In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Manchester like this:
Manchester, parl. and mun. bor., city, par., and township, SE. Lancashire, on rivers Irk, Irwell, and Medlock, 31 miles E. of Liverpool and 186 miles NW. of London by rail - par. (including the greater part of the sister town of Salford, separated from Manchester by the Irwell, which is spanned by a series of bridges), 35,248 ac., pop. 720,481; township, 1646 ac., pop. 118,794; parl. bar., pop. (estimated) 421,224; mun. bor., 4293 ac., pop. 341,414; 12 newspapers. Market-days, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. ...
This busy and opulent city, whose mfrs. have gained celebrity in every part of the world, possesses a history that is more ancient, and of more general interest, than that of the majority of our great industrial centres which have come prominently before the public only in comparatively recent times. Although the particulars regarding its early existence are scanty, and by no means indubitable, there are reasonable grounds for the conjecture that Manchester was the seat of a British stronghold, situated at the place which is still called Castlefield. That it was a Roman station of considerable magnitude is beyond question. A portion of its Roman wall still exists, and other relics of a Roman occupation have been disinterred in abundance. Its Roman name (supposed to be derived from the British Mancenion, the "place of tents") was Mancunium, hence the Saxon Manceastre. Little information concerning its Saxon associations has been preserved; but it is supposed to have been a border town of Northumbria, and suffered much during the inroads of the Danes. Shortly after the Conquest the whole country between the Ribble and the Mersey was granted to Roger of Poictiers. When the woollen mfrs. were introduced into England during the reign of Edward III. (1327-1377) Lancashire became the centre of the industry, and from that period the prosperity of Manchester may be dated. The cotton trade, with which the city is peculiarly and lastingly identified, was in its early days the cause of two deplorable pestilences (1605 and 1645) arising from infected imports of the material from Smyrna. In an account of Manchester of date 1650 its mfrs. are described as comprising "woollens, frizes, fustians, sack cloths, mingled stuffs, inkles, tapes, and prints." In 1643 the city was captured from the Royalists by Sir Thomas Fairfax; and in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745 it showed active and practical sympathy with the Stuart cause. Conspicuous events in its subsequent annals are: - Cheetham College founded (1653); cotton goods first exported (1760); Bridgwater Canal opened (1761); Manchester and Liverpool Ry. opened (1832); Manchester made a parl. bor. (1832) and a mun. bor. (1838); bishopric founded (1847); Owens College opened (1852); Manchester declared a city (1853); New Town Hall opened (1877). Three circumstances especially gave power and direction to the trade of the city: - (1.) The success of the great work of the Duke of Bridgwater (assisted by James Brindley), who in 1758 began the system of inland navigation, and gave Manchester a splendid waterway for traffic; (2.) the introduction of machinery in cotton spinning, which occurred late in the 18th century; and (3.) the opening of the Manchester and Sheffield Railway in 1830 - the second in the kingdom. The town has played an important part in modern politics, having been intimately associated with the initial proceedings connected with the great reform agitation, while it was also the headquarters of action in the struggle for the repeal of the corn laws. Great distress prevailed in the city, and in fact throughout Lancashire, during the civil war in America, at which time the dearth of raw material paralysed the staple trade in cotton. Manchester possesses some magnificent public buildings, mostly of modern date. The Royal Infirmary owes its origin to two concerts given by Miss Jenny Lind in order to raise a fund for the purpose. The Royal Exchange is a fine edifice, erected in 1867. But by far the most important building is the New Town Hall, completed in 1877 at a total cost of £1,053,264. It covers 8000 square yards, and has more than 250 apartments. The principal tower is 260 ft. high, and there is a splendid peal of 21 bells. The Free Trade Hall is seated for 5000 people. The chief ecclesiastical building is the cathedral, besides which there are over 200 churches and chapels. Peel Park (40 ac.) is the principal public ground, and there are 7 others connected with the city. At the head of the educational institutions stands the Victoria University, the nucleus of which was the college founded by John Owen. Victoria University received its charter in 1880, and it has power to confer degrees. The city also has several denominational colleges, such as the Lancashire Independents College, the Primitive Methodists College, St Bede's Roman Catholic College, &c. Cheetham Hospital and Library are celebrated institutions; the latter (the first free library in Europe) containing a very rich collection of MSS. At the Grammar School (founded 1519) Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) and Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) received education. Central Manchester now consists of immense piles of warehouses and offices, ha their extent unequalled by any in the world. Nearly all the factories have been removed to the outskirts of the city, and to the villages and towns in the environs. It is estimated that there are 250 cotton factories in the neighbourhood. Cotton, however, does not constitute the sole great industry of the city. Woollen and silk fabrics are manufactured in vast quantities. Engineering, and the making of machinery of all descriptions, employ thousands of the people, as also do various large chemical works. Manchester has extensive railway facilities, the largest stations being Victoria, London Road, and the Central. Power from Parliament to connect the city with the sea by means of a ship canal has now been obtained, and there can be no doubt that the successful completion of this vast undertaking will add materially to its already great commercial importance. In Manchester several public enterprises, such as tramways, &c., usually in the hands of private companies, are the property of the corporation. Manchester returns 6 members to Parliament (6 divisions - viz., North-West, North, North-East, East, South, and South-West, 1 member for each division); its representation was increased from 3 to 6 members in 1885, when its parliamentary limits were extended so as to include the Local Government Districts of Moss Side and Rusholme and a detached part of Gorton township, Manchester par. Salford returns 3 members (3 divisions - viz., North, West, and South, 1 member for each division); its representation was increased from 2 to 3 members in 1885.
A Vision of Britain through Time includes a large library of local statistics for administrative units. For the best overall sense of how the area containing Manchester has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of Manchester. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Manchester and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Manchester in Lancashire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 24th May 2013
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