Hidden above The Bank pub on Mosley street lies one of Manchester’s better-kept secrets, the stunning Portico Library.
Accessed via a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it buzzer on Charlotte street, the solid door opens onto a winding staircase, in turn leading to a beautiful hidden library filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with rows of rare books.
Run using a membership format for over 200 years, it opened its gallery space up to the public in 2017 meaning you can visit and explore some parts of the impressive building – however, unlike your local library, you cannot browse the shelves as the books are very fragile.
The second oldest library in the city after Chetham’s, the Portico is home to over 25,000 books and has a long literary history. First established in 1806, its early members included world-famous authors, future Prime Ministers, and leading scientists.
Despite running on a membership format, according to the library’s Events and Programme’s Co-ordinator James Moss, the general public have been encouraged to come in since the 1980s.
“It was initially a members institution but guests were welcome since the very early days of the library,” he added.
Founded at a time when Manchester was becoming the world’s first ‘modern’ city, the Portico was built with wealth amassed by titans of industry involved in colonialism and the industrial revolution.
However, its early members – all men until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 – included people from all political perspectives, ranging from radical and liberal abolitionists and anti-poverty campaigners to exploitative factory owners.
Once frequented by such famous names as author Elizabeth Gaskell, founder of atomic theory John Dalton, and Peter Mark Roget (who wrote the first English thesaurus), today it is run by a charity and is home to the prestigious Portico Prize, promoting writing and publishing across the north.
The library is also behind the Sadie Massey Awards which nurture literacy and learning among young people.
Within lies a veritable treasure trove of historic literature and rare 19th-century books, including a first translated edition of Goethe’s influential work about how humans perceive and interpret color that is in desperate need of repair.
Sadly, a number of books in the library’s 19th-century collection are damaged to the extent that the team has even created an endangered books list to catalogue those that urgently need restoring.
From historical records, ranging from books of proprietors to minutes books, issue books, and strangers books, to works of poetry and missives on travel, there are some incredible texts stored within its walls.
Open to the public five days a week, the Portico library also hosts an eclectic calendar of events and exhibitions as well as welcoming guests to visit its cafe and shop.
The library’s gallery space is now home to a cute cafe where you can dine in on tea, sandwiches, and cake, however, its gorgeous private reading room remains off-limits – with private tours available to those looking to pursue membership to arrange on request.
To find out more about the Portico, visit its website here.
Feature image – The Portico Library
Greater Manchester to get 2,000 small wind turbines that provide more ‘affordable energy’
An ambitious new project will see thousands of small wind turbines installed across Greater Manchester to provide “more affordable energy”.
Set to be delivered by a partnership of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), the Energy Innovation Agency, and the Manchester Inward Investment Agency, and alongside renewable energy manufacturers Alpha 311, Greater Manchester could soon become home to 2,000 wind turbine units as part of the region’s carbon reduction plan.
The wind turbines are powered by the air moved by passing vehicles, and will be put on buildings and lampposts, according to BBC News.
Alpha 311 said the turbines’ size could even see small sites become wind farms.
The manufacturer said the units were smaller and lighter than the type of wind turbines we are used to seeing on hills and in the countryside across the UK, or off-shore turbines, and it means they can be used on roads, bridges, buildings, and towers.
Most-notably, turbines expected to be the same or similar to the ones on their way to Greater Manchester have been installed next to the O2 Arena in London.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said he was looking forward to seeing the “innovative wind turbines” in action as they could “see us generate more low carbon energy locally”, and crucially, “provide more affordable energy” at a time when people in the region “need it most”.
“The switch to net-zero carbon can, and should, be something that offers a fairer future, as well as a greener one,” Mr Burnham explained.
Mr Burnham said the partnership would also support the creation of 200 new jobs.
The cost of the project has not yet been revealed, but it’s thought they could begin being installed across the region should an initial pilot using the street turbines that’s set to start in Telford later in the year be successful.
The turbines in the pilot trial will be used to power streets lights, and any surplus energy will be sent back to the National Grid.
Featured Image – Alpha 311
New cycle lanes and beer gardens closed as Northern Quarter building deemed ‘unsafe’
A section of the new cycleway through the Northern Quarter has been temporarily closed just weeks after opening, after a historic building was deemed to be ‘unsafe’.
Metal fences have now been erected on Thomas Street, blocking part of the cycle lanes and taking over valuable outdoor space for the bars and restaurants along the street.
The building in question stands on the corner of Thomas Street and John Street, once home to the Al Faisal takeaway.
It’s part of a block of 19th century properties in the area that back in 2018 were deemed to be in ”imminent danger of collapse’.
Councillors now say that the Northern Quarter building is unsafe, and will need to be propped up with scaffolding.
The owners of the building want to protect its historic facade but are unable to begin work immediately due to the high construction costs.
But until the scaffolding can be built, temporary fencing has been erected to protect members of the public.
It’s understood that the work will take up to 10 working days to complete.
Several images of the fencing have been circulation on social media, with the NQHQ account tweeting: “If you thought the cycleway through the Northern Quarter was sh*t…..well it just got sh*tter.”
Piccadilly Labour have said: “Building on the corner unfortunately deemed unsafe. Cllr @JonConnorLyons met with the owners who are putting up scaffolding and want to preserve the facade of the building – current construction costs are incredibly high for them to proceed with the development plans this year.”
Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons then added: “Winter weather has made the building vulnerable & cracks have formed which has resulted in the building having to be supported by scaffolding, whilst this happens, these fences have been put up to protect the public. Some reveal in this sort – that is a shame.”
Although the fencing is there in the public’s interest, several local hospitality businesses are concerned about the impact this will have on trade – especially as the fencing has appeared during the heatwave, when punters will be wanting to be outdoors to make the most of the sunny weather.
The Smithfield Social, which is part-owned by the Courteeners’ Liam Fray, has lost a chunk of its outdoor seating – though it does still have space for tables on Edge Street.
A spokesperson for the bar said: “The building works which commenced yesterday have impacted our outside trade significantly.
“We usually have eight tables out the front but after lengthy talks with councils and licensing we have come up with a solution which means we now have a severely reduced area with only four tables.
“The area seems to be an after thought as we are the only business affected by it. Fierce have moved their area but they do not lose any space.
“I have no doubt that we have lost significant patronage because of this, as who wants to sit outside with heavy machinery next to you and dust being blown in your face? Quite unfortunate timing with the great weather we are forecast to have over the coming days.”
The Manc has approached Manchester City Council for comment.