Sue Young Histories

Enriqueta Augustina Rylands 1843 – 1908

February 27, 2011

Enriqueta Augustina Rylands 1843 – 1908 was the founder of the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

Enriqueta was a patient of Alfred Midgley Cash, and she obtained her remedies from Leath and Ross Chemists, and she bequested £5000 to the London Homeopathic Hospital (recorded in her 1894 will as well as the final will), £3000 to Liverpool’s Hahnemann Hospital (1894 and final will) and £1000 to Manchester Homeopathic Dispensary (final will only), and £5000 to her doctor Alfred Midgley Cash,

Interestingly - Enriqueta’s new John Rylands library was closely connected to the library of the Manchester Medical Society - who decided to refuse donations of homeopathic books in 1853… and which merged with the Rylands Library in 1972…

From Peter Morrell, Sylvain Cazalet, The History of the London Homeopathic Hospital. ‘… After much consideration the Board decided to enlarge the London Homeopathic Hospital, and with a view to starting an extension fund to build a new West Wing to the existing London Homeopathic HospitalHenry Whatley Tyler, as already mentioned, contributed £10,000, the late Mrs. Rylands £5,000, Lord Dysart £2,000, the late Captain Cundy, Vice Chairman of the board, £1,000, C.M. £1,000, and with the assistance of many other warm friends and supporters of the London Homeopathic Hospital, the sum of £47,000 was soon raised for the purpose…’

From  Born in Havana, Cuba, she was one of five children including José Esteban (later Stephen Joseph, who was her twin brother), Blanca Catalina and Leocadia Fernanda. Her father was Stephen Cattley Tennant (1800–1848), a merchant, and her mother, Juana Camila Dalcour (1818–1855).

Stephen Cattley Tennant retired to Liverpool, but died within a year. His widow migrated to Paris and married pianist and polymath Julian Fontana. Juana and Julian had one son, Enriqueta’s half brother, Julian (Jules) Camillo Adam Fontana, who was born in 1853. Enriqueta Tennant was raised a Roman Catholic and completed her education in New York, London and Paris. In later life she abandoned Catholicism and became a Congregationalist, under the influence of the Rev. Thomas Raffles (1788–1863).

Some time after 1860, Enriqueta became companion to Martha, the wife of wealthy Manchester merchant John Rylands. In 1875, eight months after Martha’s death, Enriqueta married John Rylands. The marriage was childless but two children were adopted: Arthur Forbes and Maria Castiglioni. When John Rylands died in 1888, Enriqueta as the inheritor of the major part of his estate became a major shareholder of his family firm and in the Manchester Ship Canal.

In memory of her husband, Enriqueta founded the John Rylands Library. She admired the design of Basil Champneys’s library for Mansfield College, Oxford, and contracted him to develop something similar, on a more lavish scale. The library was inaugurated on 6 October 1899, the anniversary of her marriage. On the same day, she was admitted to the Freedom of the City of Manchester, the first woman to be so honoured. She was committed to many philanthropic and missionary causes and bequeathed much of her wealth to educational and medical institutions (including the Victoria University of Manchester).

In later life she was affected by rheumatic symptoms and spent frequent periods convalescing overseas. In 1894, she purchased a villa in Torquay where she died 14 years later. Following her funeral in Stretford, Manchester, she was cremated and the ashes interred in the vault where her husband had been buried twenty years earlier in the Southern Cemetery, Manchester.