Get your cardigans and Morrissey quiffs ready, this week's £10 Challenge is cheerfully nerdy.
Opposite the Urbis and tucked away in Cathedral Gardens lies Chetham’s Library, the oldest free collection of books and manuscripts in the English-speaking world.
Built in 1421, this sandstone medieval site became a library by 1653 and was adjoined with the Chetham’s School of Music in 1978.
You don’t need a membership or reader’s ticket to wander into the former: just go to the security lodge to get a free map, which will direct you from the School, past the car park, and to the library entrance.
For those that find John Rylands’ and Central Library to be exquisitely antiquated, this place shall rawk your cotton socks off.
Though still a functioning library, it appears unblemished from its three hundred and fifty year history.
The reading bays have lockable iron gates, and the main Reading Room has a Cromwellian gate-legged table with leather-backed chairs; the historic atmosphere is palpable, but the selection of writings is even better.
It was founder Humphrey Chetham’s intention to have a depository covering a range of knowledge rivalling Oxbridge libraries.
Its (still expanding) records and ephemera of Greater Manchester and Lancashire history is still unparalleled, and the most fun is the currently exhibiting ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, or books and objects too difficult to be publically categorised and displayed until today, including a manuscript written in an archaic cryptogram that not even the esteemed Dr Henry Walton Jones Jr could decipher.
If you still feel like spending money, it’s only £3 for a souvenir guide book, five greeting cards packed in an envelope for the same price, and 25p each for some lavishly photographed postcards.
So you’re left with still enough money to travel home - but before you do, make sure you find the famous alcove where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels once sat, so you can soak up the inspiring ambiance and plot the overthrow of capitalism with your quirky chums. (but do so quietly)
It’s open to visitors and readers from Monday to Friday 9am-12.30pm and 1.30-4.30pm, though some rooms may be unavailable for viewing when others wish to use them.
You don’t have to make an appointment, if going with a group of less than ten, but those who would like an introduction or consult the material should arrange to do so with the Librarian. Tel: 0161 834 7961, Email: email@example.com