Oxford and Cambridge. Here you’ll find 100,000 of the UK’s rarest volumes and furniture from the 17th century.

One of the standout features of this library is the statement Humphrey Chetham made when he left his will. Instructing the librarian, he said, ‘to require nothing of any man that cometh into the library’. (, 2020)

In other words, Chetham’s intention was to promote the use of the library to be open to anyone and everyone. But this also translated to him declaring it as a free library. Since then, it has been a free public library for over 350 years with tour prices being introduced for maintenance and upkeep.

Today the library has become a popular tourist spot and therefore we have outlined all the information you’ll need if you plan to visit:

Opening Times For Readers

Chetham’s Library is open to readers Monday to Friday 9:00 AM -12.30 PM and 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM by prior appointment. If there is something on their catalogue you’d like to read, get in touch with them in advance by emailing them or calling on 0161 834 7961.

Visiting & Tours

In order to visit the library, you must arrive for the tour hours which are 11.00 AM and 2.30 PM on all weekdays. This excludes weekends, public holidays and the period between Christmas and New Year.

Ticket Costs

Ticket costs (as of May 2022) are outlined below which include a tour of the library:

Full Price: £12.00
Age 65+: £10.00
Student: £10.00
Under 16: Free

It is necessary to book in advance. Click here to book your tickets.

Address & Phone Number

Chetham’s Library
Long Millgate
M3 1SB

0161 834 7961

The Library is close to the Manchester Cathedral and is opposite the National Football Museum. Entry to the Library is through the main gate on Long Millgate, M3 1SB, just off Cathedral Gardens.

Tags: chethams public library, humphrey chetham

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