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This Was Us: 1750 Map And Picture Of The City

Manchester Archive Treasures And Manchester Histories Festival Unite

Written by . Published on January 4th 2012.

This Was Us: 1750 Map And Picture Of The City

MANCHESTER Histories Festival will take place in the city and around Greater Manchester from 24 February to 4 March and we’ve been looking at maps - more of the latter in a second.

Evidently the gap between super rich and poor was much closer in 1750. From the packed impoverished streets around the Cathedral and Withy Grove to the houses of the rich was a five minute walk. 

The Festival is a ‘celebration of Greater Manchester’s history and heritage, through a ten day programme of events and activities. With a wide range of activity from talks and walks, to film showings and games to play, MHF is for all ages and backgrounds.’

The Festival, a partnership between the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Renaissance North West led by Claire Turner, first happened in 2009 and is a grand idea because it builds pride and identity in the city and its deeply significant history. The key is the broad scope of the Festival from schoolchildren and college students to family history enthusiasts and museum curators.

This year our history will be further enhanced and celebrated in the first Community History Awards recognising successful partnerships exploring Greater Manchester history between schools, community groups and an archive, gallery, library, museum or university. 

The maps Confidential have been looking at come from the good people at the Manchester Room at City Library and the Greater Manchester County Record Office. These folk have come together to form the archives and local studies services for the City of Manchester and will be heavily involved with the Festival.

The main image above, and the one below, comes from the remarkable John Berry map, complete with description and images of the town, from 1750. The document claims a population figure of 30,000 for Manchester but now this figure is considered too high, maybe a little under 20,000 is more correct. 

Berry, 1750 %284%29

The map and picture shows the quiet before the storm. The town already has a reputation for textiles, but the processes are still water-powered or man-powered. The full mechanisation of industry, its power to transform production, to rip raw materials from the landscape, to fill the sky with smoke is just over the horizon. And this will be the first urban manifestation of that world-changing moment.

So while Manchester and Salford are interesting towns in 1750 they are a still step away from greatness and notoriety. A terrible greatness maybe with worldwide repercussions but greatness all the same.

For a clue to what a mighty international centre of pioneering achievement they would become click here.

Yet fortunes are being made already, look at the pictures and you can see the houses of the wealthy that are scattered through the city, some of them almost palaces. Here are the paired mansions of Miles Bower and Sons, standing back from Deansgate, where RBS in Spinningfields now hulks. Behind in Spinningfields there were pleasant gardens with summer houses. 

Berry, 1750 %281%29

Evidently the gap between super rich and poor was closer in 1750. From the packed impoverished streets around the Cathedral and Withy Grove to the houses of the rich was a five minute walk. Friedrich Engels and others would note in the first half of the nineteenth century, how the well-to-do were moving further and further from the city centre to avoid the poverty and the smoke of the new industrial megalopolis. 

Only the three churches are still around today from the 1750s in the view below - Manchester Cathedral is the centre church - and the towers of all three have changed. St Ann's Church on the right has lost its funny little cupola. 

Berry, 1750Berry, 1750

Some street patterns survive. Behind the fox hunters above and on the river is a little house which stands close to the Mark Addy pub site. The buildings on the extreme lower right lie at the bottom of Quay Street, spelt Kay Street on the old map. 

Distant Views Of City 0032011 View

The 2012 view from more or less the same angle is very different. The old topography seems to have been squashed out and the Cathedral tower is hidden from view. There are no fox hunters, or promenading couples.

The only other house on Quay (Kay) Street we can see on the 1750 picture lies on the south side of the street and still hosts a large eighteenth century property. This is Cobden House, built by the Byrom family, and although it dates from probably the 1770s provides a sort of link with that lost quiet world.

The Confidential office is opposite Cobden House. If I were typing this in 1750 I'll be sat in a field, maybe next to a cow, and a man in a three cornered hat saying, "Sir. What is this typing you speak of? And this internet?"

Cobden House 001

And here's the site of Manchester Town Hall. From medieval times a triangular meadow had occupied the site and does so in 1750, called South Hall Fields. That shape would dictate the street pattern which would in the end dictate the triangular plan of the present town hall - a charming example of geographical and historical predestination.

It's all a blast, giving the viewer a glimpse of the way history moves on, and the clock never stops ticking. Let's hope Manchester Histories Festival does the same and more, gets us thinking about Manchester and its place in the world yesterday and today.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Berry, 1750 %282%29 

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The Manchester Histories Festival website is http://www.manchesterhistoriesfestival.org.uk

Berry, 1750

Distant Views Of City 002

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Kevin PeelJanuary 4th 2012.

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

SoapysudsJanuary 4th 2012.

Is there something wrong with the map, as it shows the River Irwell to the south and east of what you are saying is Manchester? When the River Irwell flows North and East of Manchester.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Tom HilesJanuary 4th 2012.

Not wrong, exactly, just different. It's upside down, relative to the conventional way of having north at the top.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2012.

Great article. Though from what I've read for my dissertation on the urban expansion of Manchester in the late 17th early 18th centuries the place was the opposite of sleepy!

James WattJanuary 4th 2012.

The article doesn't say it was sleepy but that it was quiet in terms of the cacophony of industry that was to follow. And look at all the huge houses....Sleepy no, pre-industrial yes.

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