Manchester Medieval Festival: Celebrating 600 years of the city’s oldest buildings

The birth of the modern city some six centuries ago will be marked in September with a spectacular public festival.

The story of the modern city of Manchester began exactly six centuries ago.

Chetham’s, the home of a world-famous music school, the UK’s oldest public library and the concert venue the Stoller Hall, has medieval buildings on site dating back to 1421.

Now the extraordinary 600th anniversary of Manchester’s oldest structures will be celebrated in style with the Medieval Manchester Festival.

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    What is the Medieval Manchester Festival?

    A two-day festival will take place on 25 and 26 September to mark the six-century anniversary and the history of Chetham’s and the city as a whole.

    Organisers have prepared a unique, family-friendly event which includes live music, food, drink and medieval entertainment.


    Chetham’s medieval buildings were originally built to accommodate the priests of Manchester’s Collegiate Church, now Manchester Cathedral.

    Chetham’s Library’s medieval buildings are 600 years old

    Since then its lengthy history includes serving as a prison during the turbulent years of the English Civil War and the site’s role in education.

    Famous visitors to the library include Karl Marx, who developed the political theories of Communism.

    Now these storied buildings form part of the Chetham’s site, one of the most important locations for music study and performance in the country.

    What’s on the programme?


    Festival-goers will be invited to explore the stunning Chetham’s Library, the oldest collection of books open to the general public in the English-speaking world.

    Chetham’s Library’s medieval buildings are 600 years old. Photo: Sara Porter

    There will be special guided tours of the historic site and collections.

    The dark and gruesome side of the past will be brought to humorous life by Horrible Histories, with performances taking place in the state-of-the-art 500-seater Stoller Hall.

    The historic courtyard at Chetham’s will be filled with food and drink stalls, storytelling, falconry exhibitions and the chance to take part in some competitive medieval games.

    Medieval Manchester Festival at Chetham’s will mark the 600th anniversary of Manchester’s oldest buildings this September


    Live period music from Manchester Baroque and Chetham’s School of Music choristers will set the mood.

    What do the organisers say?

    Fran Healey, festival director at Chetham’s and The Stoller Hall, said: “It’s exactly 600 years since the first piece of Manchester, as we know it today, was put in place.

    “Since 1421, the city has grown outwards from Chetham’s medieval buildings and the adjacent Manchester Cathedral – resulting in the modern, vibrant city we love today.

    Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester city centre. Photo: Sara Porter

    “As with Manchester itself, the story of Chetham’s medieval buildings is a special one. It is a story bursting with intriguing, remarkable people.


    “From the priests who were the first to live here in 1421, to the prisoners of the English Civil War who were locked up here, to wealthy merchant Humphrey Chetham who established a school for poor boys and a stunning public library, to Karl Marx who sat in Chetham’s Library and looked out over the workers of Manchester, to the talented young musicians of Chetham’s School of Music and the performers and audiences at The Stoller Hall today – there are so many vivid personal stories to tell, characters to unpick.

    “Medieval Manchester Festival will be a place to discover some of that story - from 1421 to present day - or just to have fun and enjoy the food and drink surrounded by the sight of stilt walkers!

    “We can’t wait to welcome adults and families alike to our courtyard at Chetham’s. Prepare for some medieval entertainment!”

    What do I need to do if I want to attend?

    Medieval Manchester Festival takes place from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 25 September and 10am to 3pm on Sunday 26 September.

    Tickets cost £3 or £10 for groups of up to five people.


    You can pre-book at