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?

We need to check both that we have reader space available when you come, and that the items you want to see are available. 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?

The Heraldry Society library is no longer stored at Chetham’s. Please contact the Heraldry Society for information about this collection.

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.

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?

The best place to start is with our Virtual Belle Vue website – you can browse most of our Belle Vue material here, or search for particular things or people.

If you want to explore detailed cataloguing for the Belle Vue archive, 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.