John Rylands Library

When I was heading up to Manchester, I asked for suggestions of places to visit and a whole bunch of people recommended John Rylands Library. Well, you guys certainly know me well because I loved it! 
John Rylands exterior architectureAlthough Jamie only lives a mile out of the city centre, he'd always walked straight past the library, dismissing it as a church due to its gorgeous neo-gothic architecture. It was commissioned in the late 1800s, opening on the very first day of the 20th century, by Enriqueta Rylands as a memorial to her late husband, John. The pair were rich philanthropists (John Rylands was actually the UK's first millionaire, and later the first multimillionaire) and after her husband's death, Enriqueta had the idea of opening a public library in his name to serve the local community- then the most deprived area in Britain. Unfortunately this meant she had to knock down a load of dwellings housed by the poor but there you go!

Enriqueta Rylands statue
Say Becky. You sure know a lot about this library, I hear you cry. Well, as luck would have it, when we arrived on Wednesday at around 2:30pm, we saw a poster advertising free guided tours every Wednesday at 3pm. What perfect timing! Even better, Jamie and I were the only ones attending so we had a private tour with a very lovely, engaging guy named Harry who told us all sorts of fascinating information.
John Rylands glass windows
Bottle glass windows
As Enriqueta was ridiculously wealthy (she actually died with more money than her husband left her so she was a shrewd businesswoman and way ahead of her time!), she was able to source the very best materials for the building. Stone was sent down from Cumbria, wood from Poland and even the locks were made in the lock capital of the world, Lichfield. No expense was spared and the library was a forerunner in modern technology. A rudimentary form of air conditioning was put in place, gas plumbers were called to fit electric lighting and special airtight glass cabinets were invented to protect the valuable books.Librarian door at John Rylands Library
These books were incredibly valuable, you see. The library cost £250,000 to build- the equivalent of £23 million in today's money- but the books were bought for over £300,000. Among the collection were first editions of Shakespeare and The Canterbury Tales. These days they are kept safe away from public display but many antique tomes are still on view, including the earliest existing scrap of bible which dates back to 125AD. 
Venet 1504 book John Rylands library
John Rylands library stone balcony
The interior of the library is absolutely stunning. It was designed as a refuge from the hardships of Victorian poverty and, as the Rylands were religious, it's reminiscent of gothic religious buildings with high vaulted ceilings and stone columns. Everywhere you look, little stone creatures lurk in corners of the vaults- the bat outside the Spencer Room was my favourite. Yet despite this somewhat intimidating, hard interior, it feels warm with low lighting and bottle glass windows that shield visitors from the outside. Horace Walpole once described the effect of these old gothic buildings as "gloomth"- gloomy warmth- and it was the perfect way to sum up John Rylands Library.
Inside John Rylands Library
If you find yourself in Manchester with an hour to spare, I really recommend having a look around the library. It's a real feat of architecture and a very humbling space.

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  1. Oh wow this place looks amazing! I'm a total nerd when it comes to exploring buildings like these and the history of the place sounds really interesting too. I love that close up shot of the books on the shelves, that's so pretty. Beautiful shots Becky! - Tasha

  2. This looks absolutely beautiful! I love all the stunning architecture x

    Abi | abistreet

  3. It looks beautiful! I love buildings that have a story behind them and I love knowledgeable tour guides :D


  4. I can't believe I live so close to Manchester and have never heard of this place, will definitely have to check it out soon xx

  5. Wow, ive always wanted to go to a library like that, i would love to look in the restricted section if they have one =]

  6. Ah I loooooved this library! It's so something I'd just walk past before realising what was hiding behind. So amazing! x

    Jasmin Charlotte

  7. This is my favourite place to hide away in Manchester and I always recommend to visitors of the City. Also it's a place where a lot of my PhD thesis was written so holds a place in my heart a little bit :)
    MissPond | Lifestyle Blog

  8. Another place that's so close to me but I haven't visited! When you visit your nearest city for a bit of shopping, you forget about all the interesting quirks and places to see. Love the facts!

  9. The John Rylands is such a hidden treasure in the centre of Manchester, I love it! I also went on a tour of the building with the lovely Harry, he was so engaging and really helped us to get the most out of our visit.

    Hannah Simpson Writes

  10. Wow this place looks amazing! Next time I'm Manchester way I'll definitely pay this library a visit!


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