The Old English name for the district of Ancoats was “ana cots” which meant “old cottages”. By the beginning of the thirteenth century it was already known as Elnecot . Land in Ancoats was bequeathed in the 14th century by Henry de Ancotes. Alas, the old cottages have long disappeared and the ravages of the Industrial Revolution have left a more significant impact upon the district. Before the late 18th century, Ancoats had still retained a semi-rural aspect, but by 1800 it had been transformed into an effective industrial suburb, dominated as it was by the new steam driven Murray Mill by 1789 and the recently completed Ashton Canal which provided material and goods transportation in and out of the city. Many other mills followed, including the Decker Mill (also by the Murray brothers), the New Mill, Beehive Mill, Little Mill, Paragon Mill, Royal Mill and Pin Mill. Apart from textile spinning and weaving, Ancoats was also a major hat manufacturing district , and the William Plant Hat Works continued to operate from their location on Great Ancoats Street until the early 1970s. The district of Ancoats was the setting for several novels by Howard Spring, including “Fame is the Spur” , as well as Isabella Banks‘ novel, “The Manchester Man” . In many ways, it was the back-to-back slum dwellings of Ancoats textile workers that typified outsider’s views of Manchester, and which were instrumental in forming Friedrich Engels views on the need for revolution – it was Ancoats which he described in his book “Conditions of the Working Class in England” in 1844. Immigrants (Jews, Poles and Italians) came in great numbers from continental Europe. The Italians especially formed a virtual colony in the district became known as “Little Italy. For most of the 19th and early 20th centuries an Italian presence would be concentrated in Ancoats around George Leigh Street, Jersey Street, and Sanitary Street. For many years it was easier to order a pint of beer in local pubs in Italian than in English. Ancoats was not, however, all slum dwellings. Ancoats Old Hall is said to have been as fine a house as any in Manchester in its day – its imposing black and white timber structure dominated the corner of Every Street for many years. The 1860s saw the arrival of the railways in Ancoats, as the Midland Railway chose the district in which to build its goods yard on a site which once house over 3000 people. Ardwick and Ashburys Railway Stations were also created as suburban stops on the Manchester-Sheffield and Lincolnshire line. Residents have long been of a cosmopolitan mix – Polish, Irish and Italian communities all settled in the area, as in its heyday it was an excellent place to find work. Many of the mills which formed its most recent character have long disappeared – the best remaining are now listed Grade II buildings. New plans are in hand for a significant regeneration of the area and the creation of a new urban village in the district. Some 50 acres of Ancoats have now been declared a Conservation Area and a dozen or more listed buildings are located within the Area – mostly mills and associated buildings. The Ancoats Buildings Preservation Trust (ABPT), a registered charity based at the old Beehive Mill in Bengal Street/Jersey Street, has been set up to preserve the neglected historic and architecturally significant buildings in the Conservation Area and to find new uses for these old buildings. Various Lottery Heritage Projects are under way in the district, including a £7 million grant for the restoration of of the Grade II Listed Murray Mills. See also Manchester Mills. The Ancoats Urban Village Company has also been recently established to promote the district and to foster the sympathetic development of its historical buildings and cultural architectural heritage. More info at: https://www.ancoatsbpt.co.uk.
NOTE: We have made reference to several sources in compiling this web page, but must make special mention of the Breedon Books’ “Illustrated History of Manchester’s Suburbs” by Glynis Cooper, of which we made particular use. Information about this book can be found on our Books About Manchester webpage.