6 September 2018

On Tuesday 7th August, my mum and I travelled to the historic Portico Library in Manchester for afternoon tea and a tour of the library itself. I had won the trip due to taking part in the English department’s ‘I Am’ competition, which saw KS4 students earn points for taking part in extracurricular English activities, such as attending the Cake and Classics book club, helping out at Reading Mentoring, and writing reviews, articles or stories in their own time. 

Upon arriving at the library, we were greeted by Michelle, a librarian, who gave us leaflets and booklets explaining the library’s history, so that we could receive some background information before we embarked on our tour. The Portico Library opened in 1806 as a private library, after four years of fundraising and building on behalf of a pair of wealthy Mancunian cotton merchants, and has had members such as John Dalton, Peter Roget, Sir Robert Peel, and more recently, Eric Cantona. Its collection, over 25,000 books, is mainly 19th century, and provides an insight into Victorian and Georgian culture, being read for pleasure and research alike, however, the library is also home to more modern works of fiction too. 

On our tour, we were introduced to many hidden or restricted sections of the library, and felt very lucky to have been so, due to its extreme exclusivity. Michelle took us to the members-only reading room, with bookshelves as high as the ceilings, explained the nature and meaning of the library’s large Polite Literature collection, and showed us books and drawings over 200 years old! Their perfect condition was fascinating, and highlights how well the staff at the Portico take care of the ancient texts.  

After all that excitement, we settled down for afternoon tea under the library’s beautiful and historic glass dome, with the small kitchen offering us tea and juice, as well as scones and flapjacks, which tasted amazing! We debriefed our tour as we ate, before taking a look around the mindboggling art exhibition, featuring stunning work by Dan Hays, and pondering the gifts for sale in the shop. 

All in all, we had an interesting and fantastic day out, and want to thank the staff at the Portico Library for being so welcoming and kind, and the English Department for arranging and allowing us such an insightful experience. 

by Kiera Quinn, Head Girl