The term “Cottonopolis” came into use in about 1870, when the number of cotton mills in Manchester peaked at 108. As the numbers declined, cotton mills opened in the surrounding towns, Bury, Oldham (at its zenith the most productive cotton spinning town in the world, I for one would not have liked to work in them. In order to store the bales of Cotton the city had over 1819 warehouses, earning the nickname ‘Warehouse City’.
The commercial centre of Cottonopolis was the exchange’s trading hall and the first of Manchester’s exchanges was built in the market place by Sir Oswald Mosley in 1727, yes the family trait goes back years. At the same time growth of the cotton and other industries like Engineering, meant vast amounts of money were passing through Manchester, leading to the establishment of many money handling organisations and banking facilities.
In 1772, Arthur Heywood’s Bank opened in Manchester, but the money was transferred daily via coach and horses to major banks in London, and many were attacked by highwaymen.(Nothing changes there then, I wonder what the modern day term would be for “Stand and Deliver”). The first bank to hold its own reserves of notes and coins was the Bank of Manchester which opened on Market Street in 1829, followed by many others in the same area around Spring Gardens, Fountain Street and King Street which became the Central Business District and banking centre.
‘Lancashire cotton famine’ (1862-1863)
Anti-slavery activity was increasing and President Abraham Lincoln was determined to bring an end to slavery. The north blockaded southern ports so goods could not be brought in or out, and the export of raw slave-grown cotton dried up as Liverpool traders suspended trade waiting for prices to increase.
This whole scenario was a period of great hardship for the North West of England, leaving the working class bitter at the controlled and nominal relief provided for them by the government, especially as what little help they were getting was coming from affluent donors residing outside Lancashire, not from their own wealthy cotton masters. This built up bitterness and resentment which led to several riots breaking out in Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Ashton in 1863. As a result, local government provided constructive employment in urban regeneration schemes, giving some relief to local councils. Oh how we could do with some of that now. (Blocked up grids anyone?) Even though many thousands of Lancashire mill workers lost their jobs, many people in Manchester including local politicians, such as John Bright and Richard Cobden, still supported Lincoln’s fight against slavery. As per usual, Manchester workers shown great resilience and trade recovered until it peaked in 1913, with a steady decline of Mills closing, yet Manchester clung on the world cotton goods market until the Royal Exchange closed in 1968. The Americans call it De-industrialisation, British Engineers, Shipworkers, Miners and Car Workers understand this!
I remember my earliest view of Manchester. I saw the forest of chimneys pouring forth volumes of steam and smoke, forming an inky canopy which seemed to embrace and involve the whole place.
— W. Cooke Taylor, (1842)