Manchester in the 20th Century


20th Century Manchester
Before and After the Great War

Emmeline PankhurstChristable PamkhurstWestinghouse, Trafford ParkCWS Wholesale Food Packaging Factory

Labour & Socialist Politics in Manchester

By the end of the 19th century, some conditions had
improved in the workplace, thanks mainly to new notions of “collective
bargaining” brought about by the new ‘Model’ Trades Unions. The Manchester
& Salford Trades Union Council , later the Trades Union Congress had
been founded in Manchester as early as the 1860s. In fact, Manchester
had become one of the key centres in the early years of the British
Labour Movement, and the establishment of the Labour Party.
The Manchester Labour Party had several MPs by 1914, and by 1895 over
300 local branches of the party had sprung up. In 1896 an estimated
40,000 people had gathered at Boggart Hole Clough to hear Kier Hardy,
one of the founders of the modern labour party, speak. By 1906 there
were 3 Manchester Labour MPs and the city council had 13 Labour members,
with Salford having six further.

Suffrage in Manchester

The movement to secure votes for women had begun in
Manchester with the protests and petitions of two women in Manchester,
Mrs Emmeline
Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel
. She had helped found
the Women’s Suffrage League, and later the Women’s Social & Political
Union. Thanks largely to their efforts, by the general election of 1918,
women (albeit over the age of thirty) were entitled to vote for the
first time.
By 1928, after a long struggle, women secured the vote at 21, in line
with men. Manchester had been the home of the Suffragette Movement,
and there is a museum dedicated
to that movement in the Pankhurst’s former home.

Manchester’s Improved Amenities

Increased manufacturing production, and the wealth
which that generated, though firmly in the hands of a few leading industrialists,
did impact upon the city’s standard of living. Schools, hospitals, libraries,
swimming baths, public washhouses – all these could now be afforded
as a municipal duty, and paid for out of rates. And, by the early 20th
century, Manchester had begun to take its civic responsibilities seriously.
It was to install not only clean water and sewers (due to the laying
of a pipeline to the Lake District), but gas, electricity and an electric
tram system were added to the city’s amenities.
In 1903 the city purchased Heaton Park, for the use of the people of
Manchester, and set about the building of a Corporation housing estate
at Blackley. Under the Unemployed Workmen Act of 1905, the city formed
a local distress committee to seek to find ways in which the Corporation
might create employment opportunities.
The Manchester Technical School was opened by the prime minister, A
J Balfour, in 1902 – this was to become one of Britain’s leading scientific
and technical teaching and research institutions. Eventually it would
combine with the Victoria University of Manchester to become the noted
University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology (UMIST).
It was a city which believed in education, and several schools opened
for the teaching of adults. New wealth also caused a blossoming of shops
and major department stores where the people of Manchester could spend
their new-found wealth.
Lewis’s Department Store in Piccadilly (still there, but no longer Lewis’s),
Paulden’s Department Store (later to become Debenham’s), and Woolworth’s,
which traded in Piccadilly until it was burnt out by fire in the late
1970s. Though the building was restored, Woolworth’s never moved back,
and in the recession of 2008-2009 Woolworth’s itself went into liquidation.

Cotton, and its Decline

The year 1913 was a record year for the Lancashire
cotton industry. Exports of woven cloth from the region topped 7,000,000,000
linear yards – more than 80% of the entire national textile output,
and around 65% of world output. But the industry had failed to invest,
and tended to be produced on Victorian machines. Also, exports, though
high, were mainly to the continent of India, where British goods had
a monopoly.
The First World War cut off supplies of British cloth to India, who
turned to Japanese suppliers. Even when the war was over, this partially
lost market was never fully regained. India had also realised that its
total dependence on British goods was short-sighted and ultimately not
in its own best interests. The Lancashire textile industries were to
suffer the fate of many pioneers, when their supremacy was usurped by
newcomers with cheaper labour and newer, better machinery.
By the outbreak of the Second World War, the British home market was
still intact. But that would change within a decade. By the late 1940s,
India had developed a powerful and popular movement to push the British
out of India. Led by Mahatma Ghandi, one of their strategies was to
persuade native Indians to refrain from buying British textiles, and
to weave their own, by hand. In 1949, when the British withdrew from
the subcontinent, and India achieved independence, the Indian market
was virtually closed to British manufacturers.
The failure to introduce new technologies or to secure new markets meant
that by the late 1950s most textiles manufacturing companies were in
serious trouble, many were closing, and all were under threat. Inevitably,
this was to have a drastic effect on the local economies of the Lancashire
cotton towns, and most of the boroughs surrounding Manchester saw very
hard times ahead, and increasing levels of unemployment. Many of the
mills, the main source of employment, went onto short-time working,
laid off many of their workforce, or went into liquidation and closed
down. Even government intervention, in the form of the 1959 Cotton Industry
Act, came too late, and its enforced modernisation and rationalisation
was pointless, since by now synthetic fibres were already beginning
to replace cotton in many woven goods. By the 1960s, Manchester’s, and
Lancashire’s cotton industry was dead.

Development of Trafford Park

With widespread laying-off of textile workers in the
two decades after the war, Manchester came to depend more than ever
on its distribution infrastructure. The port of Manchester still ranked
as fourth most important in the UK, thanks largely to the Manchester
Ship Canal and its direct access to the sea. It ran directly through
the Trafford Park Industrial Estate, where other new industries had
emerged. Trafford Park was the industrial home of the Co-operative Wholesale
Society (the CWS), a Rochdale-born
, which had a major food packing factory and a flour
mill there.
The Hovis company, had also opened a mill in Trafford by 1914; their
brown loaf became synonymous with good quality and “natural” baking.
Kemp’s Biscuits were produced there from 1923. In 1938 the Kellogg company
opened a major industrial complex at Barton Dock, and massively increased
the importation of maize and grain products into the region – their
factory still makes Corn Flakes at Trafford Park to this day.
After 1945, Brook Bond moved their tea packaging factory at the canal
side in Ordsall. Many foreign businesses were attracted to Trafford,
including British Westinghouse (later renamed Metropolitan Vickers).
By 1933, over 300 American firms had bases in Trafford Park. The Ford
Motor Company moved to the Park in 1910 and by 1913 was in production
of the Model T Ford Car. Trafford Park has continued to grow throughout
the years, and has offset many of the worst effects of depression on
employment in Manchester.

Sources: See
Bibliography – Books about Manchester

Century History continues next page

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© John Moss, Papillon Graphics AD 2013 Manchester, United Kingdom – all rights reserved.
This page last updated 21 Jan 13.