The History of Christie's Bistro

The Christie Library was built in 1895–8. It was the gift of Richard Copley Christie – historian, bibliophile, lawyer and executor of Joseph Whitworth. After serving as the University's main library until the 1980s, it become Christie's which everyone knows and loves today.

The Christie Library

Richard Christie was the son of a Manchester mill owner (Lorenzo Christie) who lived in Edale in the Peak District. He was a keen supporter of education for working men, as well as higher education; throughout his life he promoted Owens College and the subsequent University. He was very successful as a lawyer and was a close associate of the engineer Sir Joseph Whitworth. After Whitworth died in 1887 Christie chaired Whitworth's company for a decade, before it was merged with Armstrong's of Newcastle. He was also one of the three trustees to whom Whitworth left his fortune.

Christie paid for Whitworth Hall and from his own resources he funded the building of the Christie Library. He gave 75,000 volumes which he had himself collected, mostly in connection with his studies of the Renaissance. This gift of books, now mostly housed at the University's John Rylands Library on Deansgate, is especially notable for the early printed books on which Christie was a world authority. Christie's wife helped persuade him to give funds for a 'cancer pavilion', opened in 1892, from which the Christie Cancer Hospital in Withington developed.

The Library's gothic architecture, by Alfred Waterhouse, is more relaxed than the buildings which front onto Oxford Road. The Library connects with the slightly later Whitworth Hall, and there was once to have been a bridge linking it with the main building. The stained-glass window by the staircase in the Christie Library shows Christie with his books, along with two of his Renaissance heroes: the Dutch humanist Erasmus and the Venetian printer Aldus, whose pioneering small-format books Christie collected. The University's marvellous holdings of Aldines will be celebrated in 2015, the 500th anniversary of Aldus's death.

The collections in the Christie Library served the whole University, excepting medicine, until the Arts Library was opened in 1937; in 1982, the science (and medical) collections were moved to an extension of this new library. The Christie Building was then redeveloped as offices for the Directorate of Development and Alumni Relations - with the much-loved Christie's on the first floor.

The Art of Christie's

Christie's houses busts and paintings relating to the history of the University, and features a stained glass memorial window of the building’s namesake, Richard Copley Christie.

The art of Christie’s bistro is an important part of the University’s heritage.

More Information

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