About Greater Manchester
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Facts & Figures
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Gazetteer of the Region
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The Ten Boroughs
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Manchester UK - a
Manchester is relatively new city, but it already
had a long history before it gained a charter and its history
traces back almost two millennia. The first recorded settlement
of Manchester began in Roman times, when General Julius Agricola,
marching northwards with conquest in mind, built a fort in what
he considered a good defensible position just north of the present
However, it was not until the 18th century that this hitherto
remote and inconspicuous little medieval township sprang into
the forefront of world attention, and not until the mid-19th century
that it became a city. Actually, it was the neighbouring City
of Salford, located immediately opposite across the River Irwell,
that dominated the region, Manchester was at that time little
more than an outlying suburb.
In fact, the Salford Hundred, of which the city was its administrative
hub, covered all lands between the River Ribble to the north and
the Mersey to the south, so important and valuable a possession
that to this day the sovereign owns and bears the title of Lord
of the Manor of Salford. Not until the 19th century, after many
protests and petitions to parliament, notably by the Chartists,
did Manchester gain the status of a city.
Manchester & the Industrial Revolution
During the Industrial Revolution the powerhouse that
was Manchester became the hub of a wide network of many small
Lancashire townships -
little Manchesters as they
were sometimes known - towns that serviced the city's massive
cotton industry. Surrounding County Borough townships like Blackburn,
Burnley, Bolton, Wigan, Salford, Oldham and Rochdale sent their
woven and spun produce to the Royal Exchange in Manchester and
from thence to the world via the newly created Manchester Ship
Canal, and received raw materials which were distributed out from
the city and its well established system of canals and railways.
Other related crafts such as dyeing, fulling and every possible
aspect of the textile industry cause Manchester to be designated
Cottonopolis; where 'King Cotton' ruled.
The Manchester Ship Canal saw goods arriving from all over the
world into its large Manchester Docks complex, (actually in Salford)
now reinvigorated as Salford Quays.
Steam power drove the Victorian city, with water from the many
local rivers like the Irwell, Medlock, Irk and Tame, and coal
from Worsley via the Duke of Egerton's Bridgewater Canal to Castlefield,
or other coal pits around Wigan. A network of newly cut and navigable
canals enabled the efficient transportation of raw materials and
manufactured goods right into the heart of the city.
Even today, Manchester is marked by its many fine surviving warehouses
(now mostly ressurected as hotels and executive apartments) and
mills (now frequently relegated to small industrial units).
It held onto its reputation as the prime source of world textiles
until its decline in the 1950s, when cheaper foreign import of
cotton from India sounded the death knell for the region's pre-eminence.
Manchester skyline on a dull December morning showing the Town Hall and Extension
In the 1970s, the concept of Greater Manchester was born
- a still controversial grouping of 8 boroughs and 2 cities, which
were subsumed into one large administrative connurbation, the Metropolitan
County of Greater Manchester.
Manchester and Salford already existed as cities in their own right.
Two other boroughs, Tameside and Trafford, were newly created (again,
quite controversially) for the purpose, while other former County
Boroughs like Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Wigan and Rochdale (in Lancashire)
and Stockport (in Cheshire) lost their administrative independence
to a large degree to the new Metropolitan County.
These Metropolitan Boroughs are connected by the Manchester Orbital
Motorway, the M60, as well as the ever more extensive Metrolink
Tram System and two major mainline railway stations. Internationally,
Manchester connects to the rest of the world by a major Airport.
county, paradoxically existing still in
name but with less than intended powers and authority, still
produces more than half of Britain's manufactured goods and
consumables, though manufacturing continues its steady decline.
The Greater Manchester conurbation is a big place. While some 2½
million people live within its actual boundaries, over 7 million
others live in the wider region, making it second only to London
in Great Britain - Manchester still vies with Birmingham for the
title of England Second City!
For 11 million people living within 50 miles of the City of Manchester,
it is the place where they come to work, or to shop or to visit
the many attractions and entertainments which only a large dynamic
city such as this could hope to offer.
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