What to do in Manchester: John Rylands Library

Back in August, my boyfriend and I took the train to Manchester to see Morrissey. We knew we wanted to check out the Northern Quarter and chow down on some tasty vegan food. But, if you’d have told me my highlight of the day would have been a trip to the library, I wouldn’t have believed you.

When we arrived in Manchester, it was, of course, raining. We had a quite a few hours to kill before the gig and, rather than spend the entire day boozing, we decided to do one thing cultural. We’d arrived too late for the Free Walking Tour I quite fancied, but after some Googling, I came across a photograph of John Rylands Library. And what I saw completely blew me away.

Situated on Deansgate, this magnificent building first opened to the public in 1900. Enriqueta Augustina Rylands established the library in honour of her husband, John Rylands. Rylands was a textile entrepreneur and Manchester’s first multi-millionaire.

Furthermore, Rylands also had a big heart. Throughout his life, he donated to orphanages and old people’s homes and funded a whole host of public buildings including chapels, libraries, and even a town hall. So, when he died, his widow thought it was only right to do something to honor her late husband.

That’s how John Rylands Library came to be. And if the building is anything to go by, Mrs. Rylands certainly loved her husband. Built in the neo-Gothic style, the imposing building is a maze of cloistered corridors, stunning stone pillars, and romantic staircases. And, its crowning glory is its historic reading room.

As a result of its architectural intricacy, the library was awarded Grade I listed status in 1994. Today the University of Manchester manage the site, which is home to a number of important works including the earliest known New Testament text.

You can find John Rylands Library on Deansgate in the heart of Manchester City Centre. And it’s the perfect place to escape the city’s infamous rain – even if it’s just for an hour or two.

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