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Ancoats district looking towards Manchester city centre
Aerial photo Image provided courtesy of Webb Aviation © 2008. – all rights reserved.

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
The district of Ancoats was the setting for several novels by Howard
, 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
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
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:

See also :

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.


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© John Moss, Papillon Graphics AD 2013 Manchester, United Kingdom – all rights reserved.
This page last updated 16 Nov 12.