Portico Library

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Portico Library

The Portico Library (or Portico Library and Gallery) on Mosley Street, Manchester, is a subscription library designed in the Greek Revival style between 1802 and 1806 by Thomas Harrison of Chester.[1] It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a Grade II* listed building, having been designated on 25 February 1952,[2] and been described as "the most refined little building in Manchester".[3]

The library was established as a result of a meeting of Manchester businessmen in 1802 which resolved to found an "institute uniting the advantages of a newsroom and a library". A visit by four of those men to the Athenaeum in Liverpool inspired them to achieve a similar institution in Manchester. Money was raised through members' subscriptions and the library opened in 1806.

The library, mainly focused on 19th century literature, was designed by Thomas Harrison, architect of Liverpool's Lyceum and built by one of the founders, David Bellhouse. One of the secretaries was Peter Mark Roget who began his famous Thesaurus here.

Today, the building accommodates an exhibition space and the ground floor is tenanted by The Bank public house which takes its name from the Bank of Athens which leased the property in 1921, while the library remains upstairs with its entrance on Charlotte Street.[4]


The library is Harrison's only surviving building and the first Greek Revival building in the city. The interior was inspired by John Soane.[1] It has a rectangular plan and is constructed in sandstone ashlar on a corner site at 57 Mosley Street. It has two storeys and a basement and attic. Its facade on Mosley Street has a three-bay pedimented loggia with four Ionic columns set slightly forward and steps between the columns. Under the loggia are two entrance doors and three square windows at first floor level.[2]

The Charlotte Street facade has an entrance into the loggia with a square window above and another on the first floor. A five-bay colonnade of Ionic semi-columns has a tall sashed windows on the ground floor in each bay and square window above them at first floor level. The attic storey is behind a pilastered parapet. In the original building the reading room was on the ground floor and the library occupied a gallery. A ceiling was inserted at gallery level in about 1920.[2]

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Coordinates: 53°28′47″N 2°14′25″W / 53.47972°N 2.24028°W / 53.47972; -2.24028