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The Roman general Agricola was the first to spot the strategic value of the rounded bluff at the confluence of the rivers Irwell and Medlock and so built the fort which he named 'Mamucium' or the 'breast shaped hill'.  The Romans stayed for over three centuries until finally abandoning the area in 410 AD.  Little is known about the development of Manchester after the Romans left, the 600 years of the Dark Ages, other than the centre of settlement moved a little further north to the confluence of the Irk and the Irwell, where the Cathedral now stands.  When the Domesday Book was compiled after the Norman conquest of 1066, Lancashire and Manchester warranted a mere one and a half pages out of 1,700, and that as an appendix to Cheshire.

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During the Middle Ages the town grew steadily and the economy tended towards textiles.  In the 18th century the pace of development began to accelerate and in the 30 years from 1720 to 1750 the population doubled to 20,000.  During this time there were but a few incidents to bring Manchester onto the national stage though it had the dubious distinction of claiming the first casualty of the Civil War when Richard Percival, linen weaver, was shot dead on Market Street.  In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived in the city and recruited 250 volunteers for his doomed venture against the House of Hanover.   But these events and the steady development were incidental to what was about to happen; cotton was coming and with it the industrial cataclysm that was to turn this small town into the world's first industrial city.  Manchester led the world, for better or worse, into the modern age.

The 19th century.  Where the actual touch-paper of industrialisation was lit is a subject of much debate, but there is no doubt its first urban product was Manchester.  The growth of the city was staggering - in 1801 the population was 90,000; by 1861 it was 355,000.  Even this figure is misleading as if the wider urban area outside Manchester's narrow boundaries is taken into account the figure was nearer half a million, packed into an area not much larger than today's city centre.  Cotton fired the industrial advances - Kay invented the Flying Shuttle in 1733, then between 1760 and 1790, Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny, Arkwright the Water Frame and Crompton, the Spinning Mule.  These were all Lancashire men.  Meanwhile good turnpike roads were improving communications, and cheap coal arrived with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal in 1759.  Industrialisation brought about the invention of the factory system, first in the cotton mills, and then the vast iron founding, precision engineering, chemical works and warehouses that were needed to support 'King Cotton'.  The whole place was a bustling melting pot - the 'shock city of the age' in the words of historian Asa Briggs - and visitors came from the world over to view this phenomenon.  But this totally unplanned growth and industrialisation had its darker side.  The contrast between the wealthy and the working classes shocked visitors - 'It is here that the human spirit becomes perfect, and at the same time brutalized, that civilization produces its marvels and that civilized man returns to the savage" - so said the French philosopher de Toqueville.  Mark Twain was even more disapproving - "I would like to live in Manchester.  The transition between Manchester and Death would be unnoticeable".  The most famous commentator was the German socialist Frederick Engels with his 1844 book describing Manchester, 'The Condition of the Working Class in England'.  Two other events need to be mentioned in the context of the 19th century - the Liverpool to Manchester railway and the Manchester Ship Canal.  The former, opened in 1830, was the world's first successful passenger and goods railway and heralded the 'Railway Age'.  The second, opened in 1894, made Manchester, 35 miles from the coast, Britain's fourth largest port.

The 20th century.  The early years of the new century proved a false dawn.  Two world wars, Britain's decline as a world power, and the growth of textile industries in the third world led to industrial decline and decay.  The resultant unemployment in its turn led to industrial and social unrest, aggravated by the failed rehousing disasters of the fifties and sixties.  But by the eighties and nineties redevelopment and regeneration were beginning to have a marked effect.  For instance, the regeneration of the Castlefield area turned a disused and decayed industrial slum into a major tourist attraction - the world's first 'Urban Heritage Park'.  The IRA bomb of 1996, which devastated the town centre, was a catalyst for a major rebuilding program which is continuing to this day.  The highly successful 2002 Commonwealth Games, up until then the largest sports event ever held in the UK, have presented a similar focus for the regeneration of the run-down eastern suburbs, and there is no doubt that the number of cranes and building sites bear testimony that Manchester is a city which is once again booming.

Manchester Miscellany  There are nearly sixty places around the world named Manchester, most of them in the USA, but also Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa, Suriname and Zimbabwe.
The town of Niagara Falls, one of the world's most popular honeymoon spots, was originally named Manchester when it was founded in 1806, and remained so until 1848.

See all my images of Greater Manchester at Alamy


             

             

           

             

         

         

       

     


Weblinks
What's on in Manchester
Manchester Evening News
Visit Manchester
Spinning the Web
Manchester City Council
Invest in Manchester
Manchester.com
Manchester UK
Manchester Airport
Manchester Forum

The Manchester Terrier

Maps
City Centre  Andrew Taylor.
Canals of Manchester  Richard Dean.

Walking Guides
One Hundred Walks Around Manchester  David Frith
Manchester Moorland Hikes  Nick Burton
Walk the Waterways Around Manchester  David Perrott
Discovering Manchester  Barry Worthington
Exploring Manchester  Nick Burton

General Guides
Around Manchester Guide  Peter Haddington
Manchester; A Guidebook  Bryn Frank

Architecture
The Changing Face of Manchester  Cliff Hayes
Manchester  John J Parkinson-Bailey
Pevsner Architectural Guides: Manchester  Claire Hartwell
Manchester Architecture Guide  Eamonn Canliffe & Tom Jeffries
Manchester: a Guide to Recent Architecture  David Hands & Sarah Parker
Manchester: Shaping the City  RIBA Enterprises
Manchester Town Hall guide  Keith Warrender
Manchester Cathedral guide  Hedley Hodkin
Guide Across Manchester  Philip Atkins
Manchester  John Curtis Jarrold Groundcover Series

History
Manchester  Alan Kidd
A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Greater Manchester  Robina McNeil
Manchester: The Warehouse Legacy  English Heritage
A Hundred Years of the Manchester Ship Canal  Ted Gray.
Images of Greater Manchester  Manchester Evening News

Other Books
Sweet Mandarin  Helen Tse.
An epic story of a Manchester family of independent
Chinese women and their struggle to survive.

Curiosities of Greater Manchester  Robert Nicholls.
A World of Manchesters  Roy Cookson  A list of other Manchesters
The Manchester Man  Mrs G Linnaeus Banks  A novel
set in the maelstrom of 19th century Manchester.

The Manchester Earthquake Swarm

In the autumn of 2002 Manchester experienced a very unusual event for the UK - an 'Earthquake Swarm'.   A series of tremors, totalling over a hundred, shook the region, starting on 19 October and lasting until January 5th.  Similar events have occurred in the UK before but never in such a heavily populated area.

More information at the British Geological Survey.


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