In the early 1800s, Britain was a nation struggling with the consequences of the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Population growth had led to overcrowding, and many people were trying to escape this overcrowding by moving to towns. One such town was Manchester. With its proximity to Liverpool and Leeds, it was well placed to benefit from trade with the rest of Britain and Europe. This, combined with its central location in England, meant that Manchester was ideally placed to be at the centre of Britain's growing industrial revolution.
This article explores how industry transformed Manchester's economy.
What is the industrial revolution and why did it happen in Manchester specifically?
The industrial revolution was a period of great change in Britain, which saw the country transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy. This happened largely due to advances in technology, which allowed factories to be built and operated more efficiently than ever before. Manchester was one of the key cities at the heart of this revolution, and it saw unprecedented growth as a result.
The industrial revolution transformed cities like Manchester from small market towns to major commercial centres. Factories sprung up, offering employment and a better standard of living, at the same time as overcrowding problems worsened. The city's population grew by around 4 times between 1771 and 1821, rising from 43,000 to 180,000.
Manchester's location was ideal for the industrial revolution. It was at the heart of Britain, with easy access to other cities and trade routes by road, sea and canal. It was surrounded by other large towns which provided a reliable market for products made in Manchester. The city also had exceptional supplies of water power which could be used to drive machinery in. The industry brought money and jobs to Manchester, which led to improved economic status. This attracted more people – including wealthy businessmen – who helped fuel demand for better housing, education and healthcare provision.
What were some of the key inventions and discoveries that came out of Manchester during this time period?
Manchester's industrial revolution was driven by a number of key inventions and discoveries. Some of the most important moments in Manchester's history of innovation include:
- The first stored-programme computer: 1946 by Williams and Kilburn, King's College London (KCL)
- 'Baby': The world's first stored-programme computer, built by Williams and Kilburn at KCL in 1946.
- The first graphical computer game: 1948 by A.S Douglas, University of Cambridge (Caius)
- The first patent for a television: 1907 by John Logie Baird – Scottish inventor who moved to London to develop the technology – and later to Manchester.
- The discovery of graphene at The University of Manchester in 2004, for which Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel prize in Physics
- The first modern cat's eye: 1936 by Percy Shaw – designed specifically for pedestrian safety.
- Kendal Mint Cake was invented by Joseph Wiper during a ball game in Kendal in 1869. Wiper distributed it to players during a break in play and railway workers became fans.
What are some of the lasting effects of the industrial revolution on Manchester and its people today?
The industrial revolution saw dramatic changes in Manchester's economy and society.
Manchester became an increasingly important commercial centre, with the cotton industry dominating the local economy. The city's population boomed, as thousands of people travelled to work there from surrounding areas or moved to urban centres for the first time. Housing couldn't keep up with demand, which led to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. In response, the city council began a series of slum clearance schemes that saw many homes destroyed. The city's centre was redeveloped as a commercial area to rival London, with large department stores being built in place of slums.
Innovations from Manchester have had lasting effects on society around the world.