Manchester and the English Civil War
In 1547 Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, and this effectively ended the life of the ecclesiastical collegiate church at Manchester. By 1540 Manchester had been granted the right of Sanctuary, and this also ended with the dissolution.
By 1579 the Lordship of Manchester had been purchased by Richard Lacy, a local mercer, and in 1596, Sir Richard Mosley, former Lord Mayor of London, gained the Lordship of the “Manor of Manchester”.
In 1642, with the outbreak of hostilities in the Civil War, and with Manchester taking a distinctly Parliamentarian side, the town was besieged by Royalist forces – probably the first siege of the Civil War.
The town’s fortified location evidently proved unassailable, for in 1644 Prince Rupert decided to bypass Manchester and went on to sack the township of Bolton and lay siege to Liverpool. A year later, there was an outbreak of the plague in Manchester, and many London supporters raised money to provide assistance.
In 1656, when Oliver Cromwell had dissolved Parliament and proclaimed a Commonwealth with himself as Protector, the parliamentary mace was given by Cromwell to the town as mark of gratitude or its support, and was brought to Manchester by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Worsley.
Manchester – Parliamentarian Stronghold
Throughout this period Manchester was regarded as a Roundhead Parliamentary stronghold. Interestingly, this parliamentarian ethic still survived until the 19th century, when, controversially, in 1875, Matthew Noble’s statue of Cromwell was erected by local liberal politicians outside the cathedral, facing the Exchange Railway Station (demolished in the 1980s – now a car park!). The realistic likeness, showing Cromwell in battledress with drawn sword and leather body armour, (based on Lely’s famous painting) with its “pimples, warts and everything”, dismayed local conservatives and outraged the large Irish immigrant population of the city (Cromwell had tyrannically put down Irish uprisings).
This statue stood outside the cathedral until it was moved in the 1980s as part of extensive inner city redevelopment, and is relocated outside Wythenshawe Hall in Wythenshawe Park, which had been used as a billet for Roundhead troops. The statue’s controversial nature spread wider than local politics : when Queen Victoria was invited to open the new Manchester Town Hall , she said that she would consent provided the Cromwell statue was removed. In the event, the statue remained, Victoria declined, and the Town Hall was opened by the Lord Mayor. Ironically, the Houses of Parliament itself installed a statue of Cromwell later, which still stands outside the Palace of Westminster today.