Manchester is the world’s original industrial city, a title that was taken with the construction of the Cotton Exchange at Market Place in 1729. The area first comprised mills and later workhouses and factories, changing over the past 270 years to become the commercial and leisure centre that can be seen today. This process has most certainly not taken place overnight though, with some clear long-term trends that can be observed.
The central business district has traditionally been situated to the north, along Oldham Road and around Piccadilly Gardens. In 1792 Assembly Rooms were built nearby at Mosley Street, and a new workhouse opened here. The first mills were built at Union Street, north of Tib Street, and are still standing today. The original town hall can be found east of where it is situated now, at King Street (the foundation stone was laid in 1822), and in 1828 the Bank of Manchester was opened on Market Street. With the 1853 ordaining of Manchester as a city (Queen Victoria had first visited in 1851) its position as one of Britains industrial powerhouses was established, and further cemented with the completion of the area’s grandest cotton warehouse, Watfs Warehouse, in 1858; this is now the Brittania Hotel. For Benjamin Disraeli Manchester was “as great a human exploit as Athens”: in the 1850s along just 300 metres of Oxford Road there were 70 types of occupation, from the countrys biggest locomotive works to watch-makers, surgeons and tea-dealers. The population had leapt to almost half a million (from 17, 1 01 in 1757), and the French historian De Toqueville stated that “everything attest[ed] to man´s individual power, nothing to the directing power of society”.
In the dregs of the 18th Century new projects were still underway; in 1877 a new town hall was opened at Albert Square, and the Manchester Ship Canal was completed in 1894. With UNUST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) established in 1902 and a population of 730,307 it appeared that Manchester’s golden age would never end. However, The American Civil War had brought a time of decline in the 1860s when the supply of raw cotton had been blockaded, and although the industry was maintained until after the First World War, competition with cheaper expenses and lower prices in the USA and Japan began to take bites out of the market. In the Christmas Blitz of 1940 great swathes of the city centre were destroyed, and it was left to the residents to find a new direction.
The Victorian CBD had been located in and around Piccadilly Gardens. This is situated in the east of the current centre, and areas that were once considered hugely important in the north (e.g. Oldham Road, Rochdale Road) are now on the fringe. The area declined to such an extent that in the 1960s and 1970s it was home to pornography shops and second-hand/wholesale dealers, with some places today still not much better. The Northern Quarter, once industrial heartland, is now partly post-industrial wasteland (or a twilight zone). It is clear that there has been a shift in the position of the CBD, but if it is no longer situated here, where has it gone?
There has been a marked change in the areas of Deansgate, St. Anns Square, Market Street and Castlefield over the last 50 years. All are host to new developments, including Granada Television (1956), Kendals department store (built in the 1960s), the Manchester Business School (1965), the multi-storey Ramada Hotel (built 1985), the Greater Manchester Exhibition Centre (built 1986), and more recently, the Metrolink light transport system, completed and opened by Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1992. To a lesser extent, the Central Library at St. Peters Square was opened in 1934. Coinciding with these events is the ceasing in trading of the Royal Exchange in 1968 and a fall in population to 541,468 in 1971, officially bringing to an end the city’s industrial era. Castlefield particularly has noticed much change, changing from an area of warehouses to a desirable residential one, prompted by the opening of the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park in 1984.
There has been an almost meteoric rise in the number of pubs and clubs to be found, especially in the Manchester’s unique Gay Village in the south, and around Deansgate. The emphasis has changed from a working city to one of leisure and entertainment, evidenced by the £ 1 00 million redevelopment of the Great Northern Warehouse into a shopping centre and the Deansgate Locks, a row of bars and restaurants being built under the dramatic old railway viaduct. The Royal Exchange, once offices, is now shops. There has been pedestrianisation of areas, such as St. Anns Square and around the new Marks & Spencers, and new public transport construction: the Metrolink cutting through the centre of the city is particularly noteworthy, as is the proposed new bus station behind the Amdale shopping centre (which, when built, was one of the largest of it’s kind in Europe).
New hotels are being constructed, emphasising Manchester’s growing position as a tourist centre; these include the Jurys Inn, south of Deansgate, and Malmaison, near Victoria Station. This is coupled with the growth of Manchester International Airport (built as Ringway Airport in 1938, and replacing the 1929 Barton Aerodrome) as Britains third largest carrier of passengers, a second runway due for completion later this year. All these things point to the validity of the statement that economic activity is moving to the south and the west, but recently urban regeneration has begun to take place in the decaying north/west. There are efforts underway to reintegrate Manchester Cathedral into the city centre; a new pedestrian street, New Cathedral Street, is being built to facilitate this. It will become a new shopping centre (shoppers will be able to enjoy almost a kilometre of pedestrianised access from Victoria Station to King Street), as well as a historical one. The area was the original medieval focus, and with the completion of a heritage centre in 2001 showing Manchester from Saxon times to the early modem age, this will be fully illustrated.
East of the Corn Exchange, being redeveloped as The Triangle (which will host top quality retailers), a project due to begin soon is the Printworks, a leisure/retail development with ifs own cinema and Hard Rock Cafe. The most exciting new construction will be the URBIS (opening late 2001) on Corporation Street, a landmark celebrating the role of Manchester as a world city. Indeed, this role is now always recognised, but it was here that industrialism began, Marx was inspired enough by the terrible conditions to formulate Communism, the atom was first split (1919 by John Rutherford), and the computer created in 1948. Notably in the north-west, with the removal of much of the incredibly poor standard industrial housing, there are areas that can be best described as rubble: the area surrounding the Velodrome near Openshaw is an excellent example of this.
Although not the focus of this essay, there are many changes outside the city centre that can be considered. In 1894 the Manchester Ship Canal was completed, and in 1897 the de Trafford family sold their Manchester Estates, estates that eventually became Trafford Park Industrial Estate. In 191 1 Ford opened a factory there for constructions of Model Ts, although like Mclntosh they have since moved away.
Currently situated in the area are major companies such as Texaco and Kelloggs, with computer firms too: for example, Phototronics. This is commonly acknowledged as an industrial wedge even today, another being at Sharston. The textile wedge towards Hyde and Ashton has been subject to the decline of the whole industry, with it now being one of the city’s most run-down areas. There is also an interesting academic ‘wedge’to the south, comprising Manchester Metropolitan University, UMST, the Open University, Victoria University and the Royal Northern School of Music. /,Distinct Chinese (Chinatown) and lndian areas (Rusholme) can be observed, all contributing with their own types of commerce and goods. The completion of the Trafford Centre mall originally caused a great deal of worry for shopowners in the city centre, but these fears proved groundless: people are coming into the centre more than ever.
It is clear Manchester has changed significantly over the last 50 years, and indeed, over the last 300. Economic activities have moved to the south and the cast, contributing to a decline in the former northem/eastem industrial areas, a decline that is now being checked with fresh construction. Leisure and entertaimnent has grown massively, with new hotels, transport opportunities, shops, clubs and restaurants appearing every day, most noticeably in Castlefield and on either side of Deansgate. Manchester is truly a 21st century city .
In the past 50 years Manchester has experienced many changes, primarily a declining industrial sector in the old CBD to the east and the north, and a growth in entertainment and leisure facilities in the south and west. The effects of this are bound to be large, particularly for the old areas of industry.
Manchester has recently endured several decades of increasing unemployment, especially in manufacturing. Many industrial premises are of poor quality, with numerous vacant plots proving a magnet for crime. Slum clearance programs were carded out in the 1960s and 1970s, but because of a tightening of the city’s finances the properties were never replaced. A survey carried out to the north, east and south-east of the CBD for 1978-84 illustrated that there were 384 sites with greater than 0.2 hectares vacant at some time during this period. There were/are very few employment opportunities available, poor housing, and there is the worrying possibility that residents may become trapped in a vicious cycle. From an all time population high in 1921 of 730,307, in 1971 it had dropped by an incredible 200,000 to 541,468, illustrating a mass exodus.
In the 1970s and 1980s the area was home to a proliferation of pornography shops, second-hand shops and wholesalers, particularly around Oldham Road. The presence of such a poor economic base is not at all conducive to growth, and with the royal Exchange ceasing trading in 1968, at that time at least, there seemed to be no opportunity in sight. The aforementioned idea of a vicious cycle could be applied here, with the area doomed to remain one of poor quality residential and commercial properties, compounded by vast tracts of land empty in-between. However, there have been efforts to remedy these and other problems. In 1978 the Inner City Partnership Program was set up, organised by both the central government and local authorities; by 1984 the number of hectares of vacant land had been reduced from 695 to 530, although it must be noted that was due entirely to environmental improvement of open spaces rather than any new construction. A new survey has shown that Manchester City Council has been an active owner of it’s land, an owner that accounts for almost 60% of all the vacant acreage: “between 1978 and 1984 the council disposed of 26 hectares of vacant land for new development and acquired 28 hectares, primarily for reclamation. The City has played a major role in recent years in recycling inner city land and buildings” (ICPP).
Environmentally, the area has fared rather well. Early paintings of the city showed hundreds of smokestacks belching black smoke into the air, a yellow smog settled on the rooftops; this is a sight that with the departure of heavy industry, thankfully, can no longer be seen. (However, it must be noted that private transport is most likely having an equally detrimental effect). Instead, the Council and private owners have been faced with dereliction and buildings that cannot find occupants (”low levels of demand by industrial companies would still deter many developers from the inner city” – A. Baum); many were knocked down to produce the’urban wasteland’that can be observed around the Velodrome, near Openshaw. In the north/east areas of Manchester there has been little impetus for further attention, but the building of a new city park just to the west (with money contributed by the private ector, the EU and the government) is a bold step forward, and recently new record
Trafford Park (land donated by the de Trafford family in 1897) to the east of the city, has faced similar problems. During the Second World War, it employed 75 ‘ 000 people; by the 1980s, although 600 people still employed a respectable 24,000 people, large tracts of land lay empty and blighted the area. The few public buildings (two churches, a school swimming baths, a public washhouse) have been closed and are boarded up, and growth in the 1980s was reported as “not spectacular”. However, in 1990 the Trafford Park Development Corporation predicted that thousands of new ,,jobs “would flow into a revived 3000 acres”, assisted by a £160 million investment. The Park would be at the centre of an unrivalled academic, business and communications network. It remains to be seen whether this scheme has been successful, but it is clear that in areas of decline it is crucial that the government and people take an active interest.
Looking to the south-east of Manchester city centre, rather than problems we see a large number of beneficial side effects of the changes that have taken place. In Cast] efield, old mills and factories have been converted to luxury flats, bringing life back into a city that in many parts has been dormant for the past 50 years. A side effect of the rise in population is an increase in attractions: the number of shops, clubs pubs is rising (e.g. Deansgate Locks, the Great Northern Experience). With this comes positive environmental developments; for example, in front of the new Northern Experience will be a new landscaped square, complete with a Mountains and theatre area. A final step on from this (they are all in fact linked closely) is the growth in tourism, evidenced by the Juiys Inn and Malmaison, two new hotels. Manchester Airport now handles 20 million passengers per year, and with the completion of the second runway this is set to dramatically increase.
The growth of Manchester as a metropolitan city can and does have a terrible negative impact, though. A report on the Ringway’s second runway has claimed that areas of the Bollin Valley have been completely destroyed, with an ecosystem interrupted that will find it very difficult to rediscover equilibrium again. Traditional areas of the city are in the decline, traditional referring to such things as markets (e.g. the fruit market situated behind the Arndale Centre) and the grand old Victorian areas, Piccadilly Gardens as a primary example. They become unattractive to commerce, and so begins the social decline, with the richer families that could afford it moving out into the suburbs (e.g. Hale, Bowdon), leaving an increasingly economically deprived part of the city. The environment, as stated, can improve as well as decline, but without the impetus of wealth, maintenance is gradually forgotten.
There has been pedestrianisation in areas such as St. Arms Square and around the new Marks & Spencers, the reasons being that firstly private traffic has a tendency to clog up a city’s main arteries, and that environmental friendliness is something that should be pursued in the forms of buses and travel on foot. Arguably, this can be said to dissuade people from travelling into Manchester, and instead use an out-of-town shopping centre – e.g. the Trafford Centre – where parking facilities are readily available. However, public transport in the city has been enjoying something of a golden age recently. The construction of the new Metrolink (opened in 1992 with further extensions in 1999) links 36 stations together, from Altrincham in the south to Bury in the north, and Salford in the west, and is a quick, efficient route into the city centre, encouraging people to shop there/commute more than they previously had.
The city also boasts a proliferation of car parks surrounding the pedestrianised areas, such as the 3 along the main Deansgate thoroughfare, and those to the cast of St. Ann’s Square/Market Street; for those who dislike public transport, this is always another option. There is the possibility of a new major bus station construction near the Arndale Centre, and the rebuilding of the Chorlton Street Bus Station. All this evidence points to the fact that (although mainly in the south/west) the development of commercial areas has encouraged transport also to further improve, providing greater opportunities and amenities for the people of Manchester.
The effect that events in the centre of Manchester have had on the wider city should be briefly considered. In former industrial working class areas, such as Beswick and Miles Platting, the past 50 years have been particularly harsh. Factories have closed leaving unemployment, less money circulates, and so we see a reduction in the positive potency of the 3 factors we tend to judge by: social, economic and environmental. However, south of the city centre, in Hulme and Moss Side, there have been great efforts to remedy this. Clearance of most pre- 1 980s housing has taken place, with the removal of the infamous Crescents coming only too soon. In their place are new houses (note houses, not flats), built to residents specifications, and major employers are being attracted to the area (e.g. Asda) because of it’s proximity to the city centre. Shifts to the south in terms of economically active areas have meant that the immediate southern suburbs now play a revitalised role (they are becoming popular with young professionals), and as a result of this crime levels have decreased, employment is becoming easier to find (the proportion of employees working part-time increased from 18. 1 % in 1981 to 19.9% in 199 1), social conditions have become much better, and the ownerless waste-tips (also known as ‘Public Areas’) have been replaced by private gardens; people take pride in where they live.
It is clear that a great deal of change has taken place due to the reorganising of the economy’s geo-economic and geo-social positions. Environmentally, effects can be viewed either in a positive or negative light, with a tendency towards the former. Socially, although the north and east have in past years declined, the south and west are experiencing something of a boom time, with new entertainment and leisure facilities opening daily. Finally, the economic position is the same as the social; growth in the south west decay tempered by new projects