Working Class Movement Library

Library displays
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Working people have always struggled to get their voices heard. The Working Class Movement Library records over 200 years of organising and campaigning by ordinary men and women. Our collection provides a rich insight into working people's daily lives as well as their thoughts, hopes, fears and the roles they played in the significant events of their time.

We have information on:

• The trades and lives of people who worked in the past - brushmakers, silk workers, tailors, boilermakers and others

• Trade unions, where people have banded together to improve their working conditions

• Politics and campaigns, from Chartism to the General Strike and more recent protests

• Creativity and culture - drama, literature, music, art and leisure

• Important people who have led activist lives

• International events such as the Spanish Civil War, and aspects of Irish history

Much of this information is held in books, pamphlets or leaflets. Many more stories are told by our photos, banners and tape recordings.

Our collection captures many points of view to tell the story of Britain's working classes from the beginning of industrialisation to the present day.

Our oldest items date from the 1760s. From the 1820s we have some of the earliest trade union documents to have survived.

We have material on politics of all shades and come right up to date with the archive of Jim Allen, the Manchester-born screenwriter who worked on Coronation Street and collaborated with film director Ken Loach.

Venue Type:

Library, Archive

Opening hours

Tuesday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Wednesday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Thursday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Friday 10.00a.m. until 5.00p.m.
Saturday 10.00a.m. until 4.00p.m - third Sat of each month only, and by appointment

Closed: Sundays, Mondays

Admission charges

Admission to the library is free.

Additional info

Everyone is welcome to drop by to view our ground floor displays. To use the reading room to study, please contact us in advance to make an appointment.

There are important collections on Thomas Paine, Peterloo, Chartism, rise of trade unionism, Socialism, Labour Party, Communist Party of Great Britain, Ireland, Spanish Civil War, General Strike, CND, suffragettes and suffragists, Co-operative movement.

Collection details

Social History, Photography, Music, Literature, Industry, Film and Media, Archives

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Detail of a drawing by Tim Dunbar

Exhibition: Guernica in Manchester re-representation

  • 2 October — 13 November 2015 *on now

Guernica in Manchester Re-Representation is a drawing project that is based on an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the exhibition of Picasso’s Guernica in a car showroom in Manchester in the first two weeks of February in 1939. The exhibition includes a quarter scale “mapping” study of Guernica and a number of text-based drawings. Drawings have been informed by reference to the Manchester Foodship for Spain archive material at WCML, and eye witness accounts of the Manchester Guernica exhibition including two previously unknown descriptions from Manchester School of Art students. The project is underpinned by the notion of a ‘conspiracy of Guernica’ alluded to by Herbert J. Southworth in his classic text “Guernica! Guernica! A study of journalism, diplomacy, propaganda and history”.

Open during Library drop-in times, Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5pm and the first Saturday of most months 10am-4pm.

Tim Dunbar will be giving a free talk about his work on Wed 28 October at 2pm.

Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent
Greater Manchester
M5 4WX

logo: Heritage Open Days 2014




0161 736 3601


0161 737 4115

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.