If you come into the city along Chester Road or Deansgate you will be following the roads originally built by the Romans. Roman soldiers from the large fort at Chester built another fort called Mancunium, to help them to control the local people. In the second century A.D. there were probably about 1,000 soldiers in the fort. Later, a small town grew in the Knott Mill - Deansgate area. Remains of Roman pottery have been found there. The settlement probably stretched north to the present Quay Street and Windmill Street, east to the River Tibb and south to Hulme.
The Romans left Britain and the Roman town of Mancunium was not used any longer. In the tenth century another settlement grew at the other end of what is now Deansgate, around the site of the Cathedral, Chetham's School, Ranging Ditch, the Shambles and Hunt's Bank. This Saxon town was very small and our modern city centre was covered in farmland. By the thirteenth century the town was bigger, with mills for weaving woollen cloth and grinding corn.
In the middle of the seventeenth century the town of Manchester grew considerably, mainly in the Ancoats and Chorlton-on-Medlock areas. The population had grown by this time because Manchester was becoming an important commercial centre. The woollen industry was very important until early in the seventeenth century, when mixed fabrics - wool and linen and later cotton, were produced. Other industries included the bleaching and dyeing of cloth.
Between about 1750 and 1850 Britain changed from an agricultural country with a small population of about 6 million to an industrial country with a population of nearly 21 million. In 1750 towns were very small. 65% of families worked in agriculture and industrial work (spinning aud weaving) was done by hand in people's homes. (cottage industries) By 1850 25% of families lived on the land and industrial work was mainly in factories. Towns were very large. Britain was the first industrial country and was so far ahead that by the middle of the nineteenth century she was called "The Workshop of the world". The new factories and industrial towns brought a new way of life and new problems such as slums, pollution, and unemployment. These changes were so great that this time is called the Industrial Revolution. Industrial and social change is still with us today, but by 1850 the changes had altered people's lives past 'the point of no return'.
"Whoever says Industrial Revolution says cotton."
Cotton manufacturing was the first great industry with power driven machines and factories. It produced enormous wealth for the cotton mill owners and made Britain the world's leading exporting nation. Cheap raw material came from the cotton plantation in the British West Indies and American South, and Britain had a captive market in its colonies - much of Africa and India. To increase production new machines were built. This was a time of many famous inventions which transformed the cotton industry. Manchester was dominated by tall chimneys and the smoke of the cotton mills. Its population grew rapidly as people came to work in the mills.
Although the cotton industry created great wealth in Manchester, the men, women and children who worked in it lived and worked in appalling conditions. Wages were low, hours long, factories dangerous and unhealthy. There was no compensation for injury or unemployment. The town grew rapidly, with little planning or control. Housing was cramped, with no lighting, ventilation, water or Sanitation. Black smoke blotted out the sun Outbreaks of typhus and cholera were common. In 1842 the reformer Chadwick reported that a Manchester worker's average life expectancy was 17 years, whereas that of an agricultural worker was 38.
Reproduced with thanks to City of Salford Arts and Leisure
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