Description of Manchester


Brief description

Manchester, a market town, parish, and township, in the hundred of Salford, 18 miles E. from Warrington, 186 miles from London. Inhabitants 108,016, but, including Salford, 133,788. Anciently a rectory; but the church was made collegiate in 1422; its clear revenue in the first fruits office, 26 Hen. VIII., £213. 10s. 11d. The remaining churches in Manchester are of modern erection. Market, Tuesday, for manufactured goods from the country; Thursday and Saturday for provisions. Fairs, Easter Monday, for toys and ale; October 1st, for horses, horned cattle, and hogs. The petty sessions are held quarterly at Manchester; and here also are held the court leet, the court baron, the hundred court of Salford, the county court, and a court of requests. The municipal government of the town is vested in a headborough, called the borough reeve, and two constables, chosen annually by a jury of the inhabitants; a stipendiary magistrate, who is a barrister, presides over the police, and sits every day. Manchester is situated on the eastern bank of the river Irwell, into which, towards the north of the town, the river Irk falls, and at the south the river Medlock :

Roman and pre-conquest Manchester

near the junction of the latter stream with the Irwell, in a place now called the Castle Field, was the Roman camp, or station, Mancunium; near which, on the site occupied by St. Matthew’s Church, and some modern dwellings, an ancient town arose, but which had so utterly fallen to decay, that a few years since the spot appeared to the eye as if it had never served for any other than agricultural purposes. Several Roman antiquities have been dug up in this area. The historian of Manchester, Mr. Whitaker, supposes that, before the arrival of the Romans, the ancient Britons had a fortified camp in the same place as the station, though of larger dimensions, which they named Mancenion, which is probable enough; but, as an evidence of this fact, he asserts, in his usual random way, "that for greater safety, the winding bank of the Medlock was carefully scarped by the Britons, and that the long strokes of their large pickaxes appeared, in 1764, on the face of the rocks which are below the present edge of the water." This, it must be admitted, is seeing matters with a truly archaeological eye: he also positively concludes, without a shadow of proof or reference, that the Romans placed what he calls a summer camp on the site of the present collegiate church, though no antiquities have been there discovered: as if soldiers, habituated to the sun of Italy, could want cooling in such a climate as this part of Britain must have been in the early centuries of the Christian era. Mancunium was in all probability established by Agricola, in the year A.D. 79; and it continued in the occupation of the Romans till their final departure from Britain, in the reign of Honorius, about the year 425; after which it was re-occupied by the Britons, who soon relinquished it to the invading Saxons.

The Dark Ages

A short time after the introduction of Christianity by Paulinus, the Roman missionary, a church dedicated to St. Michael appears to have been built, probably about the year 627; and Manchester subsequently became a parish, and the residence of a Saxon thane, who fixed his dwelling, it would seem, near the site of the college: and, drawing round him a new town, the old became deserted; another church was now found desirable, and St. Mary’s was erected, as it is supposed, on the present site of St. Anne’s Square; both these churches are mentioned in the Domesday survey. Manchester suffered greatly from the Danish depredations; and is supposed to have been partly re-edified by Edward the Elder, about the year 920; but it continued for many centuries in a servile and low condition, and at the conquest seems to have been inferior to Salford, which was then a royal tenure.

The Manor

The conqueror granted the manor of Manchester, with an immense territory, to Roger of Poictou, by whom it was bestowed on Nigellus, a Norman knight, whose daughter married Albert de Gresley; in this family it continued till the year 1313, when the sister of Thomas de Gresley married John de la Warre; with the De la Warres it remained till the 4th of Henry VI., when it passed to Sir Reginald West, who married the daughter of Roger de la Warre, the last male of the family. In 1579 the manor was sold by William West to John Lacey, a citizen of London, who re-sold it in 1596 for £3500, to Sir Nicholas Mosley, from whom it has descended to the present owner, Sir Oswald Mosley, bart.

Feudal Rights

The early history of Manchester presents no very striking memorials one of its most remarkable features is its entire subjection to its feudal lords; the right of soke, compelling all the inhabitants to grind their corn and malt at the lord’s mill, on the Irk, continued till the year 1759, when it was repealed, except as to malt, by an act of parliament. This monopoly of grinding malt, now belonging to the grammar school, has had the effect of driving away the common brewers into the other townships of the parish. Anciently too here was a common oven, which the tenants were also obliged to use.

Leyland's Visit

What progress Manchester had made at the time of the Reformation may be gathered from the description of Leyland: "Manchester, on the south side of Irwell River, stondeth in Salford shiret, and is the fairest, best builded, quickest, and most populus tounne of al Lancastreshire; yet is in hit but one paroch church, but is a college, and almost thoroughowt doble ilyed, ex quadrato lapide durissimo, whereof a goodly quarre is harde by the towne. Ther be divers stone bridges in the towne, but the best of three arches is over Irwel. This bridg divideth Manchestre from Salford, the wich is as a large suburb to Manchestre; on this bridg is a praty little chapel. The next is the bridg that is over the Hirk River, on the wich the fair buildid college standith, as in the veri point of the mouth of hit; for hard thereby, it rennith into Wyver. On Hirk River be Divers faire milles that seve the towne. In the towne be two faire market places; and almost two flyte shottes without the towne beneth, on the same side of Irwell, yet be seene the dikes and foundations of Old Man Castel, yn a ground now inclosed; the stones of the ruines of this castel wer translated toward making of bridges for the towne. It is not long season sins the chirch of Manchestre was collegiated. The Towne of Manchestre standith on a hard rokke of stone, els Irwel, as wel apperith in the West Ripe, had been noiful to the towne. Irwel is not navigable but in some places, for vadys and rokkes."

Early Woolen Manufacture

No mention is here made of the Manufactures of the place; though it is supposed that that of woollen was early introduced into Manchester , by the Flemish artisans brought over by Edward III. In the act of 33 Henry VIII., for removing the right of sanctuary from Manchester, the town is represented as "well inhabited for a long time, and the king’s subjects well set a work in the making of clothes as well of linen as of woollen." In an act 6 Edward VI., for regulating the manufactory of woollen cloth in England, mention is made of Manchester cottons, rugs, and frizes, which are limited to certain proportions after they were fulled: which circumstance clearly proves them to have been a species of woollen goods.

Camden's description and Wool

Camden describes Manchester as "surpassing the neighbouring towns in elegance and populousness." There is, "says he," a woollen manufacture (in his Latin, opificium laneorum pannorum), a market, church, and college. In the last age it was much more famous for its manufacture of stuffs called Manchester cottons. These have been already shown to be woollens, but were probably denominated cottons from their having been prepared in imitation of some of the cotton fabrics imported from Italy.

Cotton Introduction

The first mention of cotton, the soft and beautiful vegetable substance forming the covering or envelope of the seeds of the gossypium or cotton plant, as an article used in manufacture, appears in a small treatise entitled the Treasure of Traffic, written in 1641 by Lewis Roberts, author of the noted book, the Merchants Map of Commerce, in which treatise it is stated, that "the town of Manchester buys the linen yarn of the Irish in great quantity, and, weaving it, returns the same again to Ireland to sell; neither doth her industry rest here, for they buy cotton wool in London that comes first from Cyprus and Smyrna, and work the same into fustians, vermilions, dimities, and other such stuffs; which they return to London, where they are sold; and thence, not seldom, are sent into foreign parts, which have means on far easier terms to provide themselves of the first materials."

Civil War

In the civil war Manchester adhered to the parliament, and was taken possession of by the militia of the county. In 1642 the earl of Derby marched from Warrington with 4000 foot, 300 horse, and seven pieces of cannon; on being refused admittance, he commenced an assult from Salford, upon the old bridge at the top of Dean’s Gate, which was so well defended, that after several days’ labour, the earl was obliged to retire with considerable loss. In this attempt, the town is said to have had but four men killed, and as many wounded, which gives but a contemptible idea of the military skill of the English nation at that period. In the next year the town was strongly fortified and garrisoned, and continued unmolested in the hands of the parliament, during the remainder of the war.


In the year 1645 the plague raged in Manchester with great violence, as it had indeed forty years before, but though its immediate effects were severe, yet the town had so much recovered its prosperity, that in a description of Manchester and Salford, annexed to a plan of the towns as they appeared in the year 1650, it is stated, "that the people in and about the town are said to be in general the most industrious in their callings of any in the northern part of the kingdom. The town is a mile in length, the streets open and clean kept, and the buildings good. The trade is not inferior to that of many cities in the kingdom, chiefly consisting in woollen frizes, fustians, sackcloths, mingled stuffs, caps, inkles, tapes, points, &c., whereby not only the better sort of men are employed, but also the very children by their own labour can maintain themselves; there are besides all kinds of foreign merchandize brought and returned by the merchants of the town, amounting to the sum of many thousands of pounds weekly." In this account it is asserted that the parish contained 27,000 communicants.

Members of Parliament for Manchester

Soon after this period Manchester returned a member to Cromwell’s parliament, being represented in 1654 by Charles Worsley, esq., and again the next year by Richard Radcliffe, esq.: an example which, however excellent in itself, the unpopularity of its origin caused to expire with the occasion, and the unquestionable manufacturing capital of the empire presents at this moment the strange anomaly of possessing no person in the great assembly of the nation deputed to watch over its peculiar interests.

Early Development

Notwithstanding the prosperity of the town, Manchester appears to have little increased in size till the beginning of the last century; when St. Anne’s Church and Square were built, and an impulse given to that spirit of improvement which has since proceeded with such gigantic strides, in the creation of new squares, streets, and lanes, crowded with factories, warehouses, and shops innumerable. The history of Manchester henceforward is in the detail of its manufacturing greatness, as scarcely any events have taken place worth recording.

The 1715 Rebellion and the Jacobities of 1745

In the rebellion of 1715 nothing further than some rioting and tumult occurred; but in 1745 "Charley my darling," the young chevalier, entered the town, and took up his abode in the house since called, from that circumstance, the Palace Inn: on both occasions a strong feeling of Jacobitism pervaded the place. The unfortunate James Dawson, whose memory has been so pathetically embalmed by the muse of Shenstone, was a captain in the army of the young pretender, and appears to have been a native of the town.

The Shude Hill Fight

From such a population as that which inhabits Manchester, it could scarcely be expected that occasional acts of riot and insubordination should not occur: one of these, in 1757, caused by a dearth of provisions, in which the populace were encouraged by persons who ought to have known better, in an attack on the property of millers and corn dealers, is called the Shude Hill Fight, and is commemorated by the pen of Tim Bobbin.


In 1817, during a period of great manufacturing depression, a number of distressed and misguided persons called Blanketteers, from each being furnished with a blanket slung on his shoulders, agreed to assemble and march to London to lay their grievances before the throne; a considerable number set out on the journey, but their courage soon cooled, and none proceeded further than Macclesfield.


A more memorable proceeding took place in 1819, when an immense concourse of persons, from the neighbouring towns and villages, assembled on a piece of vacant ground near St. Peter’s Church, for the purpose of petitioning for a reform in parliament; this assemblage was dispersed by a detachment of yeomanry, under the direction of the magistrates, and the chairman of the meeting, the notorious Henry Hunt, with several of the leaders, was captured and conveyed to prison: several lives were lost, and no fewer than 500 persons of both sexes suffered injury. Great animosities for some time prevailed on account of this ill managed transaction, but they appear to have terminated at the coronation of his present majesty, which event was celebrated July 19th, 1821, with extraordinary splendour.

Manchester's Churches

Collegiate Church

The ecclesiastical building at Manchester are not numerous. 1. The Collegiate Church was founded in 1422, and its style is the richly ornamented Gothic which distinguishes the fifteenth century; its exterior, being constructed of red crumbling stone, has suffered extremely from the operations of fire and smoke. It has a large square tower ornamented with pinnacles, and containing ten bells: it would have been more handsome had it been loftier. The repairs of the church have been continued on the original plan, with the omission of battlements on the north side. This structure, as Thoresby said of St. Peter’s at Leeds. may be compared to the church militant in the Canticles, being black but comely. The interior commands great admiration for its lofty roofs of rich fret work, its grand proportions, and its range of spacious windows, once ornamented with painted glass, beautiful specimens of which are still visible. This church affords room for as great a number of hearers as any in the United Kingdoms. It has two organs, the smaller built by Father Smidt in 1684. There are no fewer than five chapels belonging to different proprietors; in that belonging to the earl of Derby is the font, and here the baptism of a hundred children on a Sunday is no uncommon occurrence. The spacious choir, separated from the body of the church by a screen, equals in beauty that of many cathedrals, its tabernacle work being exquisitely finished and in good preservation: some of the ornaments are so grotesque as to set gravity at defiance. Cathedral service is here performed on week days, morning and afternoon. This church was made collegiate in 1422 by Thomas West, lord de la Warre, the then rector. The college was dissolved in 1547 by Edward VI., but refounded first by queen Mary, and afterwards by Elizabeth, and again by Charles I, in 1636, for a warden, four fellows, two chaplains, four singing men, and four choristers, incorporated by the name of the warden and fellows of Christ Church in Manchester; though its original dedication was to the Virgin Mary.

St. Anne's Church

2. St. Anne’s Church, consecrated in 1712, forming the south side of St. Anne’s Square, is a handsome edifice of the Corinthian order, with a low tower. It is a rectory. Patron the bishop of Chester.

St. Mary's Church

3. St. Mary’s Church, consecrated in 1756, situated between Dean’s Gate and the river Irwell, is of the Doric order, with a spire steeple, 186 feet high, of anomalous architecture, but deservedly admired for its pleasing effect. The altar recess of this church is embellished with a large painting of the Ascension copied from Raphael, and above the communion table is a window of stained glass, the subject of which is the appearance of Christ to Mary. The living is a rectory. Patron the warden and fellows of Christ Church.

St. Paul's Church

4. St. Paul’s, consecrated in 1765, is a brick building with a stone tower, situated at the east end of Turner Street, enclosed in a disagreeable manner by the surrounding houses. It is a perpetual curacy. Patron the warden and fellows of Christ Church.

St. John's Church

5. St. John’s, consecrated in 1769, is situated between Higher and Lower Byrom Street; it is a modern Gothic structure, with a tower steeple, and a peal of eight bells. This church contains some windows of beautifully stained glass; it was founded by Edward Byrom, esq., son of the stenographer. Patron, after the next vacation, the warden and fellows of Christ Church.

St. James's Church

6. St. James’s Church, in George Street,is a plain respectable brick building, with a diminutive stone spire. Patron the heirs of Dr. Bayley for sixty years after the date of consecration in 1788, then the warden and fellows of Christ Church.

St. Michael's Church

7. St. Michael’s, in Angel Street, is a brick building, presenting nothing remarkable. Patron the heirs of the Rev. Humphrey Owen for sixty years from the date of consecration in 1789, then the warden and fellows of Christ Church.

St. Peter's Church

8. St. Peter’s terminating the prospect at the bottom of Mosley Street, was built by Mr. James Wyatt. This church is a singularly pure Grecian structure of the Doric order; over the altar is a Descent from the Cross, by Annibal Caracci. Patron twenty-one trustees for sixty years from the date of consecration in 1794, then the warden and fellows of Christ Church.

St. Clement's Church

9. St. Clement’s Church, licensed by the bishop, but not consecrated, is situated in Lever Street; it is a spacious brick and stone fabric.

St. George's Church

10. St. George’s, near Oldham Road, is also a large brick building, with a tower of the same materials. It is a perpetual curacy. Patron the warden and fellows of Christ Church.

St. Matthew's Church

11. St. Matthew’s is a beautiful specimen of modern Gothic architecture, situated in Camp Field, built by Mr. Barry. The light lantern tower and spire are universally admired. It was erected under the recent acts of parliament, and consecrated in 1822. Patron the warden and fellows of Christ Church. The churches in the township contiguous to Manchester are enumerated in each township.

Other Denominations

The Catholics have three chapels in Manchester, and the dissenters and Methodists occupy about twenty chapels, some of peculiarly extensive dimensions, but exhibiting nothing remarkable in their architectural appearance. 

Grammar School

The Grammar School, situated near the College Gates in Long Millgate, was founded by Hugh Oldham, bishop of Exeter, in 1519, and endowed with land and three capital mills upon the river Irk. This opulent establishment maintains a high character for respectability and learning; the average number of scholars is about 200. This school possesses eleven exhibitions of £40 a year for any college in either of the English universities; and, together with the schools of Hereford and Marlborough, it has a claim to sixteen scholarships in St. John’s College, Cambridge, varying from £18 to £26 per annum, founded by Sarah, duchess of Somerset, who died in 1692; and in addition the scholars stand an excellent chance for the impoetant exhibitions of Mr. Hulme, now fifteen in number, in Brazen Nose College, Oxford, as the appointment is vested in the warden and fellows of Christ Church, and the rectors of Bury and Prestwich. 

Chetham's Hospital

Amongst the charitable institutions of Manchester, Chetham’s Hospital, or Blue Coat School, commonly, though not with exact propriety, called the college, takes the lead; it was endowed by Humphrey Chetham, of Clayton Hall, near Manchester, who died in 1653, for the education and support of forty boys, since increased to eighty, by the judicious management of the trustees. The boys receive a similar education, and their dress nearly resembles that of the scholars in Christ’s Hospital, London. The building was formerly the residence of the warden and fellows of the Collegiate Church; but at its dissolution it was granted to the earl of Derby, in whose family it remained till after the Restoration, when it was purchased by the trustees under the direction of Mr. Chetham’s will for the use of his school. The original building, on the site of the old manor house called Baron’s Hall, was nearly of the same date as the church, and, whatever alterations it may have undergone, it preserves very considerable marks of antiquity, and exhibits all the characteristics of the architecture of collegiate buildings of the age to which it belongs. The college stands upon the edge of a rock, which overlooks the river Irk, and must, at the period of its foundation, have been most romantically situated. In addition to the school, Mr. Chetham founded a public library, which occupies a portion of this building; the books amount to about 20,000 : they consist of every branch of science and literature, and the utmost liberality prevails in the admission to consult them. 

Charity Schools

The charity schools both daily and Sunday, and supported both by churchman and dissenters, are very numerous, instructing nearly 30,000 children. 

Hospitals, Penitentiary and Infant School

The Infirmary, Dispensary, and Lunatic Hospital, confir the most important benefits at a small expense; they are plain, substantial, handsome brick buildings, situated in front of Piccadilly. In Manchester also are a Fever Hospital, a Lock Hospital, a Female Penitentiary, an Infant School, with several other charitable institutions of minor importance.

Town Hall

The Town Hall, situated in King Street, is a magnificent structure of the Ionic order, with a dome; on each side of the portico, in separate niches, are placed the statues of Solon and Alfred, with no peculiar propriety : those of Thomas Highs and Samuel Crompton, whose surprising inventions have so much contributed to make Manchester what it is, would have been more inspiriting examples. 


The new Exchange is a handsome structure, of a semi-circular form, erected in 1806; the columns are of the Doric order : the news room occupies the north front, and is singularly spacious and elegant. 


The literary institutions in Manchester are numerous, and reflect great credit on the taste of its inhabitants; the most ancient is the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, established in 1781. Its transactions have been published, and are well known; the society has a handsome hall in George Street. The Portico is an edifice of the Ionic order in Mosley Street, it contains a library and news room on a grand scale. The Royal Manchester Institution, also in Mosley Street, is the most splendid civic building in the town; this society is for the encouragement of literature, the fine arts, and the sciences. The Natural History Society has a suite of rooms and a museum in King Street, and Manchester can boast of its anatomical theatres, its Agricltural and Horticultural Society, and its Mechanic Institution. 


The places of public amusement are the Theatre in Fountain Street, erected in 1807, a spacious and handsome structure, at least in the interior; the Amphitheatre, formerly the old Theatre Royal, is in Spring Gardens; the Assembly Rooms, in Mosley Street, are spacious and elegant; the Gentleman’s Concert Room, in Fountain Street, was erected in 1777, in which instrumental music is performed in a style at least equal to that of any amateur band in the kingdom.


 The races at Kersall Moor are annually held at Whitsuntide, and are attended by an immense concourse of spectators. 


The market place at Manchester are not remarkable like those of Liverpool for their appearance and accommodation; but the new covered market in the London Road, and another in Brown Street, as well as the New Shambles in Dean’s Gate, are abundantly supplied with provisions. 

Lighting, Water Supply and Coal

The town is well lighted with gas from two extensive sets of works, the one in Water Street, and the other in St. George’s Road. Reservoirs of water have been formed in the township of Beswick, and others of still greater capacity at Gorton and Audenshaw, from which Manchester is supplied with that necessary clement by iron pipes; and an abundance of the black combustible, as Mr. Whitaker calls it, is procured from the various coal pits to the north. 

Bridges, Canals and Railway

The bridges over the Irwell are five : the Old Bridge existing from very ancient times, was rebuilt in the time of Edward III., and improved in 1778; Black Friars Bridge, a handsome stone edifice, was opened in 1820 : it superseded a wooden bridge, originally built by a company of comedians who performed at Salford; the New Bailey Bridge, was opened in 1785 : all these have three arches each. The Regent’s Bridge, of two arches, built in 1806, over what was called by tradition Woden’s Ford, leads to Ordsall; and the Waterloo Bridge near Strangeway’s is of iron, erected in 1817. There are seven bridges over the Irk, six of them low, but one, from the foot of Miller Street, is extremely lofty and ornamental. Over the river Medlock there are several bridges of inconsiderable magnitude, and a great number over the different canals, which intersect the town; these canals, as well as that stupendous undertaking, the Liverpool and Manchester railway, which afford to Manchester a source of so much benefit, are described under the towns to which their course is directed.


 Manchester as a whole must be taken in conjunction with its contiguous townships of Salford, Hulme, Ardwick, and Chorlton Row, which now constitute a part of the actual town, and are not distinguishable by the eye of a stranger. Though the situation of the town is somewhat low, yet the air is sufficiently salubrious. The new streets are spacious and handsome, and improvements are daily taking place in the older parts of the town, which from the perpetual smoke that clouds the atmosphere, and from the humidity of the climate, are somewhat dirty and disagreeable. Near the market place some picturesque houses built of wood, clay, and plaster, exhibit a most curious and antique appearance. 

Ancoat's Hall

Ancoat’s Hall, formerly the manor house of the Mosley family, now the residence of GeorgeMurray, esq., is also constructed of timber and plaster, with large bay windows, and the two upper stories project. Manchester gives the title of duke and earl to the Montagu family, but they have no local connexion with the place.

Early Cotton Goods and its Manufacture

The cotton manufacture is the distinguishing feature in the trade of Manchester; its early beginnings are thus detailed by Dr. Aikin : "About the middle of the seventeenth century, Manchester became noted for the making of fustians, mixed stuffs, and small wares; an original branch of the trade of Manchester was leathern laces for women’s bodice, shoe ties, and points for other uses, which were tagged like laces, and sold under the general denomination of Congleton points; upon the introduction of the Dutch looms, about the year 1675, woven laces were substituted in the room of these; inkles, tapes, and filleting, which had before been made in frames or single looms, were now likewise wrought in these new engines, and coarse felts were also made; about the year 1700, bolsters, bed ticks, linen girth, web, and boot – straps were manufactured here, but about thirty years afterwards part of that trade began to decline, and course checks, striped hollands, hoping, and some yellow canvass were then made, at the same time the silk branch was attempted in cherry derris and thread satins. Fustians were principally manufactured at Bolton, and began as early as the middle of the sixteenth century; they were bought in the grey by the Manchester chapmen, who finished them and sold them in the country. The kind of fustians then made were herring bones, pillows for pockets and outside wear, strong cotton ribs and barragans, broad laced linen, thicksetts, and tufts, dyed, with whited diapers, striped dimities, and linen jeans. Cotton thicksetts were sometimes made, and a variety of figured patterns were attempted with treddles; afterwards draw boys were used in quilting, making counterpanes, and a variety of cordeddimities. The manufacture of checks made great advances, pieces for gowns striped across with cotton in a variety of patterns and colours had a great run, and silk was at last shot with cotton; to these succeeded washing hollands, slight cotton goods for the African trade, striped checks for bed – hangings, ginghams, damasks, moreens, and subsequently cotton velvets, velverets, velveteens, and fancy cords." Thus far Dr. Aikin. In later times muslins and calicoes, both plain and printed, were introduced; but it is impossible to enumerate all the description of cotton goods which in succession have been brought forward, as the editor of the "Concise Description of Manchester," asserts that he has made books which have contained from 5000 to 8000 patterns. 

Spining - Development and Invention

It is to be observed that till within the last fifty years the generality of these fabrics consisted of a linen warp shot with a cotton weft, the cotton twist spun from the old one – tread wheel not being of sufficient strength to be used as warp or longitudinal threads, nor was it , perhaps, till after the year 1770, that light goods, entirely made of cotton, were fabricated. Till this period the labours of the loom constituted the chief occupation of the place, but a new era was about to arise by the discovery and adaptation of various machinery for the production of twist, which have given to the trade of cotton spinning in Manchester a degree of importance even beyond that of weaving itself. These extraordinary inventions form a national epoch more remarkable because their effects are more durable than the consequences of a hundred battles fought by sea and land. The subject has given rise to a controversy, somewhat sharpened by the striking opposition of the claims of overpowering wealth on one side, and the modest pretensions of obscure and neglected genius on the other. It would appear that, till about 100 years ago, the successive generations of mankind had never succeeded in any attempt, if any such they made, to spin from the various fleecy or fibrous substances adapted to the purpose of the weaver, more than one thread or yarn by one operation of the hand. Till this period the distaff or the wheel were the sole implements in use. About the beginning of the last century some ingenious persons attempted to effect the purpose of spinning a plurality of threads; but their efforts proved abortive, and the mode in which they endeavoured to accomplish their purpose remained unknown or neglected.

Thomas Highs

  The extraordinary result which so many millions of the human species, in every country of the world, since the flood and before the flood, must have been on the verge of discovering, and which, from the tedium of the occupation of spinning, must so devoutly have been wished, was at length found by Thomas Highs, a reed maker at Leigh, in this county, in the year 1763. This was the grand premier pas, the first step, which led to the extension of the cotton trade throughout the civilised world; and, however meritorious may have been the subsequent improvements, the sagacious mind that first opened the long closed door to this wonderful discovery must be ever entitled to the praise of an original and powerful genius. From the introduction of the picking peg, or fly shuttle, in 1738, by which the weaver was enabled to perform twice the quantity of work by the same labour, the production both of warp and weft became unequal to the demands of the loom : consequently the attention of artificers was naturally excited to supply the deficiency, and by some fortunate process, after repeated attempts and disappointments, Thomas Highs produced the rude model of a machine which gave motion to six spindles, and which he called, after the name of his beloved and favourite daughter, a jenny; not being himself a machinist, at least in metal, he called in John Kay, a clock maker residing in the same town, to his assistance. From what circumstance the idea originated in the mind of Highs, and by what steps he proceeded in the completion of his object, do not appear, but it is certain that he was not aware of the magnitude and value of the discovery, as he made no particular secret of it, and completed several similar machines for various manufacturers in the neighbourhood.

James Hargrave

  In 1767 Highs’s invention was improved upon by James Hargrave, a carpenter of Blackburn, who made a machine to carry upwards of twenty spindles. Mr. Hargrave appears to have been the inventor of the crank and comb, an engine of singular merit for facilitating the process of carding cotton. He obtained a patent for this machine united with the jenny, but, the design exciting the jealousy of the artificers in the neighbourhood, his machinery was destroyed, and the ingenious artisan compelled to take refuge in Nottinghamshire, where he was inhospitably received; and his patent being subsequently annulled, on the ground that all its parts were not original, he died a few years after in miserable indigence.

Court Case

  "Illecrucem tulit, hic diadema," as we shall presently see; attempts have been made to bestow on Mr. Hargrave the merit of originating the jenny, but, independent of the direct testimony to the contrary in the trial which set aside his patent, the very name of the machine, a circumstance trifling in itself, but incapable of falsification, is one of those collateral proofs which carry immediate conviction to the mind from its very simplicity. No member of Hargrave’s family bore the name of Jane, whereas Highs’s eldest daughter was so baptised, and was known to be the favourite child of her father.

Highs - Improvement and the Throstle

  The discovery of the jenny was not, however, the only merit of Highs, who still directing his thoughts to the same object of improvement, and still employing Kay for the execution of the metallic part of his machinery, produced the throstle or water frame early in 1767, the principle of which is to draw out a course thread, or rather long fleece of cotton wool, by the revolution of successive sets of rollers, on the principle that one pair of the rollers should revolve five times while the other pair revolved once. This engine has always been considered as one of the most ingenious inventions of man, one of the most difficult and remote to be arrived at a priori, and one of the least likely to be devised or imagined from analogy or induction. This seems to have been the favourite of the inventor, as whilst he made no secret of the spinning jenny, but constructed as many as he could procure orders for, he carefully kept the water frame concealed in a private apartment, hoping one day to find a monied friend by whose assistance he should be able to turn it to profit. Both of Highs’s machines were in the beginning rude and distant from the perfection which use and experience have since superinduced; the latter in its effects of extending the operations of the cotton manufacture has been at least of equal, if not of superior importance; and what is singular, attempts were made, and still continue to be made, to wrest from him the honour of either invention. 

Richard Arkwright and Kay

Kay, the mechanical assistant, left Leigh for Warrington in 1767; in the September of that year Richard Arkwright contrived to meet with this man at that town; being well aware that he was in perfect possession of Highs’s secret. The address by which he procured a model of the rolling frame is curious and characteristic : he seems to have angled for the purpose of fishing out the secret for several successive days, by calling at Kay’s house and giving him some trifling orders to execute; on the fourth day he invites the clock maker to take a glass of wine at the inn, and, over their bottle, the future knight asked Kay if his was a profitable business. On being replied to in the negative, and questioned as to his own employment, he stated that he had lately been a barber, but that he had left off that trade, and with another person went up and down the country buying hair, as being more lucrative. The discourse soon turned on the spinning by rollers, Highs’s discovery having been much talked of in the neighbourhood. "That will never be brought to bear," said Sir Richard; "several gentleman have almost broke themselves by it." "I think," replied his companion, "I think I could bring that to bear." The hint sufficed, and no more passed that night; but the next morning, elate with his anticipated success, Arkwright comes to the bedside of Kay, and a model of the machine was agreed to be constructed. 

Arkwright at Preston, Nottingham and Derbyshire

The confederates soon after repaired to Liverpool, and a real machine under Kay’s direction was completed. In March 1768 this machine was taken to Preston, and Arkwright had the ability and good fortune to persuade Mr. Smalley, of that town, to join with him in establishing a manufactory at Nottingham, where he took out his first patent for roller spinning in July, 1769. Subsequently forming a partnership with Messrs. Strutt and Need, he removed to Cromford in Derbyshire, where, availing himself of their extensive capital, he took out a fresh patent in 1775 for various machines, and, the concern becoming prosperous, it gave a stimulus to every branch of the cotton business, which has continued to increase with augmenting velocity to the present hour. 

Arkwright and the Courts

The circumstance of the patents for these machines having been originally obtained by Mr. Arkwright has led, to the erroneous notion that he was the original inventor; but in an action on a writ of scire facias, to set aside his patents, in the king’s bench in 1785, it was proved in evidence that he borrowed the roller spinning from Highs; the feeder, or the revolving cloth that carries the cotton into the cards of the carding engine, from Mr. Lees, a quaker; the crank and comb from James Hargrave; the filleted cylinder from a Mr. Wood; and the roving can form Benjamin Butler : consequently the patents were declared of no validity, and upon application for a new trial the judge declared that Mr. Arkwright had not a leg to stand upon. 

Arkwright the Man

What then are the merits which have given to this person so conspicuous a place in the history of the cotton trade? They may be resolved into his powerful sagacity in seizing the separate inventions of other men, and combining them so as to form a regular system, which he first turned to extensive profit; his perseverance in overcoming obstacles; his confidence in his own resources; his ascendancy of mind in engaging men of capital to embark in projects of such uncertain and distant profit; and his skilful management of establishments so vast in their extent, and so novel in their arrangement. Sir Richard Arkwright was pre-eminently a man of talent, singularly sharp – sighted in the ways of the world; and he reaped his reward in the acquisition of unbounded opulence. 


But the wreath awarded to genius must be placed on other brows; nor did he amidst all his wealth obtain the love and admiration of his countrymen. "The story," say Aikin and Enfield, "current in the manufacturing counties, is, that he stole these inventions and enriched himself at the expense and by the ingenuity of others." The intense selfishness indeed, which could permit the shorn Hargrave to expire in a workhouse, and the plundered Highs to linger out his old age in affliction and dependence, might well call down the severe observation of Mr. Bearcroft : "All men," said the indignant advocate, "that have seen Mr. Arkwright in a state of opulence, have shaken their heads and thought of these poor men :" alluding to Highs and Kay, but which might well include Hargrave. "It is no unworthy task," says Mr. Guest, in his cogent and unanswerable work on the Cotton Manufactures, "to assign to each his own portion of desert, suum cuique; it is a debt due to the memory of the dead for the services which they have rendered to their country; and it may console their decendants, and encourage the future aspirant in the path of industry and honour, by teaching him that, though circumstances may for a time conceal his merits, posterity will ultimately do him justice. It required,however, the experience of some years, before Mr. Arkwright’s establishment brought much profit, and so many improvements have taken place since his death, in 1792, that his machinery, ingenious as it was, would now be considered rude and inefficient. 

Crompton and the Mule

The invention of the mule in 1775, by Mr. Samuel Crompton of Bolton, is another epoch in the history of the cotton trade. This machine unites the powers of the jenny and the roller frame : hence its name; and, by manufacturing a finer twist than had hitherto been practicable, it has enabled the manufacturer to produce muslin fabrics in every variety. The ingenious inventor received a parliamentary reward of £5000 in 1812. 

Edmund Cartwright and the Power Loom

To these great inventions, as well as the subordinate improvements in carding and roving, another mighty impulse has been added by the introduction of the power loom, the invention of the Rev. Edmund Cartwright of Kent, who obtained a patent in 1785. This machine was, however, totally inefficient, and it required nearly twenty years to bring it into practical use : recent improvements have so far overcome its original disadvantages, that it has been made applicable in the silk and woollen as well as in the cotton manufacture. A somewhat recent authority states that 20,000 power looms are employed in Manchester, and that they are every day increasing; all these surprising inventions have been brought into the most productive operation, by the application of steam, through the perfect engines of Bolton and Watt. Amongst the various branches of the cotton manufacture, Mr. David Holt’s three cord sewing twist, celebrated throughout Europe, should not be forgotten. 


Manchester boasts of its increasing silk factories, which promise probably at no very distant period to extinguish those of Spitalfields. The printing of cottons, formerly confined to the metropolis, is now carried on here with unrivalled perfection. 


Machine making, for the use of the manufactures, forms also an important branch of trade, Besides its own manufactures, Manchester is the great depot for goods from all the neighbouring towns, and hither merchants resort from most of the regions of the earth. A lively sketch of the progress of manners during this increase of prosperity is given by Dr. Aikin :- "The trade of Manchester," says he, "may be devided into four periods; the first is that when the manufacturers worked hard merely for a livelihood, without having accumulated any capital; the second is that when they had begun to acquire little fortunes, but worked as hard and lived in as plain a manner as before; the third is when luxury began to appear, and trade was pushed by sending out riders for orders to every market town in the kingdom; the fourth is the period in which expense and luxury had made a great progress, and was supported by a trade extended by means of riders and factors through every part of Europe. It is not easy to ascertain when the second of these periods commenced, but it is probable that few or no capitals of £3000 or £4000, acquired by trade, existed here before 1690. However, towards the end of the seventeenth, and the beginning of the eighteenth century, the traders had certainly got money beforehand, and began to build modern brick houses in place of those of plaster and wood. For the first thirty years of the last century, the old established houses confined their trade to the wholesale dealers in London and the chief cities : whether their profits were less or more per cent. than at present may be uncertain, but the improvement of their fortunes was chiefly owing to their economy in living. 


Apprentices at that time were now and then taken from families which could pay a moderate fee, but they were obliged to undergo a vast deal of labourious work, such as turning warping mills, carrying goods on their shoulders through the streets, and the like. An eminent manufacturer in that age used to be in his warehouse before six in the morning, accompanied by his children and apprentices; at seven they all came in to breakfast, which consisted of one large dish of water pottage, made of oatmeal, water, and a little salt, boiled thick and poured into a dish; at the side was a pan or basin of milk, and the master and apprentices, each with a wooden spoon in his hand, without loss of time dipped into the same dish and thence into the milk pan, and as soon as it was finished they all returned to their work. In George I’s reign many country gentlemen began to send their sons apprentices to the Manchester manufacturers, but the young men found their situation so different from home that they could not brook their treatment, and either got away before their time, or at the expiration of their indentures entered into the army or went to sea. The little attention paid to rendering the evenings of apprentices agreeable at home, where they were considered rather as servants than pupils, drove many of them to taverns, where they acquired habits of drinking, that frequently proved injurious in after life; to this was to be attributed the bad custom of gilling, or drinking white wine as a whet before dinner, to which at one period a number of young men fell a sacrifice. 


When the Manchester trade began to extend, the chapmen used to keep gangs of pack horses, and accompany them to the principle towns with goods in packs which they opened and sold to shopkeepers, lodging what was unsold in small stores at the inns; the pack hourses brought back sheep’s wool which was bought on the journey, and sold to the makers of worsted yarn at Manchester, or to the clothiers of Rochdale, or the West Riding of Yorkshire. On the improvement of turnpike roads, wagons were set up and the pack hourses discontinued, and chapmen rode out for orders, carrying with them patterns in bags. During the forty years, from 1730 to 1770, trade was greatly pushed by the practice of sending these riders all over the kingdom. 


At this period strangers flocked in from various quarters, which introduced a greater proportion of young men of some fortune into the town, with a consequent increase of luxury and gaiety. A different manner of treating apprentices began to prevail, and in 1760 a considerable manufacturer allotted a back parlour with a fire for their use, and gave them tea twice a day. Soon after this period the vast increase of foreign trade caused many of the Manchester manufacturers to travel abroad; agents or partners were fixed in various cities on the continent, and Manchester at length assumed in every respect the style and manners of one of the commercial capitals of Europe. 

St. Anne's Square

The building of St. Anne’s Church, in 1708 was followed in a few years by the erection of the square and streets adjoining, when was displayed a new style of light and convenient room, very different from those of the rest of the town; the front parlours, however, were reserved for company only, and the family usually lived in the back parlour; this fashion in some degree still subsists. The dinner hour at that period was twelve, and ladies paid afternoon visits at two, and then repaired to the four o’clock prayers at the old church. It is remarkable that the primitive practice of dining at one o’clock still prevails at Manchester amongst many persons of great opulence and respectability. 

Lady Bland

A century ago lady Bland of Hulme Hall, an heiress of the Mosley family, was the chief promoter of whatever could embellish the town, or polish the taste of its inhabitants; she patronised an assembly which was held once a week at the low price of half-a-crown a quarter, and the ladies had their maids to come with lanterns and pattens to conduct them home. The usual afternoon’s entertainment at gentlemen’s houses at that time were wet and dry sweetmeats, different sorts of cake and gingerbread, apples or other fruits of the season, and a variety of home – made wines, the manufacture of which was a great point with all good housewives. 

The Education of Young Ladies

In order to perfect young ladies in what was then thought a necessary part of education, a pastey school was set up in Manchester, which was frequented not only by the daughters of the townspeople, but those of the neighbouring gentry. At this time there was a girl’s boarding school, and also a dancing master, who on particular occasions used to make the boys and girls parade two by two through some of the streets, a display since laid aside.

Coaches and Sedan's

In 1750 there was a stand of hackney coaches in St. Anne’s Square, but these vehicles being found less convenient were superseded by sedan chairs they again revived, but a regular stand was not established till 1808; private carriages were scarcely known, unless by the landed gentry, and the first set up by any person actually in business was that of madam Drake, in 1758, who lived in Long Mill Gate. 


Upon the whole, Manchester, of all the trading towns in the kingdom, is that which has obtained the greatest accession of wealth and population; the fortunes that have been raised from small capitals by the spirit and ingenuity of its inhabitants have probably exceeded those acquired in any other manufacturing place, and it is but justice to say, that in no town has opulence been more honourably and respectably enjoyed, the purse of its inhabitants being ever open to the calls of charity and of patriotism. 

Eminent Persons - Hugh of Manchester

The eminent persons to whom Manchester has given birth are not very numerous. In the thirteenth century Hugh of Manchester, a Franciscan friar, dedicated a book to Edward I., entitled De Fanaticorum deliriis, or the Dotages of Fanatics. I could wish, says Fuller, that some worthy divine would resume this subject. 

John Bradford

John Bradford, a Protestant martyr, born at Manchester, was burnt in the reign of queen Mary, at Smithfield, in 1555. 

Dr. Dee

The celebrated Dr. Dee, warden of Christ Church from 1595 to 1608, thought not a native, claims some notice. He seems to have been a strange compound of vanity, ambition, and enthusiasm; poor from profusion, he sought to repair his fortune by pretending to the occult sciences. He appears to have been really learned in the mathematics; but what can be thought of the honesty of a man who pretended to hold converse with departed spirits: his works are on mystical subjects, treated in a mystical manner. 

John Booker

John Booker, a different species of the same genus, born 1601, was a mathematician and astrologer. He is said by Lilly to have had a curious fancy in judging of thefts, and was as successful in answering love questions. This ridiculous impostor died in 1644. 

Dr. John Worthington

Dr. John Worthington, a prosperous clergyman who published some professional works, was born in 1618, and died in 1671. 

Dr. Samuel Ogden

Dr. Samuel Ogden, born in 1716, was Woodwardian professor at Cambridge; in his Sermons, style seems more attended to than matter. His person and manner, says Gilbert Wakefield, were exactly suited to each other: he exhibited a large, black, scowling, grisly, figure; a ponderous body, with a lowering visage, embrowned by the horrors of a sable periwig; his voice was growling and morose; his sentences desultory, tart, and snappish; these qualities, though he was a very worthy man, seem to have prevented his rise in the church. He died in 1778. 

Thomas Faulkner

Thomas Faulkner, the son of an apothecary, became a Jesuit, and led a wandering life amongst that fraternity in South America. On the suppression of the order, in 1767, he lingered for some time in a dungeon at Cadiz: at length, being released, he returned to England, after an absence of thirty – eight years: he died in 1774. Soon after Mr. Pennant published a Description of Patagonia, written by Faulkner: a dull book, notwithstanding it relates some curious particulars. 

Rev. John Whitaker

The Rev. John Whitaker was born 1735 and died in 1808. His works, besides his History of Manchester, are a Vindication of Mary queen of Scots, the Genuine History of the Britons asserted, a Review of some chapters of Gibbon’s History, with some other smallers matters. As he advanced in life his imagination, by a strange perversion of the usual process, gained an increasing ascendancy over his judgment. The History of Manchester has obtained more attention than its intrinsic merit deserves, from its being noticed in a note of Mr. Gibbon’s "Decline and Fall." It is written in a truly fustian style, and how the author could fill two quartos without bringing his subject so low as the conquest is surprising; his positive assertions, his weak authorities, and his wrong – headed conjectures, early exposed his work to the shafts of criticism, and by no one was it more severely handled than by Tim Bobbin, under the name of Muscipula: perhaps that writer did not treat the reverend author with quite the respect due to his station and profession, but most readers will agree in his conclusion that in Mr. Whitaker’s History "there is no consistency, little truth, and less shame."

Townships and Number of Inhabitants

The parish of Manchester is extensive, containing a surface exceeding fifty square miles, divided into thirty townships :-

Ardwick 3545
Beswick 35
Blakeley 2911
Bradford 95
Broughton 880
Burnage 513
Cheetham 2027
Chorlton with Hardy 624
Chorlton Row 8209
Crumpsall 910
Denton 2012
Didsbury 933
Droylsden 2855
Failsworth 3358
Gorton 1604
Harpur Hey 297
Heaton Norris 6958
Houghton 2084
Hulme 4234
Levenshulme 768
Manchester 108,016
Moss Side 172
Moston 593
Newton 2577
Openshaw 497
Reddish 574
Rushulme 913
Salford 25,772
Stretford 2173
Withington 892
Entire Population 187,031


Irwell, a river which rises near Dirplay Hill, in the township of Cliviger, hundred of Blackburn, a little above the village of Bacup; flowing in a western course it meets at Tottington Higher End with a rivulet which takes its rise at Cridden Hill, and is by some esteemed the origin of the Irwell. The stream now proceeds southerly to Bury, where a little to the south of that town it joins the Roch; deviating to the west, it is in a short time increased by meeting the rivulet from Bolton at Farnworth; it then changes to a south easterly direction, till reaching Manchester it receives the Irk and the Medlock, when, becoming navigable, it again reverts its course to the south west, and, flowing under the canal at Barton Bridge, finally emerges into the Mersey at Flixton, about nine miles from Manchester. The course of the river from Bury to Manchester is through a romantic and very populous country : its banks are bold and grand, and in many parts adorned with hanging woods.


Irk, a small river, which rising near Royton, in the hundred of Salford, flows to Middleton and Heaton, and thence running in a southern direction joins the Irwell at Manchester : it is in no part of its course navigable. The eels in this river were formerly remarkable for their fatness, which was attributed to the grease and oils expressed by the mills from the woollen cloths, and mingled with the water. The Irk is said to have more mill seats upon it than any other stream of its length in the kingdom.


Little Green, a hamlet in the township and parish of Manchester, hundred of Salford, 1 mile N.E. from Manchester.


Medlock, a small river which rises in Saddleworth, Yorkshire; it runs in a south-westerly direction, and, after being increased by several brooks, empties itself into the Irwell at Manchester, in which place it serves as a feeder to the duke of Bridgewater's Canal. The Medlock, though not navigable, is of great use to the numerous dye houses seated on its banks.


Tib, a small stream which taking its rise near Great Newton Street, Manchester, proceeds thence to Shude Hill. It formerly crossed Market Street, ran by Tib Lane, and thence fell into the Medlock at Knott Mill. The latter traces of this brook are now lost, the reservoir at Shude Hill having swallowed up its water, and its ancient course is converted into a common sewer. Mr. Whitaker has given a ludicrous importance to this insignificant stream, by a curious display, of his skill in etymology, asserting that in the British tongue the names Tib, Taw and Tam, signifying water, are the same words, by the substitution of a different letter. "Thus", says he, "did the puny Tib received the same appellation as the mighty Tay, and participate the Senemination of the long and majestic Thames".

(3) The New Lancashire Gazetteer or Topographical Dictionary 1830