For bookish and non-bookish people alike, the Picton Reading Room is one of the most beautiful libraries in all of the United Kingdom, and it has a fascinating history to match. It all started with Sir James Picton, who was elected to Council in Liverpool in 1849 and deemed the first Chairman of the Library and Museum. Shortly afterwards, Picton worked to open Liverpool’s first public library.

Recently restored between 2011 and 2012, the Picton Reading Room is known for its stunning domed ceiling and expansive bookshelves. Along with neighbouring parts of the library, the Hornby Library and the Oak Room altogether houses 15,000 rare books.

The Picton Reading Room - one of the highlights of 10 Most Instagrammable Places in Liverpool (Read all about Liverpool here)

Highlights of the Picton Reading Room

The Picton Reading Room opened its doors officially to the public in 1860 and was open until 10 pm each evening, to encourage locals to avoid staying in the pubs all night long. It was the first public building in Liverpool to employ electric lighting, a novel contraption at the time, even considered by many to be more dangerous than light from gas.

Right off from the Picton Reading Room, allocate time to explore the Hornby Library, equally magnificent architecturally. Additionally, it displays a variety of etchings, books and letters from the room’s namesake, a local merchant named Hugh Hornby.

photo by Reading Tom (CC BY 2.0) modified

Good to know when visiting the Picton Reading Room

If you’re up for a challenge, keep your eyes open at the main entrance, where a list of book titles has a cryptic message encoded within. Follow the letters in red as you stroll about, and see if you can figure it out for yourself. When you’re in the Picton Reading Room, it’s best to keep quiet, since its acoustics make even a whisper audible!

If you have kids, teens, or family or friends who aren’t as keen on books, then don’t worry! The library has a game room with a variety of options for those who’d prefer to play.

photo by Alex Liivet (CC BY 2.0) modified

The Picton Reading Room

Location: William Brown St, Liverpool L3 8EW, UK

Phone: +44 151 233 3069