Enriqueta Augustina Rylands

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Enriqueta Augustina Rylands (31 May 1843 – 4 February 1908) was the founder of the John Rylands Library, Manchester.

Early life[edit]

Enriqueta Augustina was born in Havana, Cuba, and was one of five children including José Esteban (later Stephen Joseph, who was her twin brother), Blanca Catalina and Leocadia Fernanda. Her father was Stephen Cattley Tennant (1800–1848), a merchant whose family came from Yorkshire, and her mother, Juana Camila Dalcour (1818–1855).[1]

Tennant retired to Liverpool, but died within a year. His widow migrated to Paris and married pianist and polymath Julian Fontana. Juana and Julian had one son, Enriqueta's half brother, Julian (Jules) Camillo Adam Fontana, who was born in 1853. Enriqueta Tennant was raised a Roman Catholic and completed her education in New York, London and Paris. In later life she abandoned Catholicism and became a Congregationalist, under the influence of the Rev. Thomas Raffles (1788–1863).[1][2]

At Longford Hall, Stretford[edit]

Some time after 1860, Enriqueta became companion to Martha, the wife of wealthy Manchester merchant John Rylands whose residence was Longford Hall in Stretford. She joined the congregation of Cavendish Congregational Church, Chorlton-on-Medlock.[3] In 1875, eight months after Martha's death, Enriqueta married John Rylands, then aged 74. The ceremony was held in Kensington, London, on 6 October.[4] The marriage was childless but two children were adopted: Arthur Forbes (a cousin of Enriqueta) and Maria Castiglioni. When John Rylands died in 1888, Enriqueta as the inheritor of most of his estate of £2,574,922[5] became a major shareholder of his family firm and in the Manchester Ship Canal.[1]

In memory of her husband, Enriqueta founded the John Rylands Library. She admired the design of Basil Champneys's library for Mansfield College, Oxford, and contracted him to develop something similar, on a more lavish scale. The library was inaugurated on 6 October 1899, the anniversary of her marriage. On the same day, she was admitted to the Freedom of the City of Manchester, the first woman to be so honoured. She was committed to many philanthropic and missionary causes and bequeathed much of her wealth to educational and medical institutions (including the Victoria University of Manchester and the library she had founded).[1] She received the honorary degree Doctor of Literature (D.Litt.) from the Victoria University of Manchester in February 1902, in connection with the 50th jubilee celebrations of the establishment of the university.[6]

In later life she was affected by rheumatic symptoms and spent frequent periods convalescing overseas. In 1894, she purchased a villa in Torquay where she died 14 years later. Following her funeral in Stretford, Manchester,[7] she was cremated and the ashes interred in the vault where her husband had been buried twenty years earlier in the Southern Cemetery, Manchester.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Farnie (2006)
  2. ^ "Life of Thomas Raffles". National Library of Singapore. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  3. ^ Farnie (1989), p. 32
  4. ^ Farnie (1989), p. 13
  5. ^ Farnie (1989), p. 16
  6. ^ "University intelligence" The Times (London). Saturday, 1 March 1902. (36704), p. 12.
  7. ^ A memorial service on Feb. 9 was followed by the funeral service next day; both were at Chorlton Road Congregational Church, Old Trafford.--Farnie (1989), p. 38


  • Farnie, D. A. (1989). "Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, 1843–1908, Founder of the John Rylands Library". Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 71 (2): 3–38. 
  • — (2006) "Rylands, Enriqueta Augustina (1843–1908)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, online edn, Oct 2006, accessed 20 Aug 2007 (subscription required)
  • [Gow, Elizabeth] (2008) Enriqueta Rylands: who do you think she was? discovering the founder of the John Rylands Library. Manchester: John Rylands University Library