Partner City



The remarkable rise of Manchester began around the end of the 19th Century, when what was then a small market town began to grow at an astonishing rate, quickly expanding to become the world's leading industrial centre and a pioneer in science and technology. 400 years ago Manchester was a small but bustling market town where traders from all over Lancashire brought their wool for trading. It was in the 1720s when canals linking Manchester to the port of Liverpool opened Manchester and her wool up to the world. These canals forged the famous partnership between the two cities that sling-shotted northwest England to global industrial dominance. The beginning of cotton imports in the late 1700s revolutionized the textile industry around Manchester. Soon water-powered cotton mills sprang up in the hills and valleys around the growing city, and not long after these same mills led the way by transitioning to vastly more powerful steam engines. People from the countryside flocked to Manchester and its surroundings in search of opportunity, along with tens of thousands of Irish fleeing the potato famine of the 1840s. These new immigrants caused the city's population to explode, rapidly outstripping the city's ability to feed and house the new entrants. Many thousands were forced to live in squalid sllums, enduring unbelievably harsh working conditions. At the same time the city prospered and commissioned fantastic examples of Victorian architecture, sucsh as the Corn Exchange, the Central Library, the Town Hall and the Halle Orchestra. Investments in education, philanthrophy and cultural pursuits made late 19th Century Manchester one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with a rich intellectual life. The Great Depression slammed the city's economy and Manchester's enormous aircraft factory made the city a target for German bombs. The damage from these events, along with economic competition from abroad, caused a major decline in the city's fortunes that led to high unemployment and depressingly common urban blight. Economic diversification since the 1990s has allowed the city to bounce back. Manchester is now a cultural powerhouse: Man United and Coronation Street are household names around the globe. The city centre's built environment has been transformed by ambitious new building projects too, many of which you'll see in these photos. The Then photos are courtesty of the Manchester City Council Local Image Collection. I took the Now photos in April 2015.



Then and Now Photos

New Recruits

New Recruits New Recruits

Manchester Archives m09562


Army recruits put on a public exercise display in Piccadilly Gardens, one of the early recruiting drives during the war. Though the plaza has been redeveloped the statue of Queen Victoria in the background and the buildings behind it have not changed.

Parading Past Kitchener

Parading Past Kitchener Parading Past Kitchener

Manchester Archives m08694


Newly minted soldiers from a Manchester Regiment march past Lord Kitchener in Albert Square, who can be seen on the right accepting the salute. Part of Kitchener's 'New Army', Regiments like this were annihilated at the Somme a year later.

Rochdale Canal

Rochdale Canal Rochdale Canal

Manchester Archives m55570


Symbolic of the changes in the transportation system over the last century, the Rochdale Canal by Bloom Street has since been filled in and turned into a parking lot. Cheap transport along Manchester's extensive canal network helped propel the city to the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. Since then trucks and freight trains have supplanted the canal barges as the chief means of commercial transport, leaving many canals to be filled in or merely used by pleasure craft.

Portland Street

Portland Street Portland Street

Manchester Archives m04857


Little about the buildings has changed at the intersection of Portland and Princess Street, save the products being advertised on the wall.

Sunday School Whitwalk

Sunday School Whitwalk Sunday School Whitwalk

Manchester Archives m69189


Sunday school pupils fill the streets for the uniquely Manchester tradition of Whitwalk. On Whitfriday, the first Friday after Pentecost, children from Sunday schools of all denominations would put on their best new dresses and trousers and walk to Albert Square to sing "God Save the King." I'm not entirely confident I got the exact right spot, but I am close as the original photo was taken on Portland Street.

Building on Back Turner

Building on Back Turner Building on Back Turner

Manchester Archives m00290


Timber framing goes up as buildings are replaced on Back Turner Street near the former site of the Shudehill Market.

Construction on Birchin Lane

Construction on Birchin Lane Construction on Birchin Lane

Manchester Archives m00349


Photo of construction, this time workers are repairing damage from ground subsidence on Birchin Lane near High Street.

Saint Paul's Church

Saint Paul's Church Saint Paul's Church

Manchester Archives m71224


Saint Paul's Church once stood at this spot on Turner Street, near the junction with Tibb Street. Built in the 1870s, it was considered architecturally significant for the way it fused Victorian styles with those of the 14th Century. It was demolished in the 1960s (or 80s, depending on the source) to make way for a car park.

Blackfriar's Bridge

Blackfriar's Bridge Blackfriar's Bridge

Manchester Archives m60895


An engraving by Edward Finden of Blackfriars Bridge. The bridge was built in 1820, replacing an older footbridge built by a company of comedians who wanted people to be able to walk to their shows in Salford. In the 1870s the open balustrade (railings) were replaced with iron ones to hide the extremely polluted river from the view of the pedestrians on the bridge. In the last decade concrete and stone balustrades were put in, giving the bridge its current appearance.

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge Victoria Bridge

Manchester Archives m60897


Manchester Cathedral and Victoria Bridge as seen from Blackfriar's Bridge. At this early period in Manchester's development slums can clearly be seen on both sides of the river. The Gothic style cathedral was largely built around the end of the 15th Century. The cathedral was damaged by bombing during the Blitz and by the massive IRA truck bomb that detonated in the city centre in 1996. The bridge in the now photo is the Old Salford Bridge which dated back to the 14th Century, while the modern bridge was completed in 1840, shortly after this engraving was made.

Dutton Street Building

Dutton Street Building Dutton Street Building

Manchester Archives m16693


A building on Dutton Street off New Bridge Road in Cheetham.

Fennel Street

Fennel Street Fennel Street

Manchester Archives m01778


A view up Fennel Street from Corporation Street. The buildings on the right have been demolished and is now the site of the National Football Museum.

The Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange The Corn Exchange

Manchester Archives m78097


The Corn Exchange on Corporation Street, home to a very lively trading floor after the building's construction in 1897. Today Corporation Street has been blocked off for extensive reconstruction work.

Cochrane's Warehouse

Cochrane's Warehouse Cochrane's Warehouse

Manchester Archives m75379


Looking up Thomas Street. At the far right old buildings have been removed to make way for the massive new Arndale Shopping Centre.


Horse-trading Horse-trading

Manchester Archives m05886


A group of men carefully appraise a horse on the corner of High Street and Thomas Street. Pictures like these are a reminder that streets were once public places where people could walk, congregate and conduct business. Since the proliferation of cars only the most foolhardy loiter in the middle of a street.

Bagshaw's Court

Bagshaw's Court Bagshaw's Court

Manchester Archives m83877


Bagshaw's Court on Shudehill. Assuming I've got the position exactly right (which I'm reasonably confident I did) the court and all the buildings in the photo have been replaced with an empty lot and a billboard.

Shudehill Traffic

Shudehill Traffic Shudehill Traffic

Manchester Archives m08928


Dramatic changes are also visible just up Shudehill at the intersection of Swan Street.


Ironmongers Ironmongers

Manchester Archives m02242


Looking up Hanover Street from Shudehill. Today the skyline is dominanted by the ultra-modern CIS Tower.

Shops on Hanover Street

Shops on Hanover Street Shops on Hanover Street

Manchester Archives m77599


A lot of buildings in this area of Hanover Street have been removed and the roads straightened out.

Rising Sun Hotel

Rising Sun Hotel Rising Sun Hotel

Manchester Archives m08928


Men outside the Rising Sun Hotel and Concert Room.

Policeman on Oldham

Policeman on Oldham Policeman on Oldham

Manchester Archives m03766


A mounted policeman observes traffic at the corner of Oldham and Ancoats. The small windshield on the car is a reminder of how uncomfortable an experience driving once was, especially in inclement weather. Shortly after this photo was taken fully enclosed cabs on cars became the standard.

Oldham St. Postcard

Oldham St. Postcard Oldham St. Postcard

Manchester Archives m03766


A postcard of Oldham Street shows the degree to which many buildings have been preserved. And of course we can see how dramatically women's fashions have changed over the course of a century.

Women Crossing the Street

Women Crossing the Street Women Crossing the Street

Manchester Archives m08928


People cross the street along Oldham Street.

Shudehill Market

Shudehill Market Shudehill Market

Manchester Archives m59821


Heavily laden carts roll into Shudehill Market on a busy day. After the Second World War, bomb damage and declining interest led the market eventually to close and much of it was demolished. Today the area has been redeveloped as a high-end condo and shopping district, and only part of the market's facade on the left remains.