The history of Manchester Central Library

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Hey, it’s Scarlett. A little while back, I told you about The John Rylands Library, the too-wonderful-for-words place where I spent many hours writing most of the story for Jordan Reclaimed. My next release, UNDER FIRE, the first in my Navy SEAL series, LOVE OVER DUTY, comes out on August 1st. This time, much of the plotting and writing was done at Manchester Central Library, so I thought I’d take a moment to share another of my favorite creative havens with you.

Manchester Central Library faces St Peter’s Square and is the second largest public lending library, after Birmingham. Designed by E. Vincent Harris, it was constructed between 1930 and 1934. The library building is now grade II* listed, following a four-year project to renovate and refurbish the library. It reopened in March, 2014 and nowadays it’s definitely old meets new, as glass and steel mix with more classical magnificence. 

Manchester is a city that has long had a love affair with arts and literature and was the first local authority to provide a public lending and reference library after the passing of the Public Libraries Act 1850. Local residents embraced the existing library with enthusiasm and in 1926 the city council held a competition to design a new central library. E. Vincent Harris was selected to design it and based its circular layout on libraries in America. The library was officially opened by King George V on 17 July 1934.

The library has some impressive and historically important collections which include over 30 books published before 1500 and many first and early editions of major works. The special collections include works by Elizabeth Gaskell, works by George Frederic Handel, and items of Italian music from the early 18th century, including autographed violin sonatas by Vivaldi.

The architectural style of the library is impressive and imposing with a neoclassical rotunda, a Tuscan colonnade in Portland stone, a low pitched leaded roof and a two-story, five-bay Corinthian portico entrance. The columns and domed section is loosely derived from the Pantheon, Rome, and I always feel that sense of magnitude and history on a grand scale whenever the building comes into sight. The interior may include a blend of modern, sleek design reminiscent of London art galleries, but for me, the original portions hold the greatest pull.

As you enter the older section of the library, you find yourself in the Shakespeare Hall, an ornate chamber displaying local heraldry and with large painstakingly restored stained glass windows. On the first floor is the Great Hall, a large reading room topped by a dome, and this is where I sit and soak up the sumptuous and historical surroundings and decor before I begin to write. There’s something about the ambience of that room that is both calming and inspirational. And I’m in good company; many well-known authors, playwrights and musicians have all used the library over the years. Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, and singer, Morrissey, both spent time there.

From 2010-2014, it underwent a £50 refurbishment, restoring it to its former glory, and opening up more space to the public.

King George V was absolutely right when he said at the original opening of the library back in 1934, that Manchester Central Library would create, “magnificent opportunities for further education and for the pleasant use of leisure.” It’s a building I certainly love and treasure and one that has helped me create some of my best characters and stories, and I really hope readers feel the same way about Six and Louisa’s story in UNDER FIRE.

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Praise for UNDER FIRE:

“Fantastic characters, scorching sexual tension, and non-stop action make this one of my favorite reads this year! Highly recommend!” – New York Times bestselling author Laura Kaye

“Scarlett Cole’s characters pull you in from the very first page with real emotion and sizzling chemistry. Don’t miss this action packed thrill ride.” ― Cherry Adair, New York Times bestselling author

Hot, hard-bodied Sixten Rapp is a former SEAL who’s raring to begin his brand-new civilian life. He and his Navy “brothers” start a security firm that offers the kind of services only a team of military-trained professionals can provide. But nothing prepared Six for his new client: an innocent woman on a mission to improve thousands of lives. . . unless someone takes hers first.

Dr. Louisa North knows time is against her as she tries to create a “miracle” medical treatment for a disease with no known cure, until she creates a sample so powerful that the wrong people want to use it as a chemical weapon. At first, Six is unwilling to accept Louisa as his client. But soon he realizes that the danger is real and that there’s much more to this plain-Jane scientist…including a burning passion between them that neither of them can resist. And now that an enemy is on Louisa’s trail, Six will do whatever it takes to protect her—or die trying.

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Scarlett Cole is a contemporary romantic suspense / contemporary romance author. All four books in her debut series, SECOND CIRCLE TATTOOS, are published by St. Martin’s Press and available now. When Scarlett isn’t writing, she spends her time reading, hoarding mason jars, and working out to off-set an epic sour candy habit. Having travelled the world for work and fun, Scarlett is a citizen of both Britain and Canada. A true city-dweller, she considers Toronto and Manchester home and likes to set her books in vibrant locations such as Miami and Los Angeles. Twitter: @itsscarlettcole Facebook: Website:

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