Saturday 19 August 2017

John Rylands Library

We had already decided to book an extra night at the mooring - it is free for the first two nights and £10 a night thereafter. She paid up so the space is now 'ours' just in case anyone decides to try and slip in whilst we are across at the water point! Part of the reason for the extra stay was so that we could find a church service on Sunday having failed to be in the right place for the last two Sundays.

We think that we may well go to the cathedral. Oddly there is no parish church any closer - we had expected that the industrial centre might have had a larger population at one time and New Islington became a large council estate in the mid 20th century. As the old mill buildings are gradually renovated then the number of people living close to the centre is rising once more. Royal Mill close to our mooring is a prime example. In the 1980's it ceased production of textiles and was for some time on a buildings-at-risk register. Eventually a developer took it on and it is now a splendid set of apartments.

The day began with some intermittent but heavy showers so we waited until well after 11 before venturing out - even though still slightly wet at times, but when it was dry it was pleasantly warm. In fact we did not go very far as we found a reasonably good corner shop close by that supplied some of what we were after. However, there was still a further list so after Mike took the first load back to the boat we continued into town for a Tesco Express. Even then, we diverted to Aldi on the way back as Christine thought that there offer on smoked salmon for our salad tonight was better!

After lunch we returned to the city centre and walked through Piccadilly Gardens, with its decorative fountain display.

We were - as the blog title indicates - heading for the John Rylands Library. We had spotted that their current exhibition is called The Life of Objects, a small curation of objects, mostly quite mundane, that had once been treasured by famous people, such as Lord Byron,  Elizabeth Gaskell, and John Wesley. (Mike is currently reading one of Colin Dexter's Morse novels and it features a recurring obsession of Morse with the Oxford comma. You may have noticed that there is one in the previous sentence but as it is not our 'house style' we cannot guarantee to continue the practice. In any event, experts hold strongly opposing views on whether it should be used or avoided!)

Alas, taking photos of the exhibits or the books was not permitted, only of the building itself.

We also looked around other parts of the library, including one display that contained a small scrap of what is believed to be one of the earliest surviving New Testament texts, but it includes only a few, fragmentary, words.

The main Reading Room, still in part used for that purpose and open to anyone, is impressive. It explained the history of how the library came about. John Rylands was the most successful textile entrepreneur in Manchester and became very wealthy. When he died, his third wife, decided to found a library in one of the poorer parts of the city, as a memorial. She not only paid for the construction of the building but also bought several important collections of old books and set up an endowment for the future of the library. Even in the money of the end of the 19 century, she donated around £750,000 overall.

Later the library was supported in its on-going costs by the local textile industry but as that declined so it became harder to keep the work going and eventually it merged with the University of Manchester Library which continues to manage it today.

After viewing all the accessible areas we adjourned to the cafe for a welcome cup of tea before setting off to walk back to the boat.

Just outside the library was a small specialist market and Christine noticed that one was selling delicious looking slices of cake at equally attractive prices (£2 a large slice!) We bought two but decided to stop over at Piccadilly Gardens to eat them. By the time we got there it was quite pleasant to sit with a wide variety of all sorts of people - well-to-do mixing with others less so.

Eventually we had no option but to stir ourselves and complete the walk back. We walked across Albert Square, outside the huge Town Hall, but the sun was in the wrong direction to be able to photograph the huge statue to the eponymous Albert.

In a side street, Christine was quite visually disturbed by this building - as the end wall is not flat, walking towards it creates a strange sensation as the lines clash against each other.

Before we became too solidified we took the boat over to the opposite side to fill the water tank which was hovering perilously below a quarter!

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