By David Abbott, 31st January 2023
The latest outing in our wellness programme, which enables colleagues to enjoy some non–legal time in office hours, was to the John Rylands Library in central Manchester.
The Library was built at the very end of the 19th Century, at huge expense, by wealthy widow Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her late husband, a wealthy textile magnate. It houses an vast collection of books and manuscripts , both ancient and more modern, including thousands of books which are over 500 years old. Some of the ancient Bibles on display are exquisitely decorated.
The Library holds various exhibitions during the course of the year; currently there is an exhibition of the earliest printed books (the Library has one of the world’s greatest collections of 15th Century printing) and, very differently, written material from the British Pop Archive (plus a guitar used by Johnny Marr of The Smiths!).
The building itself, however, is what many people come to see. Architecturally, the whole building is Victorian neo-Gothic, with The Historic Reading Room, on the top floor of the Library, having the look and scale of a Norman cathedral, complete with stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings and numerous statues in niches. As a result, this 120 year-old building feels a thousand years old. It is truly an awe-inspiring space. The connecting corridors and staircases are reminiscent of a Harry Potter film set.
Now part of the University of Manchester Libraries, the John Rylands is situated on Deansgate, open to the public Wednesday to Saturday and free to enter. It is well worth a visit if you are in central Manchester.
Members of the Olliers team spent a fascinating hour exploring this secret gem in the heart of the city and returned to the office mentally refreshed.