Manchester is full of architectural and cultural gems, and from September 8-11, Heritage Open Days are offering the chance to explore some great locations for free.
Whether you fancy peeking inside the oldest public library in the English-speaking world or dipping a toe in Britain’s finest municipal swimming pool, here are ten fascinating locals buildings well worth a visit.
Heaton Hall is one of Manchester’s finest Grade I listed buildings, set within the impressive surroundings of Heaton Park. Guided tours from The Friends of Heaton Hall offer the rare opportunity to peek inside this neoclassical 18th century country house, where you can learn about the history of the home of the Egerton family and its design by James Wyatt through to its current restoration.
The Portico Library
The Portico Library collection is mainly 19th century, with a wide selection of travel literature, novels, biographies and history. If you fancy seeing the beautiful Georgian interiors and exploring its collection, curios and characters, ticketed tours in September offer access to all areas of the library – some of which are normally restricted to just members, researchers and readers – during special opening hours.
The Pankhurst Centre
62 Nelson Street, Manchester, the birthplace of the Suffragette movement, is now the Pankhurst Centre. The Heritage Centre at the former home of the leader of the Suffragette movement Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel, Sylvia and Adela, will be open to visitors, who will be able to visit the room where the first meeting of the Womens Social and Political Union took place in 1903, along with a Women In Print exhibition.
The oldest public library in the English-speaking world, Chetham’s Library – founded in 1653 (and housed in a building built in 1421) – began acquiring books in August 1655 and has been adding to its collections ever since. Free tours offer a chance to wander through the medieval cloisters and explore where Elizabethan alchemist John Dee conjured up devils and where Karl Marx plotted to overthrow capitalism.
All Saints Church
This rare architectural Georgian Gothic gem is the oldest remaining structure in the area, dating back to 1556. The current Grade II listed church was erected in 1814, and was one of the first churches to use cast iron columns to hold up the vaulted ceilings. The striking building is in the process of being restored, but tours in September offer the chance to see how the church was built.
This medieval church, extensively refaced, restored and extended during the Victorian period, is Grade I listed. For the first time in its history, Manchester Cathedral and The Heritage Detectives Club will be opening up the archives to the public on 9 September and giving you a chance to delve into the records and become a heritage detective for the day.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House
A beautiful a Grade II listed property built between 1835-1841 – a rare example of the elegant Regency-style villas once popular in Manchester – Elizabeth Gaskell’s House was the home of the famous author, whose novels include Mary Barton, Cranford and Wives and Daughters. The House will be open free of charge to visitors, along with a new display in the Exhibition Room, a tea room and a second hand book shop.
Widely recognised as Britain’s finest municipal swimming pool and a Grade II listed building, no expense was spared in the construction of Victoria Baths with it rich terracotta, decorative tiling, sumptuous tiles and mosaics. Open especially for Heritage Open Days at the weekend, you can view all three pools, the Turkish Baths suite, entrance halls, Superintendent’s Flat and other spaces.
St Clement’s Tower
If you’ve ever fancied trying your hand at bell ringing, take a tour of this Victorian Grade II parish church and climb the 95 foot tower this month. Discover the stained glass windows, ornamental carvings and an interior typical of the Victorian era, and view from the tower the surrounding town and countryside.
Theatre Organ Heritage Centre
The Wurlitzer Organ (originally installed in the Trocadero Cinema Liverpool) will be demonstrated throughout the day in a 1920s cinema experience on 10 September, with knowledgeable guides on duty to explain the workings of the Cinema Organ. You’ll also be able to explore the unique Hope-Jones Museum, along with gift stalls and refreshments.
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Main image: Instagram / @loveluci11