Chorlton Library


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Chorlton Library, Manchester Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 9PN


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Statutory Address:
Chorlton Library, Manchester Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 9PN

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Manchester (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Library, 1914, by Henry Price. Red brick with Portland stone dressings. Single-storey and flat-roofed. Edwardian Baroque style.

Reasons for Designation

Chorlton Library, constructed in 1914 to the designs of Henry Price, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural quality: it has a distinctive Edwardian Baroque design displaying a careful attention to detail, and the library forms an imposing landmark within the local area; * Planning: the original layout remains largely intact and retains its three distinct, principal spaces comprising a lending library flanked by a reading room and a children's library. Where alteration has occurred within the interior, the original arrangements remain clearly readable; * Interior quality and survival: the interior detailing maintains stylistic continuity with the exterior, and numerous original interior features have been retained, including tiled dados, some original doors, the balcony stair, and plaster decoration in the principal rooms and the dome; * Architect: the library was designed by the notable Manchester Corporation City Architect, Henry Price who has a number of listed buildings to his name, and it survives as a good example of his work, reflecting his significant contribution to the construction of municipal buildings in Manchester.


Chorlton Library was constructed in 1914 to the designs of Henry Price, City Architect, and was funded by a £5000 donation from the steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. As noted in his Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry, Carnegie was a prolific philanthropist who, amongst many other donations, funded approximately 3000 libraries during his lifetime in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and his adopted home of the United States.

Chorlton Library was one of three libraries designed by Price; the other two libraries being in Didsbury (1915, Grade II listed) and Withington (1927), and it was the twenty-fourth branch library to open in Manchester. In 1912 Henry Price's original plan drawings for the building, which were being sent to Andrew Carnegie for approval, went down with the RMS Titanic; duplicate copies were sent later.

The land for the library, which replaced a temporary library located in a house on Oswald Road, was provided by the Withington Committee and the building was erected by Messrs C.H. Normanton & Son Ltd of Ardwick. It was opened on 4 November 1914 by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Alderman McCabe. In c1964 an extension was added on to the south-east side and in 1983/4 some internal alterations were carried out.

Manchester Corporation created its City Architect's Department in 1902 and Henry Price (1867-1944) was the first City Architect, responsible for municipal building projects in the city. He has a number of listed buildings to his name in Manchester, including Victoria Baths (1903-6, Grade II*, based on the 1901-2 designs of Henry Price's predecessor, the City Surveyor T. de Courcy Meade and his assistant Arthur Davies), Harpurhey Baths & Laundry (1909-10, Grade II), Crumpsall & Cheetham District Library (1909-11, Grade II), and Didsbury Public Library (1915, Grade II).


Library, 1914, by Henry Price. Red brick with Portland stone dressings. Single-storey and flat-roofed. Edwardian Baroque style.

PLAN: the library occupies a triangular plot of land with a fan-shaped plan incorporating two principal elevations; that to the narrower north end faces the junction of Longford Road and Manchester Road and incorporates the library's main entrance, whilst the principal east elevation faces Manchester Road.

EXTERIOR: on the two principal elevations the library's flat roof is hidden from view by a partly-balustraded, Portland-stone parapet set above an entablature incorporating a dentil cornice; a plain brick parapet hides the roof from view on the rear and north-west sides of the building. Painted cast-iron rainwater goods survive, including a hopper decorated with a small cherubic face (putto) on the east elevation.

North (front) elevation: this 3-bay elevation, which has coved outside edges, faces the junction of Longford Road and Manchester Road and is faced entirely with Portland stone, which has banded rustication treatment. The main entrance is located to the centre and consists of a semi-circular, distyle-in-antis Ionic portico, which incorporates original cast-lead letters that read 'PVBLIC LIBRARY'. The original entrance doors underneath have been replaced by modern automatic doors, but the entrance doorway's eared and shouldered surround with a triple keystone survives, as well as the carved-timber inner-surround with a Greek-key frieze above the door and a decorative overlight. Flanking the entrance portico are slender windows with original, decorative painted wrought-iron grilles and triple keystones. Rising above and behind the front elevation, and also visible on the eastern side, is a large octagonal dome, which is constructed of red brick to the lower part (only visible from the building's flat roof and also incorporating two multipaned wrought-iron windows), and Portland stone to the upper part with a lead-covered roof and glazing to a small lantern (visible internally). Coving to the dome's eaves line incorporates lion head gargoyles.

East side elevation: this 5-bay elevation facing Manchester Road is lit by a series of four multipaned sash windows incorporating margin lights and some cross-patterned leaded glazing, which is also replicated to the rear elevations. Each window has an eared and shouldered architrave of Portland stone with a triple keystone, and both of the outer bays are flanked by panelled Portland-stone pilaster strips that rise through the parapet and incorporate lotus bud decoration with further rusticated stonework to the side. A recessed, canted bay window to the far right of the elevation with similarly styled sashes, which lights the librarian's office, is flanked by Ionic columns. Attached to the south-east side of the building is a flat-roofed, single-storey extension of c1964 that is not of special interest and is excluded from the listing.

South-west (rear) elevation: due to the library's fan-shaped plan three angled walls comprise the main part of this plain brick elevation, which faces a rear yard area; that to the right is now largely hidden by the 1960s extension lying alongside Manchester Road. The rear elevation is buttressed and has fixed-pane and multipaned sash windows in the same style as those to the east elevation, but with plain sandstone sills and flat-arched, pressed-brick heads; the latter is also shared by an adjacent doorway. Set to the western end of the elevation is a lower, lean-to (originally the staff room) with a short brick stack set to the western corner and two blocked-up window openings. The upper parts of two basement windows are also visible, although that to the right has been bricked-up. The north-west side elevation is similarly plainly detailed, and is largely hidden from view by a neighbouring building.

INTERIOR: internally some original doors and cast-iron radiators survive, along with plain moulded cornicing and dentil cornicing to the principal rooms. The original flooring is believed to survive under later coverings.

The library has three large rooms: originally a lending library flanked by a reading room and a children's library, which are entered via an entrance vestibule and entrance hall. The entrance vestibule has a decorated ceiling and contains a classical doorcase with modern automatic doors installed in front. Two new doorways have been inserted into the north-west wall to access a modernised toilet and store room. Beyond the vestibule is a large entrance hall, which was originally octagonal, but the angled walls on the eastern and western sides have since been brought forward to create straight walls. The original classical architraves and doors with glazed panels and patterned glazing bars have been retained (albeit now in different positions) and the original wall alignment can be seen behind the later partitioning. The librarian's office, which is located off to the eastern side of the entrance hall, is still used for its original purpose, and has been extended through the incorporation of a former washroom. The former porter's room on the opposite side of the entrance hall has been converted into toilets.

Over the entrance hall is the dome, which originally incorporated a wrought-iron galleried balcony. In 1983/4 a false floor was inserted to create a staff room above and the balcony front was removed. The staff room is decorated with pilasters in a similar style to those in the rest of the building and is accessed by the original dog-leg balcony stair, which is located off the western side of the entrance hall, and has a curtail step, stick balusters, wreathed handrail, replaced tread coverings, and a dado composed of cream and green glazed tiles. The dome survives above a suspended ceiling and retains its original plaster panelling and medallion decoration and dentil cornice. The dome lantern's stained glass has been replaced by plain glazing.

The library's three principal rooms have dividing piers and wall pilasters with panelled plaster decoration in the same style as those to the former dome balcony and the pilaster strips on the exterior of the building. All three rooms also have dados (now painted over), which are most likely to be in the same cream and green glazed-tile configuration as the balcony stair, and a small internal square window exists to each of the rooms' northern walls, which originally fed additional light into the rooms via the top-lit dome. Where the central room fans outwards the roof is supported by slender cast-iron columns with decorative console-type scrolled capitals. The original staff room, which was located to the rear of the former children's library, has been incorporated into the western room through the knocking through of two openings in the dividing wall. Openings have also been knocked through in the library's rear south-eastern wall to connect through into the 1960s extension. An original stair set to the south corner of the central room leads down to the basement, which contains boilers and a small workshop/caretaker's room with a partly-glazed internal timber wall and a large Belfast sink.


Books and journals
Hartwell, C, Hyde, M, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Lancashire: Manchester and the South-East, (2004, reprinted 2010 with corrections)
Kelly, T, History of Public Libraries in Great Britain, (1977, 2nd Ed.)
, accessed from
Henry Price (or John Henry Price), accessed from
City of Manchester Libraries Committee. Vol. 19. 1912,
Souvenir of the Opening of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Library, 4th November 1914. Manchester Public Libraries,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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