Is That a Church? Nope, It’s the John Rylands Library in Manchester


At first glance, walking down Deansgate in Manchester, we thought it was a church. And once you're inside, at times you could easily make the same mistake. But no, this is John Rylands Library, and it's never been a church.

Enriqueta Rylands commissioned this library in memory of her husband John Rylands in 1889, and it opened to the public in 1900. The Rylands family had made their fortune in the cotton industry, owning one of the largest textile companies in Great Britain.

John_rylands_hall Enriqueta not only wanted to create a monument to her husband, but she wanted to create something spectacular for Manchester, which was starting to shed its harsh industrial image in favor of being more cosmopolitan. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a more lavish library. Its collection was pretty impressive too — lots of medieval manuscripts, handmade books and historical reference texts.


In 1972, financial difficulties in the Rylands cotton empire resulting in a lack of funding for the John Rylands Library led to its acquisition by the University of Manchester. Students can use the historic reading room (pictured at bottom) as a quiet, majestic workplace.

Manchester_museum The rest of the University of Manchester's campus is about a 15-minute walk away from the city center. We went there later on in the day to visit The Manchester Museum (pictured left).

The Manchester Museum reminded me of NYC's Museum of Natural History. They had a special exhibit on Charles Darwin, as well as some good dinosaur bones and Ancient Eqypt artifacts. My husband thought that the ancient coin collection was outstanding — they had a remarkably well-preserved silver coin from the era of Alexander the Great. We also liked the small "live animals" section, which had lots of little poison dart frogs, the same kind we had seen in Costa Rica.
They also have an archery collection, which strikes me as being quintessentially British, and brought back memories of how much fun I had doing archery in Nottingham in March.John_rylands_studying

Comped But Never Compromised: I am visiting Manchester as a guest of, a consortium of Manchester museums and galleries, but I am free to write whatever I want.

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4 Responses to Is That a Church? Nope, It’s the John Rylands Library in Manchester

  1. Emily August 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    How beautiful! I love how there are so many gorgeous buildings like this in Europe, and it’s such a nice surprise when they house something besides a church! The Boston Public Library is one of my favorite places like that in the states. While the outside isn’t much to write home about, the inside is absolutely regal and gorgeous, and feels more like a palace than a library.

  2. Angela K. Nickerson August 27, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    Gorgeous! Wow!

  3. jessiev
    Twitter: WanderingEds
    August 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    gorgeous photos!! i think i need to head there…

  4. Abi August 29, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    Great post. Although I’m from the UK, I’ve never been here. Reading this just made me realise how easy it is to ignore things that are on your doorstep…I shall have to go!

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