When I told my friends that I was accepted for an MSc at the University of Manchester, they were, of course, very happy about it. After the initial congratulatory remarks, the conversation naturally steered towards the city of Manchester and what would be like living there. When talking about the city, some words were mentioned more often than others (like football); however, one of the words that kept popping up continuously was “industrial”.
It seems that Manchester and “industrial city” are concepts that are linked together for most of the people I talked to. I am writing this blog as an attempt to show my personal perspective as a student in 2018. The history of the city might be closely intertwined with the cotton industry and the industrial revolution, but today things have changed a lot and the city is well known for many other aspects that are worth mentioning
It is true that the city has a rich history that made up a reputation as an industrial hub. During the Victorian Era, Manchester was also known as Cotton polis because it was the world´s largest marketplace for cotton goods. As the industrial revolution kicked in, the methods to produce textiles got more and more technical and several other industries developed in parallel such as the chemical (for dying textiles) and the heavy machinery (for automation of the textile weaving). In order to ship Manchester´s textile output to other countries, the world´s first intercity railway between the city and the port of Liverpool was built. Manchester was the very first industrial city in the history.
The exponential growth of business meant that some families accumulated big fortunes and became very wealthy within decades. This abundance of capital contributed to the construction of beautiful buildings that still stand today. The main characteristic of the Victorian era neogothic buildings is the predominance of red bricks and the presence of decorative elements such as arches, statues, and tall windows. Even though the buildings where erected more than 150 years ago, they still look marvellous today. Here are some photos of one of my favourites:
Holy Name Church
Manchester Corn Exchange
As you can see, the buildings that were once used as warehouses, mills and even market exchanges are still standing today. The exciting part about this is that all these buildings have been cleverly re purposed and nowadays they are used very differently. Some of them have been transformed to hotels, others have food courts inside, others have been transformed to elegant and spacious lofts. Many companies have their offices in these elegant and impressive structures.
My perception of “industrial” Manchester has changed a lot since I arrived in the city. It turns out that the Manchester has a rich history that can be explored in some of the great museums such as the Museum of Science and Industry and the Peoples History Museum. If you are worried that Manchester would look like a giant factory, you will be surprised how different the city really is. Take a Google Street view walk around Albert Square and you will find out why. I am convinced that Manchester will surprise you!