I would like to bring a group of people to visit the Library

Small groups of fewer than ten people are welcome to visit the Library without appointment at any time during normal opening hours, although we cannot guarantee that there will be someone available to show you round. If you would like to arrange for a short introduction to the Library, or wish to view items from the collection, please contact us to make an appointment.

Larger groups must arrange a visit with the Librarian. The Library is not open to visitors in the evening or at weekends.

If you would like to arrange for your group to attend a Wednesday afternoon concert and guided tour of the medieval buildings, including the Library, please contact Chetham’s School of Music on 0161 834 9644.

Is it possible to trace a relative of mine who was once a pupil at Chetham’s?

The Library holds the records of all the boys who studied at Chetham’s from 1655 to 1935. If your relative was a pupil here, we will almost certainly hold some details about him, although these are necessarily brief. We also hold records of boys who went to the Nicholls Hospital from its foundation until its amalgamation with Chetham’s in the 1950s.

It is worth pointing out that there were several other schools in the area which were often confused with Chetham’s, and so it is possible that your relative may have attended one of these, in which case we will not be able to help. A simple name search is usually sufficient to settle the matter, and we will be pleased to undertake this research on your behalf. You are welcome to come to the Library to see the relevant entry, or we are equally happy to send the details out to you.

Why do I need to make an appointment to use the Library?

Although we have a lot of books, we have only three full-time members of staff, and although we are anxious to help, we are not always able to stop what we are doing. Only about a third of the Library’s holdings are upstairs in the historic presses, and fetching material often requires a trip to one or more of the strongrooms further away in the building. In addition, the Library is occasionally closed for meetings and events. Making an appointment and letting us know what you would like to see means that we can get everything ready for you to get the most out of your visit.

Does Chetham’s have music books or sheet music?

Although there is a small number of 18th- and 19th-century engraved music broadsides in the Halliwell Phillipps Collection, the Library has never collected music books or materials. Chetham’s School of Music was not established until 1969, and has its own library, open only to staff and students. For questions regarding music materials, you might find answers from the staff at the Henry Watson Music Library at Manchester Central Reference Library.

Can I access items from the Heraldry Society Library?

Chetham’s houses the Heraldry Society Library on long-term loan, and welcomes enquiries from Heraldry Society members and the general public. There is no online catalogue, but a typescript author and subject catalogue of the collection is available for consultation in the Library.

How can I find out about the Chetham Society?

Although there is a long history of collaboration between Chetham’s Library and the Chetham Society, they are not the same organisation.

For information about the Chetham Society, please visit their website or
contact the secretary by email.

The Library holds all the publications of the Society and readers wishing to come here to read those publications are welcome to contact us for an appointment. Click here for a list of Society Publications.

Is it true that Karl Marx once studied at Chetham’s?

During the period that Frederick Engels lived and worked in Manchester, Karl Marx was a frequent visitor. Marx’s first visit to Manchester took place in July and August 1845, and the two worked together at the wooden desk in the window alcove of the Reading Room. Writing to Marx in 1870 Engels commented:

During the last few days I have again spent a good deal of time sitting at the four-sided desk in the alcove where we sat together twenty-four years ago. I am very fond of the place. The stained glass window ensures that the weather is always fine there. Old Jones, the Librarian, is still alive but he is very old and no longer active. I have not seen him on this occasion.

What is the correct pronunciation of Chetham’s?

Humphrey Chetham used several different spellings of his name, signing himself on different occasions Chetham, Cheetham or even Cheatham. When he became High Sheriff of Manchester, it was standardised to Chetham, but how he may have pronounced this remains unclear, even to scholars. To compound the confusion, the School of Music have settled on the use of a short ‘e’, frequently shortening it to Chet’s, while the Library tends to use a long ‘e’, as in the nearby district of Cheetham Hill. In short, we are unable to give a definitive pronunciation – please feel free to say it as you like!

Can I see the Belle Vue material?

Yes of course! But you need to have an idea of what you’d like to see before you come. The collection is huge, and is housed in various locations, and it’s not possible to come in and physically browse through the material.

To get an idea of the Belle Vue holdings, you can visit the National Archives portal Discovery, go to ‘Advanced Search’, and select Chetham’s Library as the repository, putting ‘Belle Vue’ into the subject line. If you already have an idea of the sort of thing you are looking for, you can email the librarian or the archivist who will be able to help you find what you need.