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History of Manchester

Many visitors to Manchester this summer may be unaware of its rich heritage and the important role the city has played throughout history.

The first computer was invented in Manchester, the spinning jenny changed world industry forever, even the atom was first split here. So here's a whistle-stop tour through the ages to let you know about some of our city's great achievements.

Sir John Dalton

Sir John Dalton

A long time ago...

During the Industrial Revolution Manchester became the focal point of the northern cotton trade. Inventions like Hargreaves’ Spinning Jenny and Arkwright’s water frame changed the face of the world and Manchester was at the forefront of that of the technologically advancement of the 18th century.

In 1757 the official census put the population of Manchester at 17,101 and for any of those citizens wishing to make the 180-mile journey to London they would have the dangerous three-day coach journey, constantly at risk from attack from highwaymen.

In 1761 the Bridgewater Canal was opened. It was the first modern artificial waterway and linked Manchester to the town of Worsley but it was six years later with the Spinning Jenny that really put Manchester on the map for ever.

Now Manchester was growing a growing city and this was underlined by the opening of the first bank in 1771 while the population was fast approaching the 22,000 mark.

Ten years later saw the publication of Manchester’s first newspaper, the Manchester Chronicle which eventually ceased publication in 1838, by which time the census put the population of the city at over 180,000 despite a serious outbreak of cholera some six years previously.

1844 saw the death of John Dalton who years earlier had had come up with the first table of atomic weights of elements and atomic theory. He was buried in Ardwick cemetery.

By the end of 1853 Manchester was a declared a city and eight years later the city was showing off its wealth courtesy of the cotton industry with the opening of Watt’s warehouse, by far the grandest of cotton warehouses yet erected. It is now the Britannia Hotel on Portland Street.

Spinning Jenny

A Spinning Jenny

A new town hall

1877 saw the grand opening of the Town Hall in Albert Square at the same time the first horse-drawn trams were introduced, by 1901 these became the first electric trams running in the city.

The turn of the twentieth century also saw a meeting between two gentlemen that would change the face of the new motor industry forever. It was in the Midland Hotel that Mr. Rolls met Mr Royce resulting in the formation of Roll-Royce.

Shortly after World War I Manchester’s population had soared to well over 700,000 and over the next few years the population warranted a bigger airport than the existing Barton Aerodrome. A year before the beginning of World War II, Ringway Airport (now Manchester International Airport) was opened.

During the war Manchester was hit hard during the Christmas Blitz with the city devastated by the German assault. It took years to rebuild and after the war people began moving out of the city and by the early 1970s the figure was at 541,468.

1986 saw the completion of the renovation of Central Station to turn it into the G-MEX exhibition centre, the venue for the Gymnastics and Judo at the Commonwealth Games.

Trams returned to the streets of Manchester in 1992 when the much heralded Metrolink was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen.

With the City seemingly in a state of stasis it took the largest ever bomb on mainland Britain in June 1996 to galvanise the population and begin a rebuilding and redesigning process that still goes on to this day. Miraculously nobody was killed in the IRA attack on the city but within days the spirit of Mancunians was bursting through with billboards on the streets declaring “They went for our heart – but they’ll never get our soul”.

Now with the centre modernised for the 21st century, locals and visitors alike can enjoy the pleasant, friendly surroundings in a city that many people would name as their favourite in the UK.

Manchester Online

England's Northwest

Destination Manchest UK

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