The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Manchester is one of the English most important cities

Category: Land + People

Manchester is one of the English most important cities. It is located in the northern part of England, not far from Liverpool. Today the population of Manchester is 438,000.

Manchester began, when a wooden fort was built by the Roman army on a plateau about 80 AD. The fort was rebuilt in stone about 200 AD. Soon a civilian settlement grew up around the fort.

However in 407 the Roman army left Britain and the civilian settlement disappeared. The stone fort fell into ruin.

In 7th century the Saxons created a new village, but it was tiny. The surrounding area was thinly populated and was mostly forest. The Saxons called any Roman town or fort a caester. They called the old fort at Manchester Mamm caester. The village nearby took its name from the fort. By 1086 the settlement was called Mamecester. In time the name changed to Manchester. In 919 the king repaired the old Roman fort as a defence against the Danes.

At the time of the Normans in the 11th century Manchester was a small village, but things changed in the 12th century. The population of the country grew and trade and commerce developed rapidly. Many new towns were founded. The village of Manchester was made into a town in the early 13th century. In the year 1222 Manchester was granted the right to hold an annual fair. In the Middle Ages, a fair was like a market but was held only once a year. In the Middle Ages, Manchester was, at best, a medium sized town. It was certainly not nationally important. In Manchester there was a wool industry. In 1301 Manchester was given a charter, a document granting the townspeople certain rights.

During the 16th century and the 17th Manchester grew steadily larger and more important. By the late 16th century it may have had a population of 4,000. By the mid 17th century it probably had about 5,000 inhabitants. However, it still wasn’t a particularly large town. It may have been important locally but it wasn’t very important nationally.

In the early 18th century Manchester probably had a population of around 10,000. It was still a medium sized town. The town continued to be famous for manufacturing wool, cotton, linen and silk. The first theatre in Manchester opened in 1753. By 1756 the population had risen to over 16,000 (including Salford). In 1761 the Bridgewater canal was built to bring coal from a coalfield to the town. However in the late 18th century the industrial revolution began. The population of Manchester soared and by the end of the century it had reached 70,000.
The Manchester Chamber of Commerce was created in 1820. From 1828 horse drawn buses ran in the streets. In 1830 a railway to Liverpool opened.

In the early 19th century Manchester became world famous as a manufacturing centre. Wool, silk and cotton were manufactured and vast numbers of working people worked 12 hour days in the mills. There was also a paper making industry and iron foundries. Manchester University was founded in 1903. The central library was built in 1934.

In the second half of the century manufacturing industry declined and was, to a certain extent, replaced by service industries such as education and finance. Tourism also became an important industry in the late 20th century. In 1996 the city centre was devastated by IRA bombs but it was rebuilt. The phoenix rose from the ashes.

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