The John Rylands Library is worth a visit if you are interested in books, architecture, or Manchester’s rich industrial past.
The neo-Gothic architecture and intricately carved, red stonework makes a striking impact on Deansgate, in stark contrast to the modern glass structures of neighbouring Spinningfields.
The library was commissioned by Enriqueta Rylands as a lasting tribute to her husband John Rylands, who owned the UK’s largest textile manufacturing business and became Manchester’s first multi-millionaire.
Marble statues of John and Enriqueta Rylands stand at opposite ends of the Reading Room, where they oversee the steady stream of visitors.
The collections of leather bound, historic volumes are related to the following themes: world faiths, history of the bible, everyday life – personal stories, science and medicine, world literatures, Manchester local connections, and the arts and crafts of printing. There are regular exhibitions to highlight particular works of interest.
If you’re not interested in the books, you can still enjoy the building, which is the same style as Manchester Town Hall. There’s a wide variety of carvings and sculptures, which were all chosen to create a visual feast for visitors. The stained glass windows in the Reading Room give the building an ecclesiastical feel and the bottle stained glass throughout the building was designed to protect readers from the distractions of pollution and the hustle and bustle of Victorian Deansgate.
I doubt you’ll spend more than an hour exploring the library unless you take a tour, but entry is free and it really is worth a visit. I’d recommend popping in after lunch in Spinningfields for a spot of culture before you hit the shops, or set aside a day to explore Manchester as a tourist.
For more information about the library, click here to visit the website.