The Portico Library and Gallery


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The Portico is an independent subscription library and gallery which last year celebrated its 200th birthday. It’s home to a collection of books, mainly from the 19th century, offering an insight into the cultural mindset of Georgians and Victorians during an important chapter in Manchester’s history.

Inspired by the Athenaeum, a private members’ club in Liverpool, The Portico was conceived of by a group of Manchester businessmen who saw the need for a ‘newsroom-cum-library’ in the city.

In 1977 it was described by local author Nicholas Joseph Frangopulo as “the most refined little building in Manchester”. Today, the ground floor is rented by a pub called The Bank, but the first floor continues to be home to the library.

The Portico awards a series of literary prizes throughout the year to writers and poets from the North of England. Perhaps the best known is The Portico Prize for Literature, which is handed out biennially to the author of the best work of literature set in the North.

Renovation of the gallery began in 2015 and The Portico now houses an extensive programme of exhibitions that are open to the public. The gallery also has its own cafe, which is open Monday to Friday.

The Portico has boasted many notable members over the years, including former Prime Minister Robert Peel, scientist John Dalton and former Manchester United footballer Eric Cantona.