Author Archives: annapickard

  1. A Royal Tudor Bed and a Northern Rogue

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    Visitors to Manchester have the rare opportunity to see the original marriage bed made for Henry VII (the first Tudor King) and Elizabeth of York, as well as an infamous forgery, this summer.

    This new exhibition, A Royal Tudor Bed and a Northern Rogue, will be hosted at Chetham’s Library from 15 August – 11 September.

    The original four-poster bed was made in 1485 for Henry and Elizabeth who married the following year. Their marriage united two conflicting families, the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, who had been at war for 30 years. Henry recognised the importance of taking a Yorkist bride, to strengthen his claim to the throne and to weaken any other Yorkist’s claim.

    The bed is a hugely important piece of history as it marks the end of the War of the Roses and the beginnings of the Tudor dynasty, and its headboard is dense with symbols of unity, redemption, fertility, and new beginnings.

    George Shaw (1810–76), a ‘rogue’ from Saddleworth, was fascinated by medieval architecture and he famously created mock Tudor and Elizabethan furniture for the Duke of Northumberland, the Earls of Bradford and Derby, the Towneleys and Bagshawes, and Chetham’s Library. A lectern in Manchester Cathedral is also a George Shaw. Shaw created a replica of the Tudor marriage bed, which will be on display as part of this new exhibition.

    Peter Lindfield, Historian and Cardiff University Lecturer, said: “The original Tudor bed tells an incredible story of royalty, war, politics, and marriage in the 1400s; but Shaw’s copy tells an equally riveting tale of forgery, as well as 19th century politics and business. At its peak, Shaw’s Uppermill workshop employed more than one hundred people. I can’t wait for people in Manchester to experience the exhibit.”

    Ian Coulson, from The Langley Collection and who discovered the bed, said: “I suspected the bed had late 15th – early 16th century origins after observing the shrinkage, infestation, oxidation and complex history of loss and repair that the bed had suffered. What followed was several years of multi-disciplinary investigation that revealed the identity as the long-lost marriage bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. It’s an incredible piece of history that I hope many people will enjoy.”

    The exhibition will be available to see as part of Chetham’s Library’s regular tours from 15 August – 11 September.  The tour includes the opportunity to explore the rest of our unique Library, the oldest in the UK, and see more of George Shaw’s furniture.

    Click for exhibition information. 


  2. New Librarian announced


    We are delighted to announce that Julianne Simpson will be our new Librarian from May 2024, taking on responsibility for the strategic development and day-to-day management of the organisation.

    Chetham’s Library is an accredited museum in Manchester’s historic Medieval Quarter, in the heart of the city, and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, with the building dating to 1421. It is significant for many reasons, including being the venue where Karl Marx met with Friedrich Engels to discuss their revolutionary ideas that changed the world.

    Julianne was previously Collections and Discovery Manager at John Rylands Research Institute and Library, part of the University of Manchester, for 13 years, overseeing the care and management of its special collections and leading on improvements in access. She has a background of research around the international book trade in the 16th century, early modern libraries and the study of provenance and annotation in early printed books.

    On accepting the appointment, Julianne said: “I am very much looking forward to becoming the Librarian at Chetham’s Library. The Library is an extraordinary slice of history and it’s an honour to be part of its future. I’m excited to strengthen links with the academic community and researchers and to work with colleagues at Chetham’s School of Music and Stoller Hall, who share the same site as the Library, to extend the role of the complex as a major visitor attraction.”

    Chair of the Chetham’s Library Committee, Vanessa Goldstone: “We’re thrilled to welcome Julianne to Chetham’s. This is a fantastic time to join the organisation as we expand our tours and events programme and find new ways to celebrate and make use of our internationally-significant collections and historic connections.”

    Nicola Smith, Joint Principal of Chetham’s School of Music: “It’s a huge honour to have the Library on the same site as Chetham’s School of Music. Both the School and Library were founded by Humphrey Chetham and have existed for hundreds of years, to the enormous benefit of the city. We’re really excited to work with Julianne as we look to the future and develop our vision for the organisation.”


  3. An interview with Fergus Wilde, the Librarian


    Librarian Fergus Wilde has worked at Chetham’s Library for close to thirty years and in May he will begin his well-deserved retirement. Before he leaves to start this new adventure, we took the opportunity to ask Fergus about his role, career highlights and why Chetham’s Library is so special, not just in Manchester, but in the world. We’re now on the look out for a new Librarian who will lead the strategic development and day-to-day management of the Library. Find out more and apply.

    How long have you worked at Chetham’s Library and what does your role involve?

    “I started work at Chetham’s Library as Senior Librarian in 1997. Thanks to a confusing tradition, ‘Senior Librarian’ is junior to ‘the Librarian’, who is usually expected to be the boss. The Library cares for around 35,000 items printed before 1801, and around 80,000 printed books in total. When I joined, the catalogue of items was a confusing mass of different resources in print and typescript, and so my main role was to create a fully searchable online catalogue. That took about 15 years of people’s labour and about eight people worked on it over time. Tours, visits, looking after readers and answering queries occupied the rest of the days. I took over as Librarian in 2019.”

     What makes this Library so special?

    “Chetham’s is the oldest surviving public library in the country, and the oldest in the world outside a couple of wonderful civic institutions in Italy. Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653) founded it ‘for the use of scholars and others well affected to resort unto’ in his will, and his Feoffees – the executors of his will and its successors – had the library open to the public by 1655. Its collections are ‘designated as having National and International Importance’ under the Arts Council Scheme, and we’re an Accredited Museum. The books bought by the successive generations of Feoffees still sit on the shelving installed in the 1650s, and readers still use the original furniture.  We’re also an archival repository, housing a wealth of historical material from medieval deeds to guides to the Belle Vue Zoo. There’s really nothing quite like it.”

     What are your career highlights or memorable moments?

    “Highlights are often linking up material with the experts who can bring out the knowledge within them; when we get the thanks of researchers in their books or are able to bring out something that will crack open a research question; when we’re able to make real connections that advance knowledge of the world, even by small increments. That and all the cups of coffee.”

     What do you plan to do with your retirement?

    “Get outdoors more! The hills await! And, perhaps unexpectedly, read more books. Running a library doesn’t mean being able to read what you like, so lots to catch up on that I’ve not been able to pursue while at my desk here.”