Manchester City Council

Libraries Theatre Collection

Manchester Libraries hold this collection of theatre material which is unique to Manchester. The collection aims to cover Manchester's theatres from the mid 18th century to the present day. It has been built up from the beginnings of the public library service in Manchester and continues to this day. It contains:

  • Programmes and playbills
  • Posters and handbills
  • Newspaper cuttings
  • Scrapbooks, postcards and other memorabilia
  • Photographs
  • Books, periodicals and manuscripts
  • Architectural plans

Material from most theatres past and present is available, with long runs of playbills and programmes for the Theatre Royal, Prince's Theatre, Palace Theatre, Opera House, the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Library Theatre. Music hall is less well represented but material is available on the Broadhead Circuit. Manchester was also the location of the first English repertory company founded by Annie Horniman at the Gaiety Theatre and there is a substantial collection of material on this including correspondence from Annie Horniman. Amateur theatre groups and theatrical societies such as the Unnamed Society are also included.

Useful publications

  1. Manchester Theatres by Terry Wyke and Nigel Rudyard. 1994. Contains a general history of theatre in Manchester, an alphabetical list of theatres and a brief history of each, and a detailed guide to the contents of the collection. (Copies of this are still available from the Arts Library at a cost of £6.95).
  2. The Early Manchester Theatre (1750-1807) by J L Hodgkinson and R Pogson 1960
  3. Annie Horniman: a pioneer in the theatre by Sheila Gooddie. 1990

The Theatre collection is searchable on the library catalogue. Click advanced search, select keyword and enter "Theatre collection".

Items are available for use in Central Library search room with at least one day's notice. Please use our secure form to request to view books in the search room.

The Theatre Collection index is held in stack and can be accessed by staff. Please email archiveslocalstudies@manchester.gov.uk if you wish staff to consult it.

The Theatre Index includes information on:

  • Actors, actresses, music hall artistes etc. 
  • Theatre, ballet and opera companies
  • Titles of plays, shows and productions

    Only actors taking major roles have been indexed (though an attempt has been made to index well known actors in early roles). 

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