The Portico Library

The Portico is an independent subscription library which was established over two hundred years ago during Manchester’s Boomtown era. It is home to a collection of books, mainly from the 19th century, offering an insight into the cultural mindset of Georgians and Victorians during one of the most important chapters in Manchester’s history.

Inspired by The Athenaeum, a members-only library and newsroom in Liverpool, The Portico was conceived of by a group of Manchester businessmen who saw the need for such an establishment in their own city.

In 1977 The Portico Library 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 is still home to the library.

The Portico Library hosts a family of literary prizes which seek to celebrate Northern writing. Perhaps the best known is The Portico Prize for Literature, which is awarded biennially to exceptional works of literature set in the North.

The Portico Library now houses an extensive programme of exhibitions and events that are open to the public and the café serves breakfast and lunch from Monday to Friday. The Collection is regularly referenced by artists, historians and researchers. Membership is open to everyone and offers the opportunity to work, read, socialise or just relax in one of the most beautiful spaces in Manchester.

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.

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