Historic England Regional Timeline

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Ancoats Mills in Operation

Manchester was known as ‘Cottonopolis’ because so much fabric was produced there. In the late 19th century, mills in the area produced nearly a third of the world’s cotton. Cotton production made many Manchester mill owners and merchants rich. On the other hand, conditions for the workers could be very bad. In some factories, children as young as five were employed. They often had to do the most dangerous jobs, including picking up loose cotton under the mill machines while they were working! Some families lived in ‘cellar dwellings’, where a small basement room measuring just 3m by 3m, could house several generations. This poverty led Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels to write books calling for a more equal society. They met at the Chethams Library in Manchester.

The Hanging Bridge in Use

The Hanging Bridge was first recorded in the 14th century, but it was rebuilt between 1421-1500. It is located in the middle of Manchester city centre, and was built to cross the Hanging Ditch. Historians think that the Hanging Ditch may have been part of Manchester’s medieval defences – one of three concentric ditches, which might have been associated with a Norman castle within the city, or even a Saxon settlement. By the 15th century, Manchester had become prosperous due to linen and wool production. The bridge was used to cross the ditch during the Middle Ages and was later used as a sewer. Today very little of the original structure is visible because of the development around it.

Bridgewater Canal and Spinning Jenny

The 18th century was the start of the Industrial Revolution. Many important events occurred in the North West. Here are just two examples. In 1761, the Duke of Bridgewater commissioned the Bridgewater Canal in order to transport coal from his mine in Worsley to factories in Manchester. This canal was the first of its kind and inspired a network across the country. The canals made it possible to transport heavy goods long distances much more easily than by road. In 1764 the ‘Spinning Jenny’, the first machine for producing yarn, was invented by James Hargreaves in Stanhill, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire. Before this, cloth was made by hand in homes or workshops. Machines made production easier but they were so large that they had to be housed in factories. Many people moved into cities to work in these factories.

Manchester Cathedral Choir Stalls Built

In the 16th century there was a lot of religious change in Britain as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution (closure) of the monasteries, and later Tudor changes. In Manchester during this period, the cathedral college, which was originally built in 1421, was dissolved (closed) under Edward VI and re-established by his sister, Mary. As a result of these changes, lots of building work went on at the cathedral. During Mary’s reign, for example, her followers built the wooden choir stalls. Parts of these carvings, seats called ‘misericords’, are of the finest of their type in Europe. Some of the pictures on the seats have moral messages, while others have funnier images. One picture shows men playing backgammon.

Civil War Siege

This is a map of Manchester from about 1650. This is the period of the English Civil War when the country was divided between the Royalists who supported Charles I, and the Parliamentarians. Manchester was on the Parliamentary side. Victoria Bridge, which links Deansgate and Chapel Street and can be seen on the map, is the site of one of the first battles of the Civil War. In 1642, Manchester was being besieged by soldiers from the Royalist stronghold of Salford. In September of that year, between 3,000 and 4,000 Royalists attacked the town on the site of Victoria Bridge. The attack failed and the siege was lifted the next month.

Mellor Hall Occupied

Mellor is in Greater Manchester. Today at Mellor Hall there is a 17th century stone building, but there is evidence of an earlier one. Excavation in the early 21st century revealed four rows of post holes which archaeologists think were part of a medieval aisled hall, dated to between the 11th and 15th centuries. They believe a wooden building was constructed here around 1100 and destroyed 200 years later. Halls like Mellor were structures with an open hall with aisles either side of the main span. This hall would have had a public area for living with a central fire, and private areas for the owner and his family. This would have been an important building, owned by an important person. Other finds at the site include medieval arrowheads and pottery.

Pagan Burials

Saxon beliefs about life after death meant that they were often buried with their favourite possessions. The items archaeologists find in Saxon burials tell us a lot about the lifestyle of the Saxons. This fine glass drinking horn was found in a grave in Gerpins Farm, Rainham. It is 30cm from rim to tip. It was very skilfully made. The horn would probably have been used on special occasions, during feasts. Feasting and drinking were important as they were opportunities for people to come together to socialise. The horn broke when it was buried. Museum restorers carefully put it back together.

Caratacus Captured

Caratacus, son of Cunobelinus, headed the British resistance to the Roman invasion in AD 43 and, although he was defeated, he refused to give up. He moved west to lead the fierce Silures tribe of South Wales in eight years of successful guerrilla warfare against the invaders. His acceptance by this 'foreign' tribe suggests that Caratacus had a powerful personality: his name means 'the beloved one'. Eventually, in AD 51, he was defeated again somewhere on the Welsh borders and he fled to northern England, to Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes tribe. She handed him over to the Romans and he was put on show in Rome as a trophy of victory. However, his dignity impressed the Romans so much that Caratacus and his family were pardoned.

Newton Hall Occupied

Newton Hall, Hyde, Greater Manchester was built in the late 14th or 15th century. It is a ‘cruck frame timber building’. The name refers to a type of construction using a wooden frame, which is painted black in the photograph. The frame is held together with a series of wooden pegs. A cruck frame has two curved timbers at each ‘gable end’ (the short sides in this photograph which have the triangle for the roof visible on them). These form a shape a bit like an ‘A’ and give the frame its strength. The glass box allows visitors to view the structure. Newton Hall was the centre of an estate owned by a rich landowner. This was the time of the Wars of the Roses – a period of political change. The person who lived in the house might have been a local leader, and their wealth may, in part, have been associated with which side they were on.

Dagenham Docks

The Industrial Revolution changed the landscape of Barking town and the villages of Dagenham, Chadwell Heath and Becontree. New factories opened at Creekmouth to make use of the water there. A station was opened at Dagenham in 1865 to carry goods to the London markets, and in 1887 Dagenham Dock was built. The dock was developed on marshland near Dagenham Breach, which was partially filled with building rubble from London. Two new jetties were also built. This allowed large cargo ships to unload raw materials for the nearby industries. Hundreds of families moved into the area to work in the factories, including large communities from Manchester and Dundee.

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