Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialNews.

BEST OF MCR: Our Greatest Achievements

Greater Manchester is inventive... and then some

Published on January 26th 2015.

BEST OF MCR: Our Greatest Achievements

26/01/15: We've republished this story to mark the ordination of Libby Lane as Bishop of Stockport, thus becoming the first Church of England female bishop.

The list below represents a snapshot of what the Greater Manchester area has pioneered. The extraordinary fecundity of achievement was set in stone as Manchester became the world’s first modern industrial city in the nineteenth century: the potent symbol of how urban society had changed. It led the world into the modern age, on the back of an incredible number of ‘firsts’.

Manchester has 25 Nobel prize-winners more than all but seven nations.

This pioneering spirit then continued and still continues, underlining our region’s creativity and initiative.

Manchester has 25 Nobel prize-winners more than all but seven nations.

As mentioned above the list below is only a selection of Manchester firsts - there are many more. If we've missed some please tell us which in the rant section.

Here's our favourite quote about the city.

'Manchester is the place where people do things. Don't talk about what you are going to do, do it. That is the Manchester habit. And through the manifestation of this quality, the word Manchester has become a synonym for energy and freedom and the right to think and to do without shackles.' Judge Parry, 1912.

It seems fitting somehow.

Politics, Religion and Society

The Anti-Corn Law League – This was the first modern political movement and began life in the 1830s. It employed full-time administrators, teams of public speakers, mail shots, lobbying and latest technology: the new telegraph. Its methods were the model for later political lobbying groups.

The Free Trade Movement/ Manchester School – This grew out of the Anti-Corn Law League and resulted in Manchester being the only British city to get a philosophy named after it: The Manchester School. The leaders of the Manchester School believed that trade should be allowed to flourish without government interference - which too frequently was both nationalistic and aggressive. Twisted by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan into neo-liberalism in the 1980s, it underpins the globalised nature of trade in 2010.

First Female Bishop - On 26 January 2015 Church history was made in the UK when the Church of England ordained its first women bishop, Libby Lane, the former vicar of St Peter's Hale and St Elizabeth's Ashley, in Greater Manchester. She becomes Bishop of Stockport, Greater Manchester, and she is a Manchester United supported and married to a fellow C of E priest.

Libby Lane: the first female bishopLibby Lane: the first female bishop

Vegetarianism – The movement began in 1809 in Salford Bible Christian Church, inspired by the sermons of the local preacher named, of all things, the Rev. William Cowherd. A vegetarian cookbook was published here by Martha Brotherton from 1812 and her husband, Joseph, was the first fully vegetarian MP.

Votes for women – Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. This body eventually went millitant and was nick-named the Suffragettes. Earlier in 1867, the National Society for Women Suffrage was founded in Manchester by Lydia Becker.

TUC – The first general meeting of the Trades Union Congress was held in 1868 in the Mechanic’s Institute, Princess Street.

Shakers – Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker religion, was born in Manchester in 1736. She emigrated to America in 1786, taking her visions with her. The strict religious sect is now cheifly known for their furniture design.

Science and Industry

Atomic theory, meteorology, colour blindness – John Dalton is a scientific colossus of Manchester. His atomic theory (1803), with its pioneering work on the constitution of elements, was the precursor of all modern chemistry, whilst his lectures on meteorology turned the study of weather into a science. He was the first to describe colour blindness.

First Law of Thermodynamics – Law of physics concerning the mechanical equivalence of heat discovered by James Prescott Joule (1819-89): commemorated by the unit of energy the “joule”.

Precision engineering – Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803-87) was the father of precision engineering. His work finding true planes allowed him to gain accuracies in tool making up to 0.000001 inch. He was the first to develop a standard screw thread and first to design a mechanical street cleaner.

Cast iron beam – The introduction of cast iron beams strong enough to span large distances was the work of Eaton Hodgkinson and Sir William Fairbairn for bridge building, in particular the Britannia Tubular Bridge across the Menai Straits. They also began the large-scale use of plated wrought iron. Fairbairn (1789-1874), an engineering giant, was responsible for advances in boiler making and invention of the riveting machine.

Steam hammer – Invented in 1840 by James Nasmyth at his Patricroft factory.

Industrial estate – The first purpose-built industrial estate was Trafford Park in 1896.

Earth density – Monton born John Henry Poynting established the mean density of the earth in 1891. The Poynting Robertson Effect helps explain the effect of radiation from the sun.

Ernest RutherfordErnest Rutherford: split the atom in 1919

Splitting the atom, the atomic nucleus - Ernest Rutherford, working at Manchester University, discovered the nucleus of atoms and later how to split the things in 1919. His assistant was Hans Geiger of the Geiger Counter fame.

Computers – The first computer with a stored programme and memory, nicknamed 'The Baby', was developed at Manchester University in 1948 by Professors Tom Kilburn and Fred Williams.

Obstetrics – Doctor Charles White pioneered new practices in obstetrics, including the use of fresh water and fresh air for women after giving birth.

Medical ethics – Dr Thomas Percival, in the late C18, founded the science of medical ethics.

Graphene - The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2010 was awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester ‘for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene’.


Modern canal – In Britain, this was the Bridgewater Canal in 1761: a totally artificial waterway independent of natural rivers.

Railway – The world’s first true railway began operating from a purpose-built station on Liverpool Road in 1830. Stockton and Darlington had the first line but it was the success of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway that launched the railway revolution.

Significant City

Submarine – The first mechanically powered submarine was launched in 1880 to the designs of Hulme curate, the Rev. George Garrett. He also invented an armour-plated mortarboard for academics under attack.

George Garrett's subGeorge Garrett's submarine

Swing aqueduct – The first and only swing aqueduct in the world is at Barton, west of the city. Built in 1893, it carries the Bridewater Canal over the Ship Canal together with 800 tons of water.

British plane and aviator – Local man, AV Roe, designed and flew the first totally British aeroplane in 1908. Roe pioneered the enclosed cockpit and single joystick. In 1928, one of his Avro Avians, made in Manchester, became the first plane to complete a solo flight to Australia.

Trans-Alantic flight – Former Manchester Central High School students, JW Alcock and AW Brown, were the first to fly the Atlantic Ocean non-stop in 1919.

First municipal airport – Manchester established the first municipal airport in 1929.

Trams – Trams were reintroduced on to UK streets in 1992 with the Metrolink service.


Professional, permanent orchestra – This was the Halle Orchestra, set up in 1858 by German Charles Halle who was later knighted for his work.

Repertory theatre – Ann Horniman began British repertory theatre in 1908 at the Gaiety, Peter Street.

Art Treasures Exhibition – Following the success of London’s Great Exhibition with science and industry, Manchester, in 1857, began a trend for international art exhibitions - with 16,000 works this remains the largest temporary art exhibition in history.

Top of the Pops – The now defunct TV show was first broadcast from Rusholme in 1964, headlined by The Rolling Stones and The Hollies.

Roget’s Thesaurus – Whilst first secretary of Manchester’s Portico Library, Peter Mark Roget began his helpmate for wordsmiths: the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases.

Manchester International Festival – Manchester's main arts festival takes place every two years (it began in 2007) and was the first to only programme new and original works.

Mif 2013MIF 2013


The Football League – The world’s first professional football league was set up in 1888 in the Royal Hotel, Piccadilly.

European Cup, treble – Manchester United was the first English football team to win the European Cup in 1968. In 1999 they became the first team to win the Holy Trinity – European Cup, FA Cup and League Championship – in one season.

Crowds – The only time that the crowd at a English club match has exceed 84,000 was at Maine Road in 1934, when Manchester City played Stoke City in the FA Cup 6th round. The actual attendance was 84,569 and City won.

Civic Achievement

Gas supply – Manchester Corporation Gas, the first in the country, was set up in 1818 at a cost of £40,000.

Municipal parks – Phillips Parks, Queens Park and Peel Park opened in 1846 to become the first municipal parks.

Water – Manchester led the way in providing the citizens of the new big cities with a supply of pure, fresh water when it opened its Longdendale Reservoirs in 1851.

Municipal libraries – Salford Borough Library opened in 1850, followed in 1852 by Manchester’s which operated the first Children’s Library from 1862.

Free public library – Perhpas the nation’s first free, public library opened as Chetham’s Library, off Long Millgate, in 1653.

Chetham's LibraryChetham's Library


First casuality of English Civil War – This was Richard Perceval, linen weaver, shot on Market Street, 1642.

Bullfighter – Frank Evans from Salford was Britain’s first matador and has fought many times in Spain.

Marks & Spencer – Despite a market stall in Leeds, the first Marks & Spencer store opened in Manchester in 1894.

Rolls-Royce – In 1904, Frederick Royce met Charles Rolls at the Midland Hotel where they set up the famous company.

UFO landing pad – In the new Hulme Park, there is a UFO airport located on ley lines. Honest. Manchester likes to think ahead.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

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

DavidApril 10th 2013.

How many of these achievements owe anything to the Labour Party?.How many have happened during the time they have been running things?.Before The dead hand of Labour rule Manchester was actually a more progressive and free thinking city.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Manc GuyApril 10th 2013.

And your point is DAVID? Are you telling me that above achievements couldn't have happened if a labour goverment was in power?

Yeah...votes for women, graphen, swing bridges, Top of The Pops and splitting atoms...thank goodness Labour wasn't in power at the time!!!

Good grief man!!!

Really?April 11th 2013.

But David many of them happened under a Liberal administration, the left of centre alternative party at the time

BaggioApril 11th 2013.

is this david, as in cameron?

Manc GuyApril 10th 2013.

Let's not forget the part the Avro Lancaster played during WWII. The majority were built in Chadderton and assembled in Woodford.

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

But in today's Manchester, NO newspaper is even based in the city any more! (Can't believe how the city meekly stood by and allowed The Guardian to sell our "civic pride" down the river to city of London's Trinity Mirror?)
Whether the BBC or ITV or local radio conglomerates - decide to invest in Manchester, or not, are all decisions now taken in London not here. (Yes all here today, but all gone tomorrow perhaps?)

And that's just your industry. A continuing pioneering spirit? Don't make me laugh.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidApril 11th 2013.

Maybe that has something to do with Trinity Mirror being a slavish supporter of the Labour Party.It was after all once the paper of that ex Labour MP Bob Maxwell.Of course Mr Leese and his chums prefer to deal with Trinity Mirror as they know they are dealing with journalists who don't challenge them at all.
What civic pride was there with the Guardian anyway?.It stopped being a Manchester paper decades ago,when it dumped the Manchester from its title and moved its whole operation down to London.Guardian writes love to denounce Thatcher and her effect on the North but virtually none of them live outside London
and the South East.They have little or no
understanding of the North and its people.
There was certainly a big problem with the national press being entirely London based.But they are largely in terminal decline now,as people get their news from other sources now.What is needed is to encourage more of the new media,especially Internet based news services to be based in Manchester and we badly need an alternative to the current dire political coverage of MEN,to invigorate the local political debate.This is a role Manchester Confidential could grasp,but unfortunately it's owner and editor are too wedded to the Labour Party.Another editor with a more political and journalistic background could grasp the nettle and start to ask much harder questions of local politicians of all parties.

SquirrelitoFebruary 12th 2014.

I've read more sense in Viz's Top Tips than from you two. Buy a new record, this one's cracked.

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

I think the oldest professional orchestra is actualy the liverpool philharmonic who predate the Halle. I think there may be an article on that on liverpool confidential. impresive list none the less.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 2nd 2015.

What about the First test tube baby born in Oldham! The Nobel prize list is very impressive though and that should be used to promote the city rather than the usual football mantra. How many people know even in Manchester that without the rest of the UK.Manchester haswon te 8th most Nobel prizes.

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

Then the ruins that Hitler knocked about a bit, followed by the strangling of manufacturing by the late revered and respected lady; some further destuctive attention by the IRA, but rescued by MH and HB with a touch of oh so last century modernism from IH. Finally two Russians a pencil and some sellotape at Manchester University

Oh and some of the most miserable music ever in a drug addled and pissed off club scene (now leaving)

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

A little known Manchester First fact but....
The first Lap Dancing Club in the UK opened in Manchester in 1990/91 and its still there - The Fantasy Bar on Deansgate! It was opened by a guy called Rybiki who was originally from Prestwich but had spent a few years in Canada / USA and was keen to bring the rapidly growing and highly profitable new style of 'Gentlemans Club' concept to the UK. It was immediately very successful and had a fairly upmarket clientele in its early days. It took a little while for the city authorities to wake up to what had happened - and it took London a year or so to follow Manchester's lead. Another great first for the city......

JoanApril 11th 2013.

I doubt that men paying women to take their clothes off started in Manchester in 1990.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyApril 15th 2013.

...so you were a regular at Jaclyn's too ?!

LindaApril 12th 2013.

How about Harry Platt later Sir Harry Platt began the first fracture clinic in Manchester at the Ardwick & Ancoats Hospital Manchester in the early 20th century.
The discovery that pollen caused hayfever was also a first for Ancoats Hospital.

Steve5839April 15th 2013.

Cannot we just say we live in a great city, despite what the council do to try and mess it up?

Janine WatsonApril 16th 2013.

How about including the first penny newspaper set up I think by Abel Heywood, who He was also a Manchester Chartist and the Lord Mayor who organised the building of the Town Hall?

John RobertsFebruary 12th 2014.

First (and only)city in the UK to have a large indoor area with fully 360 degree seating, and the only city to have an Olympic standard velodrome until the London Olympics.

David Michael EvansFebruary 12th 2014.

A great city..its just a shame it is so continually filthy and litter-strewn. Many Mancunians take no pride in their environment.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AliceFebruary 12th 2014.

I hope that you set an example.

AnonymousJanuary 27th 2015.

I agree..The whole conurbation is so litter strewn beyond belief..Defy anyone to take a bus and look out of the widows..SAD..Spoils a great place...

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Since I'm *not* from Manc & have never lived there - only toured - I can give an outsider's opinion: it really does strike me as a rather dirty, ugly city. I love England overall - I've traveled the world over the past 40ish years and I feel sad that Mannchester is in such a state. It doesn't appear to be restricted to certain areas either. As the person said above, it would be great to see residents take far more pride in their visible city. It most certainly wouldn't hurt tourism and the money it could bring to your economy.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Yeah, I'd say most of the scrotes that live in an 'M' postcode are the main culprits and aren't bothered. I believe that when Piccadilly finally gets the investment it needs, LV will take over Parker Street and the whole area will only be open to the employed and the tourists. I'm all for the feckless Mancunians to be placed in one big ghetto.

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2014.

Presumably, we are talking about Greater Manchester and including the other cty and eight authorities, not just 'Manchester'. We must be, because there is reference to Salford and to Trafford. If so, what about the first test tube baby born in Oldham?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AliceFebruary 12th 2014.

Then there is the Lancaster Bomber, made in Chadderton, Oldham. This is the plane that could be argued won the second world war.

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 12th 2014.

Indeed we are talking about Greater Manchester and it says it right there in the title and the standfirst. Keep these suggestions coming people

David BentleyFebruary 1st 2015.

And the first chippy, though fortunately not the first curry house

Peter CastreeFebruary 12th 2014.

Don't forget the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, founded in Didsbury (Fletcher Moss) in 1889!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Peter CastreeFebruary 12th 2014.

. . . and, in the world of literature, Thomas De Quincey, Harrison Ainsworth, Mrs G Linnaeus Banks, Elizabeth Gaskell, Louis Golding, Howard Spring, Anthony Burgess and probably many other writers have described Manchester life. Engels lived in Chorlton-on-Medlock and his work was not without influence!

David in CheshireFebruary 12th 2014.

I knew Tom Kilburn. He certainly deserves to be in the list alongside Fred Williams, but at the time they developed the Baby, Tom was young graduate student. He became a professor far later. No mention of Turing?

AliceFebruary 12th 2014.

Frederick Engel's book 'The Condition of the Working Class' was a description of housing and life in Manchester during the 19th Century. Surely an opinion forming project if there ever was one. Of course, we must not forget the impact of Karl Marx who produced his most influential work here in Manchester.

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2014.

But what about the inventions of mass production for bicycles in Openshaw? (although a certain Scott set out the principles.)

1 Response: Reply To This...
The Amusing CyclistFebruary 12th 2014.

That's a raleigh good one

Ed GlinertFebruary 12th 2014.

Great piece, highlighting why Manchester is so important historically. Football League actually founded in London though...

1 Response: Reply To This...
Charlie ButterworthFebruary 12th 2014.

But ratified, signed and sealed here

Peter CastreeFebruary 12th 2014.

Mustn't overlook one of Manchester's greatest scientific achievements - the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, conceived by Bernard Lovell and still, after more than 50 years, one of the leading research centres in its field. Local hero Benny Rothman of Timperley led the Kinder Trespass in 1932 and was jailed for his involvement, which can be said to have paved the way for the 'Right to Roam'. Another example of the radical Manchester spirit. Peterloo is not mentioned in the list above. It's significance for the fight for democracy cannot be overestimated.

CobbydalerFebruary 21st 2014.

Winter Olympics - England's most important contribution to 19th-century curling was the invention of artificial ice. In 1877, a rink opened in Manchester and the world's first curling match on artificial ice took place in March of that year. But the rink closed soon after.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 2nd 2015.

Wasn't the world's youngest Granny from Blackley? Or was it Wythenshawe? I seem to recall it was 27 year old Chantelle-Cantona-Beyonce-Ethiad( Can't give her surname for legal reasons)

ChrisJanuary 26th 2015.

It is time to wake up people. Let's look at society today. There has never been a bigger gap between rich and poor. Our public services are reaching melting point and civic pride slowly disappearing. We need to take the power back from the super rich, the tax evaders, and dodgy politicians. Only then can we create a truly great 21st Century society.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 26th 2015.


AnonymousJanuary 26th 2015.

Nah! Vote GREEN.

ChrisJanuary 26th 2015.

What do UKIP have to offer Anon?

AnonymousJanuary 26th 2015.

Find out Ed and let us know.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2015.

Can anyone give an example from history when/where socialism boosted society to a point where there was reported and recorded positive change that lasted any substantial period of time?

Alan YatesJanuary 27th 2015.

Forgot to mention that the vegetarianism concept was also founded in Manchester as was the Co-Operative society

EditorialJanuary 27th 2015.

Alan, vegetarianism is in there all ready. Coop should be too, we'll add

Alan YatesJanuary 27th 2015.

Ernest Rutherford artificially split the atom and the worlds fist semi-programmable computer invented.

Manci DoodleJanuary 27th 2015.

Aya Mate. Yawright there? Manchester has the best spoken English anywhere. We talk dead good. Sorted.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 27th 2015.

My wife and ! love Manchester, but she says we have to leave when we have a child so that it doesn't end up with a Manchester accent.

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

You and her obviously don't love it that much with that sad attitude.

AnonymousFebruary 13th 2015.

There are at least 5 or 6 different accent's within Greater Manchester, which one are you talking about? I was born in Old Trafford but have lived all over Manchester and the accents change left right and centre. In short, we don't all sound the same, we don't all sound like Liam Gallagher.

AnonymousFebruary 1st 2015.

Anything that was produced in Manchester that killed and rained death on the people of Nazi Germany is a GREAT acheivement as far as I'm concerned.

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2015.

'Trams were reintroduced on to UK streets in 1992 with the Metrolink service.' No they weren't. Blackpool's trams have been going since 1885. And there is a tram service in Llandudno which runs on the street for part of its run, and has been going for well over a century.

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants

Ashle Kumar

After putting password in our system often we forget it. But don't worry it can be recover by a…

 Read more

Postal services in goverment sector are pretty awesome. Now USPS offering excellent services in…

 Read more

Know your username(which is same as your employee number) Now click this link. And complete your…

 Read more

Link below to an MEN article on future plans for the area.…

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2022

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord