Sunday, 30 March 2014


I spotted this fabulous blast from the past in the Portico Library, Manchester, and sat through an entire meeting transfixed, desperate to press it. Would it conjure up a wheezing old man from the 19th century, tugging his forlock and begging to carry my books? I didn’t press it, so I never found out.

The Portico is a bit of a surprise. It opened in 1806 as a library and newsroom and is still an independent library, in its original Grade II listed building on Mosley Street in Central Manchester (though these days the building below is no longer a bank but a pub). Its famous members include Elizabeth Gaskell (did she summon the porter with that bell, I wonder?). Current patrons include Val McDermid, Jenni Murray and the wonderful Stuart Maconie. 

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