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Age 4: Cottonopolis

Cottonopolis 1769 - 1870 AD


Industrial Age

Some suggest that the Industrial Revolution has its roots in the 16th Century Agricultural Revolution. But it was the birth of steam, with its use in cotton mills and the railways, that was the catalyst for the new era.

The Industrial Age brought city living, factory work and a massive population boom which saw Manchester transformed from a market town to England's second largest city and the centre of the world's cotton industry.

The cotton spinning frame patented by Richard Arkwright in 1769 was the first non-manual textile machine.  This invention led to the development of cotton spinning mills with machinery driven from central power systems, first water-driven and later steam-driven.  The mechanisation of the cotton industry was accompanied by improvements in transport, which were necessary to cope with the increasing volume of trade.  Canals were the dominant mode of good transport until the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which opened in 1830, showed that railways were an efficent and profitable means of moving both goods and people.  The mechanical phase of the Industrial Revolution continued until the 1870s, when the development of practical electricity generators provided the impetus for new technologies.    

[NB There are no exact 'official' dates for the Industrial Revolution.  The start date of the Second Industrial Revolution tends to be put at 1870-1880, but as 1871 is the year when the first practical electricity generator (the Gramme Ring) was developed, the previous year has been chosen as the end date for the First Industrial Revolution.]

Industrial Revolution

What Is the Industrial Revolution Famous For?

Transforming a land dominated by agriculture and cottage industry into the major network of cities we see today and the birth of mass production. The Industrial Revolution transformed the way people lived, worked and played. The legacy of industry, architecture and art of the age can still be seen around us today.

Fascinating Fact

Did you know that, in the nineteenth century, cotton wares traded around the world were known as "Manchester goods"?

Death, Disease and Destruction

The Agricultural Revolution of the early eighteenth century increased farming productivity and reduced food prices. This mean that people had better diets. From about 1740, the death rate began to fall. However, poor-quality drinking water and poor standards of hygiene meant that diseases such as cholera, typhus and typhoid continued to claim many lives. This was particularly true in the new industrial towns, such as Manchester. The 1832 cholera epidemic resulted in 32,000 deaths in Britain, including 674 deaths in Manchester.

Warfare was another significant agent of death. At the peak of the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), Britain 's 320,000-strong troops represented 2% of the total population. There were about 300,000 deaths over the course of the Wars, although two-thirds of them resulted from post-injury diseases. As the nineteenth century wore on, warfare became more industrialised. During the Crimean War (1853-1856), the British government asked the Manchester engineer Joseph Whitworth to produce machine tools for manufacturing Enfield rifles. Whitworth went on to be awarded 20 armaments-related patents between 1954 and 1878.

The Exchange Manchester Print


Will I Have Heard of Any Famous People From the Industrial Revolution?

Richard Arkwright, George & Robert Stephenson, John Dalton, Florence Nightingale, James Joule, Sir Joseph Whitworth, James Watt, Charles Dickens, Mrs Gaskell, Sir Robert Peel, Queen Victoria.

Can You Give Me a Famous Quote From the Industrial Revolution?

"From west to east and from north to south, the mechanical principle, the philosophy of the nineteenth century, will spread and extend itself. The world has received a new impulse. The genius of the age, like a mighty river of the new world, flows onwards, full, rapid and irresistible."

Henry Booth, Administrator and Treasurer of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, at the grand opening of the world's first passenger railway, September 15, 1830.

Quiz Questions

  1. Which renowned Victorian engineer endowed the Manchester art gallery that bears his name?
  2. Where can you find statues of the Manchester scientists John Dalton and James Joule?
  3. When did Manchester elect its first MPs?

You can find the answers here…



What Was the Food Like?

Eccles Cakes

(Apparently first sold by James Birch in his shop on the corner of Vicarage Road in Eccles in 1793)

25 g (1 oz) Butter
110 g (4 oz) Currants
25 g (1 oz) Chopped mixed peel
50 g (2 oz) Demerara sugar
Teaspoon of Ground mixed spice
225 g (8 oz) Puff pastry
1 Egg white
Caster sugar - for decoration.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220C / 425F / Gas 7.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the currants, peel, Demerara sugar and spice and mix thoroughly.
  3. Roll out the pastry very thinly on a lightly floured surface and cut out eight 12 cm (5 inch) circles. Place a little of the fruit mixture on each. With a little water, dampen the edges of the pastry and draw them to the centre, sealing well together.
  4. Turn the cakes over and roll gently into circles with a rolling pin. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Make 3 diagonal cuts across the top of each cake.
  5. Place on a dampened baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes until light golden brown.

Eccles cakes are best eaten when slightly warm.

Lancashire Hot Pot

(This dish may have cooked, slowly, while the family worked in the mill)

1 1/2 pound middle or best end lamb
2 kidneys (optional)
pepper and salt
1 or 2 carrots
1 piece of turnip
8 oz onions (or chopped leeks)
1 pound peeled and sliced potatoes
dripping (bacon will do)

  1. Cut meat into neat pieces and dust with pepper and salt.
  2. Put into casserole layers of meat and vegetables with such extra seasonings required.
  3. Finish with a layer of thickly sliced potatoes,overlapping.
  4. Pour in about 1/2 to 3/4 pint water - sufficient to come about one-third of the way up the casserole - and cover top with little dabs of dripping.
  5. Cover casserole and put into a fairly slow oven (275 to 300 degrees F) for about 3 hours.
  6. Uncover casserole about half an hour before, raise oven heat and brown the top layer of potatoes.

Gruel - Oliver Twist

1 tbsp prepared groats
2 tbsp cold water
1 pint boiling water

Groats are hulled, or hulled and crushed grain, chiefly oats, but also wheat, barley and maize - obtainable from health food stores or pet food shops - you should consult the cooking instructions on the packet to find out how to prepare them.

  1. Mix the groats smoothly with the cold water in a basin.
  2. Pour over them the boiling water, stirring it all the time.
  3. Put it into a very clean saucepan and for 10 minutes, keeping it well stirred.
  4. Sweeten to taste and serve.

Roast Goose - A Christmans Carol

1 goose
4 large onions
10 sage leaves
¼ lb bread crumbs
1 ½ oz butter
Salt & pepper to taste
1 egg

  1. Pluck, singe and draw and carefully wash and wipe the goose.
  2. Cut off the neck close to the back, leaving the skin long enough to turn over; cut off the feet at the first joint, and separate the pinions at the first joint.
  3. Beat the breast bone flat with a rolling pin, put a skewer through the under part of each wing, and having drawn the legs closely, put a skewer into the middle of each, and pass the same quite through the body.
  4. Insert another skewer into the small of the leg, bring it close down to the side bone, run it through, and do the same to the other side.
  5. Now cut off the end of the vent, and make a hole in the skin sufficiently large for the passage of the rump, in order to keep in the seasoning.
  6. Make a sage and onion stuffing: peel the onions and simmer in boiling water for at least 5 mins - add the sage leaves for a minute or two to take off their rawness.
  7. Chop the onions and sage very fine and mix with the butter, breadcrumbs and seasoning, working them together with the egg yolk.
  8. Put stuffing in the body of the goose and secure it firmly at both ends by passing the rump through the hole made in the skin, and the other end by tying the skin of the neck to the back.
  9. Cook in a hot oven, keeping it well-basted, and roast from 1 ½ to 2 hours, according to the size.
  10. Serve with gravy and apple sauce.

Snapdragon - The Pickwick Papers

This is a party game where the guests have to snatch fruit out of a flaming bowl of spirits and try to eat them while still alight - darken the room, put a large metal tray on the table with the bowl of snapdragon in the middle, light the snapdragon, and the guests help themselves to the flaming fruit.

  1. Take a large-size salad bowl or pudding basin or soup tureen.
  2. Get ready a mixture (about a pound and a half) of crystalised fruits, French plums, and shelled almonds.
  3. Pour over approx 4 tbsp spirits (brandy, rum, whisky, or mixture - or else a good homemade fruit wine such as damson, rhubarb, elderberry etc).
  4. Give the fruit a good mix with the spirit/wine, then put a single layer of dessert raisins over the top.
  5. Pour 4 tbsp mixed spirits into a small saucepan or ladle.
  6. Warm the spirit on the top of the stove, then light it with a paper spill and pour it over the prepared fruits.

Page from Mrs Raffalds manual of housekeeping


What Happened in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution?

  • Richard Arkwright's mill in Shude Hill became the first mill in Lancashire to use steam power.
  • Manchester became known as "Cottonopolis", leading the world in cotton manufacturing.
  • The world's first inter-city passenger railway opened connecting Liverpool to Manchester.
  • The world's first railway warehouse (now part of the Museum of Science and Industry) opened.
  • Joseph Whitworth produced the first standardised screw.
  • John Dalton "the father of modern chemistry" presented his atomic theory to the Manchester Literary & Philosophical Society.

How Will the Industrial Age be Represented at the 7 Ages of Manchester?

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester

A display of the times, as well as a performance of Mr and Mrs Chadwick Take the Train, courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry will reflect Manchester's pioneering times in the Industrial Revolution.


People's History Museum

The People’s History Museum tells the extraordinary story of ordinary people and how they changed the world. It looks at working people’s lives at work, home and leisure over the last 200 years. The Museum has the most important collection of banners in the UK which represent the beliefs of workers during the industrial age and beyond.

Come to our tent and use historic symbols to contribute to a banner which will go on display in the museum. Watch Living History performance’s of The Hard Way Up, based on the story of local suffragette Hannah Mitchell.

Where Can I Find Out More About the Industrial Revolution?

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
Find more information here,
or alternatively

People's History Museum
Find more information here,
or alternatively

Quiz Answers

  1. Joseph Whitworth
  2. The entrance hall of Manchester Town Hall
  3. 1832

You can find the questions here…