John Rylands University Library
John Rylands was a successful Manchester textile manufacturer in the 1800s. At its peak Rylands company employed 15,000 people in his 17 mills and factories, producing 35 tons of cloth a day. Rylands was married three times. After his death in 1888 at the family residence, the now demolished Longford Hall in Stretford, his third wife Enriqueta Augustina commissioned a library to be erected on Deansgate in his name. The library included books from his own collection, as well as the Althorp Library purchased by her from Earl Spencer in 1892, and Lord Crawford's manuscripts purchased by her in 1901.
Mrs. Rylands commissioned Sir Basil Champneys to build her library and he created a Victorian Gothic masterpiece out of a stone from Penrith in the Lake District known as "shawk". The stone varies in colour from buff to pink.
During all the years that I commuted past it as a teenager, it was black but after the introduction of the clean air act and a good clean, you can once again appreciate its colour. The building cost £230,000 and took nine years to build. The library was opened to readers on January 1,1900. Despite its Gothic appearance, the building was quite advanced in that it has a fire-resistant concrete construction, electric lighting and air conditioning. It was one of the first public buildings in Manchester to be lit by electricity.Rylands Library today
Today John Rylands Library belongs to the University of Manchester. In recent years it has received another face lift with the addition of an extension towards the rear of the building adding a shop, restaurant and providing a modern level of access to the old building.
Take a Look Inside
The sculpture shown above and below is entitled "Theology Directing the Labours of Science and Art". It stands in the entrance hallway of the library. The original plan for that area of the building by its architect, Sir Basil Champneys, was to include three niches to accommodate sculptures. Enriqueta Rylands approached John Cassidy, who was responsible for the statue of her husband, to prepare a design to occupy this important position. Cassidy received the commission and agreed to, "complete a group of three figures in red shawk stone for £300, adapting all sketches and models to Mrs Ryland's 'entire approval'." "Theology Directing the Labours of Science and Art" was installed in February 1898. The finishing touches were completed in July of that year.The web site of the Public Monument and Sculpture Association's National Recording Project describes this sculpture as: "Three figures; theology is represented by a standing female figure holding in her left hand a volume of Holy Writ, and with her right hand she directs Science, who is depicted as an old man studying a globe. Art is shown as a youthful metal worker who is making a chalice, and is depicted in the act of listening to Theology."
John Rylands - sculptor Jihn Cassidy
Mrs. Rylands - sculptor Jihn Cassidy