Cottonopolis: world’s first industrial city

An exhibit from Cottonopolis

Cottonopolis is a large research project being developed by the Greater Manchester Network (GMN) and based around the world’s first industrial city – Manchester.

Manchester was known as Cottonopolis from 1812 due to its status as an international centre of the cotton and textile trade in the 19 Century, and the effects are still rippling outwards today. The project covers many relevant study areas such as transport, industry, social conditions, arts and crafts.

Cottonopolis is being managed by the network’s 12 constituent U3As under the direction of a small focus group

The whole idea began with the Greater Manchester Network seeking to develop a working relationship with the University of Manchester. The idea of Cottonopolis was first proposed by historian Maggy Simms, (Bury and Bolton U3As) and actively supported by Jenny Carley, Research Project Adviser.

We would like other interested U3As in the North West to get involved and for members and U3As in the network to join in this local research, with a view to contributing their results towards a larger shared outcome and display.

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The Network hosted a Study Day in Central Manchester in January which was substantially funded by the Third Age Trust. Its aim was to help U3As identify topics within the umbrella project where individual members and groups could contribute.

The project leaders have produced a short booklet of activity ideas which can be downloaded, along with registration information specific to the Study Day, from cottonopolis.weebly.com

Cottonopolis: the facts

  • The best handloom weavers working flat out could make around 50 metres of cloth a day. Modern airjet looms make around 250 metres an hour.
  • Friedrich Engels was sent to Manchester by his family to stop him mixing with revolutionary thinkers. The best laid plans…
  • Francis Egerton, Duke of Bridgewater, turned away from high society when his engagement failed and found consolation in engineering. His canal scheme made him one of the richest men in Georgian England.
  • At its zenith in the 1960s, Wythenshawe was the biggest council housing estate in Europe, with housing stock being added from the 1920s to the 1970s.
  • In the 1956 a helipad was proposed at Manchester Victoria. In 1976 an underground railway line linking key points in the city was planned. In 1988 a light railway system was approved … hello Metrolink, Manchester’s crowning transport glory.