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Portrait of Humphrey Chetham, now in the library reading room

Sir Humphrey Chetham (10 July 1580 – 1653) was an English merchant, responsible for the creation of Chetham's Hospital and Chetham's Library, the oldest public library in the English-speaking world.[1]

Contents

Life

Chetham was born in Crumpsall, the son of a successful Manchester merchant who lived in Crumpsall Hall, Harpurhey. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School, and following an apprenticeship with his local liner draper, he set up his own cotton manufacturing business with his brother George. The business was successful, since the fabric was bought in London and sold for a higher price in Manchester. In 1631, he was asked to be knighted after his huge wealth became known to the crown, but he refused it, and so was fined.[2] He later became the High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1635,[3][4] a job he was not able to refuse, and in 1643 he was forced into the position of General Treasurer of Lancashire, which he found very difficult for his age. He also began to obtain debts, and he feared that on his death parliament would take his money. He therefore donated money to form a blue coat school for forty poor boys, which later became Chetham's Hospital and then Chetham's School of Music. He also left money to form the Chetham's Library, which included money to pay for the books. More libraries were constructed later on from this money. After Chetham's death in 1653, the school and library opened. His contribution is commemorated by a statue and a window in Manchester Cathedral and by a statue and mural in Manchester Town Hall.

The arms of the Chetham family as displayed above the door of the Chetham Arms pub in Chapeltown, Lancashire.

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