Thursday 28 August 2014

The Ladies' Flower-Garden

From the collection of Edward Watkin comes this delightfully illustrated gardening manual of 1843, written by Jane Loudon and with exquisite lithographs by Day and Haghe.

Jane C. Loudon (born Jane Webb) was an author of science fiction long before the term was invented, imagining her characters in a futuristic world of trousers for ladies, hair ornaments made of permanent fire, and steam-powered automatons taking the place of surgeons and lawyers. On her marriage to John Loudon, a writer on gardening and agriculture, she became enthused for his subject, and began to write gardening manuals for ladies and those new to the hobby, something nobody had before conceived of.

The Ladies’ Flower-Garden, or Ornamental Perennials, is illustrated with numerous lithographic plates by William Day and Louis Haghe, ‘Lithographers to the Queen’, who produced a large quantity of technically brilliant lithographic work in the early Victorian period.

Heritage Open Days and New Lunchtime Opening

Don't forget that we are open for Heritage Open Days on Saturday 13 September. This is a rare opportunity to look round the Library and the beautiful medieval buildings at the weekend, so come along and have a wander round the cloisters, lose yourself among the book presses, and soak up the atmosphere.

From next Monday we're also open at lunchtimes every weekday, so if you work in Manchester and would like to come and spend your lunch hour somewhere a little bit different, pop along and see us!

Thursday 21 August 2014

Chetham's Library awarded Full Museum Accreditation

We are very happy to have been awarded Fully Accredited Museum Status as part of Arts Council England’s newly updated national Accreditation Scheme. This has involved a lot of hard work from Library staff and we are delighted to have been rewarded in this way. There are currently just under 1800 museums participating in the Accreditation Scheme, which sets nationally agreed standards for museums in the UK, defining good practice and standards and helping museums to be the best they can be. In addition to this, the Library’s entire holdings are also Designated as a collection of national importance under ACE’s Designation Scheme, representing a fantastic achievement for an institution of our size.

Friday 15 August 2014

Peter Manchester

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, which took place on August 16th 1819. This image of ‘Peter Manchester’ is one of the more unusual and interesting images of the period. It is apparently dated 1815, thus predating the events at Peter’s Fields, and this appears to be confirmed by Thomas Swindells in his Manchester Streets and Manchester Men of 1907. Why this sympathetic and dignified portrait of an archetypal working man with his noble features and almost aristocratic bearing should have been given the title of ‘Peter Manchester’ before the name Peterloo became synonymous with the struggle for the rights of working people is a mystery.

In the hand-coloured engraving by Daniel Orme, portrait painter of Piccadilly, Peter Manchester stands upright, facing the onlooker in a position of strength and vigour, wearing his patched working clothes and carrying a bundle of frayed rope, which may indicate his occupation. He is pictured in front of the elegant Collyhurst sandstone buildings of High Street, near the junction with Cannon Street, close to where the current entrance to the Arndale Market may be found.

Regardless of the date of the image, this empowering and affecting portrait nevertheless powerfully conveys something of the dignified struggle of the working classes to achieve their emancipation and basic human liberties which the authorities so cruelly attempted to thwart on that notorious day 195 years ago.

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Thursday 14 August 2014

Going underground

The Library entrance today, where our visitors normally come through into the medieval cloister... we are having new drainage and ducting but are open as usual, with visitors entering and exiting through the beautiful medieval Baronial Hall until the work is finished.

One of our earliest treasures

This week we've been getting out a number of very early deeds to help a reader with some research. This beautiful example dates from between 1189 and 1194 and is believed to be one of the earliest charters in the Library collection.

The charter is from John, Count of Mortain, who succeeded King Richard I in 1199, and establishes the ownership of lands around Furness Abbey (then in Lancashire. Measuring around 20 x 25 cm, it is in remarkable condition for a document which is now well over eight hundred years old.

Annual Peterloo Walk

The annual memorial walk to Peterloo from Barrowfields will take place this Sunday 17th August. The walk begins outside the former home of radical Samuel Bamford, who led a march from Middleton to St Peter’s Field to join protestors in August 1819. Actor Maxine Peake will give an address at the conclusion of the march. There are several pick-up points along the route so do go along and support the marchers!

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Jess's Pigeon Post

Here's the latest in our occasional series of blog posts written by our wonderful team of volunteers. This time it's the turn of Jess Marley Clarke, who many of you may have met if you have visited the Library in recent months. Jess has been volunteering as a welcomer and guide, and so many people have testified to her remarkable ability to bring the ancient buildings to life through her engaging stories and historical knowledge. 

Jess writes: 

"Next academic year, the Palatine Hotel is due to be demolished. And it’s made me think about what will then be the view from the dusty Library windows, as the medieval buildings will be opened out onto the bustling metropolitan centre for the first time since 1843. Since then, and the building of the Palatine, the quad has been effectively sealed off from the outside world. In fact, every day I am astonished at the volume of visitors who say they had no idea the buildings were even there; tucked away as they are behind the rendered blankness of the Palatine cliff. 

Currently, during term-time, I bring visitors to the Library, through the ancient arch at Millgate, and across the courtyard. On one side, unlovely car-parking, but on the other a simple grassed garden. This is where I first noticed the pigeons.

You really should take a close look at the pigeons outside Chetham’s Library next time you’re there. They seem to belong to an inviolate, master-race of pigeon: all three pink, rosy toes miraculously intact. In the sheltered quad at Chet’s these pigeons preen smugly, squatting closely in the warm grass. Settled into its green cushion they pick mildly around them at seeds, grass and bugs. But what strikes me in the main, is how unlike their scarred and brutal cousins at Shudehill they are. There, just down the road and where I catch my bus home of an evening, the pigeons are club footed, limping, brittle birds, who snatch desperately at cigarette butts and Styrofoam. They twitch and startle and stare from sticky eyes. They dance a weird, speedy creeping at the feet of tired commuters, hoping for dropped crumbs.

Do the pigeons at Shudehill even know those at Chet’s are there? Maybe they don’t care. And maybe the screwy birds at the bus station would think they have the better deal anyway; certainly more fun. They are free to sip at spilt puddles of Irn-Bru, and stab at last night’s deadly chips. They have warmth and shelter of a sort too. They can scan the human soup beneath them for entertainment and potential food. In fact, maybe they regard the Chet’s pigeons as sleepy dullards. Likewise, do the Chet’s pigeons ever deign to migrate much out of their cosy world? Why would they I suppose, if there’s nothing to be gained and so much risk and difference out there. 

What I wonder is, when the Palatine Hotel comes down, next academic year, will there be a shift in these populations, and if so, will it be a peaceful one? Greater access to the Library and a view both in and out of the medieval Buildings to and from the town will change so extremely the physical profile of the Library, and by extension the school, one would expect some movement. After the dust has settled then, and knowing nothing about the territorial habits of pigeons, I look forward to observing the result, be it feathery punch-ups, or a settled, mildly suspicious co-habitation… probably, a bit of both."

Friday 8 August 2014

Jonathan Foyle at Chethams

We are excited to announce another fantastic evening event here at the Library next month. On Wednesday 17 September, architectural historian Jonathan Foyle (Climbing Great Buildings, Time Team, Meet the Ancestors) will be unravelling the mysteries of the Library furniture, some of which dates from the Tudor period and has been found to be of national significance. There will be wine and nibbles, and the opportunity to wander around the atmospheric medieval building at dusk: this is definitely not to be missed!

Tickets are £5 per person to include a glass of wine, and are available from Ted Harris on or on 0161 838 7224. The event begins at 6.30pm and is likely to be a sell-out so book now to avoid disappointment.

Japanese Celebration

Many thanks to all who came along to our fabulous Japanese evening last night! We were treated to a wonderful feast of beautiful fresh sushi from the Yo!Sushi team, a fascinating talk on the gardens of Kyoto by Sean Harkin, Manchester's National Trust Gardener-in-Residence, and the chance to wander around the medieval buildings with a glass of wine. Upstairs in the Library, visitors were able to examine some of our extraordinary collection of Japanese prints and photographs collected by Library donors in the early twentieth century. We were delighted to see so many people enjoying the evening.

We will be holding another evening event in September with wine, nibbles, and a talk by furniture historian Jonathan Foyle. More to come on that soon, with booking details.