Federation for
Housing and

Manchester - From Cotton Industry to Modern Metropolis

Today Manchester is notable for its architecture, culture, music scene, media links, scientific and engineering output, sports clubs and transport connections.

Manchester has been around since the Roman times, but not until the industrial revolution the unplanned urbanisation boomed.


The polluted industrial city

The main driver behind Manchester’s urban development was the textile manufacture. As early as the 1760s, when the Bridgewater Canal was built to transport coal, the boom in early-19th-century factory building was triggered. In 1894 the Manchester Ship Canal opened, which at the time was the longest river navigation canal in the world. In turn this created the Port of Manchester linking the city to sea. The industrial development and demand for houses for the working class made the city very dense and polluted.


Manchester is in many ways a historical city. It is the site of the world's first railway station and it is where scientists first split the atom and developed the stored-programme computer. Manchester also boasts status as the city where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto and where the Trades Union Congress was established.


City regeneration

Manchester's fortunes decreased in the subsequent years after WW2 due to deindustrialisation. However, recent investments in the city, spurred by the 1996 Manchester bombing – which was the largest bomb ever detonated in peacetime Britain – spearheaded extensive regeneration of Manchester, particularly in the city centre. Since 2001, population has grown by 20 %, making it the fastest growing city in Britain. At the same time its metropolitan economy is the third largest in the United Kingdom.


According to The Economist, having a premier-league football team attracts foreign direct investment.  For this reason the Manchester City Council is aware of the value of culture, sport and historical heritage in the strategically planning and development of the city. Nevertheless, culture institutions such as the famous nightclub Haçienda, has been replaced by blocks of luxury flats. Thus, another lesson in Manchester is to balance fancy new property development with the preservation of the culture and soul of the city.


The pictures below are captured on a city walk in March with Urban Health Manager in Manchester, Colin Cox, showing some of the old and redeveloped areas in central part of the city.