Enriqueta Augustina Rylands: Freedom of the City of Manchester

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Illuminated vellum scroll, backed with silk and satin and with ivory end-pieces, recording the conferment upon Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands of the Freedom of the City of Manchester, at a special meeting of the City Council held in the Town Hall on 6 September 1899; signed by William Henry Vaudrey, Lord Mayor, and William Henry Talbot, Town Clerk. The scroll is contained within a silk-lined silver casket, whose sides are decorated with panels depicting the John Rylands Library in relief.

Administrative / Biographical History

Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, founder of the John Rylands Library, was born on 31 May 1843 in Havana, Cuba, the daughter of a sugar planter. After spending some of her formative years in New York and Paris, she arrived in Manchester in the early 1860s, and became the companion of Martha, second wife of John Rylands, who had established his country seat at Longford Hall, Stretford, in 1857. After the death of Martha Rylands, John Rylands and Enriqueta were married on 6 October 1875. She gave new impetus to her husband's philanthropic activities and co-operated closely in the publication of his Paragraph Bible and his hymn-books. When John Rylands died in December 1888, leaving a fortune of over £2.5 million, Enriqueta was his main legatee and chief executor. She also became the chief shareholder in Manchester's two leading firms, Rylands & Sons Ltd and the Manchester Ship Canal Company, and she took an active role in the management of the former.

Enriqueta Rylands commemorated her husband by the creation of the John Rylands Library. In 1892 she purchased from the 5th Earl Spencer the collection of printed books at Althorp in Northamptonshire that had been built up over thirty years from 1790 by the 2nd Earl. The Bibliotheca Spenceriana contained an incomparable collection of Bibles, incunables and Aldines, numbering almost 40,000 volumes in total. In 1901 Mrs Rylands acquired an equally significant collection of manuscripts assembled by the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres at Haigh Hall near Wigan. The John Rylands Library, located on Deansgate in the centre of Manchester, was formally inaugurated on 6 October 1899 and the first readers were admitted on 1 January 1900. By then Mrs Rylands was suffering from ill-health. In 1905 she moved to Torquay, where she died on 4 February 1908 at the age of sixty-four.

Source: D.A. Farnie, 'Rylands , Enriqueta Augustina (1843-1908)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/48940.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by the John Rylands Library as part of Mrs Rylands's bequest.

Note

Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Enriqueta Augustina Rylands.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MS 1139).

Related Material

The JRUL also holds Mrs Rylands's accounts and residuary papers (ref.: GB 133 ORF/3), the Rylands and Sons archive (ref.: GB 133 RYL ), and the library catalogue from Longford Hall (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 1140).

Geographical Names