The magnificent Reading Room contains some of the most beautiful furniture in the building.
In the days of the College this room was part of the warden’s accommodation. Following the alterations of the 1650s to create the Hospital and Library, it was used to hold meetings of the feoffees. In the centre of the room is a very large gate leg table surrounded by a set of twenty-four leather backed chairs, of Cromwellian type, with oak frames, square backs and turned legs connected by a stretcher carved with scroll work. Both the table and chairs were purchased in the 1650s for the use of the feoffees. The two other tables in the room were probably made for the Library in the 1650s by the joiner Richard Martinscroft who was responsible for making the presses and library stools. Both tables are made oak draw-top tables of very unusual design.
Above the fireplace is a portrait of Humphrey Chetham, the only contemporary portrait of the founder. The tympanum above that depicts an elaborate heraldic and emblematic display commemorating Chetham and his foundation. His coat of arms is in the centre, flanked by obelisks resting on books and supporting torches symbolic of learning. In the centre is an eagle symbolising power and strength. To the left a cock, perhaps to suggest vigilance and hard work, while on the right a pelican feeding her young – a traditional symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.
The walnut tall-case clock is the first recorded gift of an ex-pupil. It is the donation, in 1695, of Nicholas Clegg, who left Chetham’s in 1689 and set up in business as an instrument-maker. The clock maker was Thomas Aynsworth of Westminster and the barometer set in the door was made by John Patrick of London. The clock has a 30-day movement, and is accurate to a few seconds gained or lost each month. Read more about the clock on our 101 Treasures page.