The Portico Library

A hidden gem, follow in the footsteps of former Prime Ministers by surrounding yourself with 25,000 books spanning 400 years

The Portico Library
57 Mosley St, Manchester M2 3HY
0161 236 6785

Monday: 10am-5pm
Tuesday: 10am-5pm
Wednesday: 10am-5pm
Thursday: 10am-7pm
Friday: 10am-5pm
Saturday: 12-4pm
Sunday: Closed

Manchester has a lot to be proud of. There’s the sporting heritage, incredible music and arts scenes, not to mention its world-changing role in the development of modern politics. For a more softly-spoken selling point, though, you only need look at the number of spectacular libraries in the city centre. Of course, John Rylands usually gets most attention from visitors, and Central is, well, the core literary facility for the entire region. A minute or so around the corner, though, and The Portico Library is a truly breathtaking hidden gem many people pass by every day, almost without knowing it’s there. 

First established by 400 founding subscribers in 1806, this historic address is recognised as one of Manchester’s longest-serving institutions. It bore witness to the evolution and development of what is widely considered to be the world’s first modern — i.e. industrialised — city, and the issues, challenges, and opportunities this brought about. It survived the urban decay that followed World War II, and the incredible return to global significance we’ve seen since the devastation of the IRA bombing. If walls could talk, they’d probably look a little like the elegant dark woods that encase the intimate interior of this jewel. 

Once inside the ornate and impeccably preserved reading room you’ll find a collection of some 25,000 books spanning 450 years of printing. Peruse while you sit in the same spot as former Prime Ministers, not to mention groundbreaking scientists, and pioneering educators. Registered as a charity since 2017, in addition to providing a truly unique and unforgettable work and research space, the organisation is also heavily involved with work out in the community, honouring the often troubled and complex history of our hometown through its literary past. It is well known for hosting the prestigious literary prize for writing that best evokes the spirit of the North, as well as the annual Portico Sadie Massey Award for children and young people to instil a love of reading and writing from an early age. Suffice to say, we would all be far poorer without this on our doorstep.