The Manchester Region

 

 

Introduction

 

This chapter describes the regional perspective which has been an important spur to economic historical writing over the last couple of decades. It shows the extent to which contemporary writers regarded Manchester as being part of an economic region. Consideration is given to the extent that Manchester did in fact have a region during the period. It quantifies the importance of different places within that region, in the context of Manchester's economy, and shows the extent to which the transformation of the economy of Manchester impacted on the economic structures of the regional satellites. A part of the discussion centres on the adequacy of the proto-industrial model of development, which is often associated with the regional perspective, to explain the changes described in the early part of the chapter.

 

The Manchester Region

 

Manchester made only a small proportion of the textile goods sold through its warehouses: the latter were at the centre of a system of production which dominated what could be described, geographically, as the Manchester region.  The regional perspective has been championed by economic historians in recent years as an imoportant analytical framework within which to study economic change, especially during the time of the industrial and commercial changes which have been characterised as the Industrial Revolution. [1]. The regionalists argue that regional analysis will overcome the shortcomings of explanatory models based upon national economic aggregates which necessarily obscure the transformations which occurred at sub-national level, where some industries in some regions were in a state of dramatic decline, whilst others were growing rapidly and the nature of production also in a state of flux. The regional perspective is, however, an analytical method and not an explanatory model: it does not seek to explain why the industrial revolution occurred as classical perspectives do, it seeks to re-focus the debate surrounding the revolution to a lower level, which has the advantage of moving the debate from fairly abstract macro-economic theory, to a more concrete empirical and quantitative level.

 

Modern economic historians have suggested that, during the period, the Manchester region was a “complicated pattern of sub-regions, which arguabley only attained a real measure of coherent regional identity with the completion of the transition to factory-centred industrialisation.” [2] However, the regional aspect of the Manchester trade was well-acknowledged by contemporaries. Aikin's work of 1795 is an attempt to describe the regional economy of Manchester, in which almost every township within a thirty mile radius of the town had a part to play in either the spinning, weaving or finishing of textiles for the Manchester market. He explains in some detail the part played by many of the townships in this regional economy (whilst curiously neglecting those townships within the parish of Manchester). There was a consciousness of the fact of Manchester being the lynchpin of an economic region: "The centre we have chosen is that of the cotton manufacture; a branch of commerce, the repid and prodigious increase of which is, perhaps, absolutely unparalled in the annals of trading nations. Manchester is, as it were, the heart of this vast system, the circulating branches of which spread all around it, though to different distances." [3] In 1800, Radcliffe met with the principal manufacturers of Manchester and Stockport at which they "found there was not a village within thirty miles of Manchester, on the Cheshire and Derbyshire side, in which some of us were not putting out cotton warps, and taking in goods, employing all the weavers of woollen and linen goods who were declining those fabrics as the cotton trade increased." [4]  There were efforts to solve regional problems at a regional level: some of the largest manufacturers of pure cotton goods, met at Manchester early in 1791, to organise opposition to the import of muslins and cotton goods from the East Indies. [5] By the end of the period, there were even efforts at the regional organisation of workers, to oppose the exportation of spun cotton, to be woven outside the country. [6]

 

Later historians have noted the importance of the Manchester economic region during the period. "the economic history of the Manchester region has hardly been touched since... 1931." [7] The leading economic historians of early nineteenth century Manchester sought to "explore the linkages of the factory firm to other economic components by inserting the former into the totality of a local economic system. Manchester provides an ideal site for such an investigation, It is the central nodal point of the Industrial Revolution..." [8] In their formulation, "local economic system", however, excluded anywhere outside the town of Manchester: the local economic system, was that of a self-contained city. It is the contention of this chapter that the villages and towns surrounding Manchester, its economic hinterland, played a crucial and increasingly important role in the economy of Manchester during the period in question. Manchester's very existence, indeed, was predicated on this rural economy. For the purposes of this chapter, the "local economic system" stretched far beyond the boundaries of the town.

 

The Regional Occupational Structure

 

Table 2 shows the occupations of grooms from a number of townships near Manchester.

 

TOWNSHIP

1750s

 

 

 

 

1790s

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wvr

Tex

Agr

Oth

Tot

Wvr

Tex

Agr

Oth

Tot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackley

14

1

5

1

21

23

1

1

6

31.

Broughton

7

1

2

0.00

10.00

1.00

3.00

0.00

2.00

6.00

Chorlton

0.00

0.00

7.00

4.00

11.00

0.00

1.00

2.00

2.00

5.00

Denton

2.00

0.00

1.00

3.00

6.00

6.00

0.00

1.00

32.00

39.00

Didsbury

2.00

0.00

3.00

3.00

8.00

3.00

0.00

1.00

1.00

5.00

Droylsden

5.00

0.00

2.00

4.00

11.00

9.00

3.00

0.00

8.00

20.00

Failsworth

7.00

0.00

0.00

1.00

8.00

11.00

0.00

2.00

3.00

16.00

Gorton

3.00

3.00

3.00

2.00

11.00

6.00

2.00

1.00

8.00

17.00

Heaton Norris

2.00

0.00

2.00

1.00

5.00

9.00

10.00

8.00

22.00

49.00

Moston

8.00

1.00

1.00

0.00

10.00

9.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

12.00

Salford

25.00

4.00

4.00

13.00

46.00

14.00

31.00

2.00

35.00

82.00

Stretford

3.00

6.00

6.00

4.00

19.00

8.00

1.00

9.00

17.00

35.00

Withington

2.00

0.00

2.00

1.00

5.00

2.00

1.00

8.00

6.00

17.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

%ages

47.00

9.00

22.00

22.00

 

30.00

16.00

11.00

43.00

 

%ages excl Salford

44.00

10.00

27.00

19.00

 

35.00

9.00

14.00

43.00

 

Manchester Town (%)

33.00

19.00

8.00

40.00

 

18.00

32.00

8.00

42.00

 

                                         

 

 

 

 

Key

Wvr= weavers            Tex= other textile workers

Agr= agriculturists            Oth= other occupations

 

Table 2. Occupations of Grooms from Outlying Townships. 1750s & 1790s.  [9]

 

The table shows the importance of weaving to the rural economy of the Manchester parochial region in the 1750s. The townships, with the exception of Salford, were those on the periphery of Manchester, and Manchester was the largest local centre. For the group of townships as a whole, weavers constitute almost 47% of the sample, excluding Salford, which, being in some respects, an extension of the town of Manchester, had a different occupational structure from that of the rural townships which are represented in the table, the figure drops slightly to 44%. Other textile employments accounted for almost 10%, and agriculture for over a quarter. In the 1750s, the importance of agriculture was concentrated in the southern townships of Chorlton, Didsbury, Withington and Stretford, where textiles were less important than in northern townships such as Blackley, Droylsden and Failsworth. These figures show that, overall, even during the 1750s weaving provided more employment in the rural townships of the Manchester region than did agriculture, [10]. However, agriculture was often a significant by-employment of weavers in the region. Clarkson's second feature of proto-industrialisation is that "the industrial products made by peasant manufacturers who combined say, weaving or stocking-knitting with farming." [11] That this was the case is confirmed by an comment of Samuel Oldknow's agent in Anderton, a rural community close to Chorley in Lancashire, who noted, as late as 1786, that "haytime is coming on and if some more weavers gets work they are likely to hold it some time on that Acc[oun]t." [12] By the 1750s, in the area immediately surrounding the town of Manchester the relative importance of the two sectors in terms of adult male employment was unambiguous.

 

By 1790, the position had changed somewhat in the countryside, as it had done in Manchester. Once again excluding Salford, the proportion of weavers fell (although absolute numbers in the sample increased), whilst those engaged in other textile employments remained more or less constant. The proportion of men engaged in agriculture almost halved between the two dates, and those employed in other occupations more than doubled. This latter change is largely a consequence of the dramatic growth of the hat making trade in Denton, a rural township to the south east of Manchester. The Denton figures for the 1790s sample include 15 feltmakers and 12 hatters, or 30% of those engaged in "Other" occupations (excluding Salford). This shows that, whilst textiles remained an important source of employment in the region between the two dates other occupations also increased in significance.

 

When compared with the abstract of figures from the occupational structure of Manchester at comparable dates, a significant pattern emerges: weaving was a, proportionately, more important employer of male labour in the rural townships around Manchester than in Manchester itself. This proportional significance decreased between the 1750s and the 1790s, but remained. Manchester had employed proportionally more "other" textile workers than the countryside (predominantly finishing trades during the 1750s, and cotton spinners and finishing trades during the 1790s). The conclusion is that weaving was a more significant employer of labour in the countryside than in the town throughout the period. Manchester's had less of a manufacturing role than did its hinterland.

 

Regional Textile Traders

 

Manchester's role in this regional economy, therefore, primarily lay elsewhere than in manufacture. Its role was, of course, as a marketing centre for the various products of the rural townships, and of the town itself. Clarkson's fourth feature of proto-industrialisation is that "Towns located in manufacturing zones were principally centres of trade and commerce." [13]This role as a marketing centre increased during the period, even though there was a growth of the new mechanised spinning of cotton within Manchester: the importance of weaving to the town declined fairly steadily throughout the period. [14] An indicator of the significance of Manchester, in its role as a regional commercial centre, is the number of tradesmen from other towns and villages who traded in the Manchester market.  Table 3 shows the places of origin of tradesmen who had warehouses in Manchester, and who were thus buying or selling in the Manchester market.

 

Residence

1772.00

1781.00

1788.00

1794.00

1800.00

Aikin’s Comment (1795)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ashton

1.00

9.00

3.00

19.00

13.00

twist & warps for velverets, other thicksets

Blackburn

0.00

1.00

0.00

0.00

7.00

calicoes & bleaching

Bolton

19.00

35.00

40.00

46.00

49.00

muslin & fancy goods, originally fustian

Bury

1.00

9.00

7.00

11.00

13.00

cotton & woollen trade

Colne

0.00

0.00

2.00

0.00

13.00

calicoes & dimities , originally woollens

Halifax

0.00

0.00

0.00

2.00

5.00

wool, kerseys and baize

Hindley

0.00

3.00

6.00

5.00

3.00

-

Macclesfield

0.00

1.00

0.00

5.00

9.00

buttons

Mottram

0.00

6.00

5.00

1.00

5.00

weavers, hatters, cotton spinners

Oldham

7.00

6.00

0.00

8.00

6.00

strong fustians

Radcliff

0.00

5.00

7.00

5.00

4.00

weavers

Rochdale

0.00

0.00

3.00

10.00

6.00

cotton & woollen trade

Saddleworth

1.00

7.00

8.00

0.00

0.00

cotton & woollen cloth

Staleybridge

0.00

16.00

15.00

32.00

26.00

woollen manufacture

Stockport

0.00

6.00

4.00

26.00

21.00

silk, cotton manufacture, muslins

Wigan

1.00

2.00

14.00

2.00

4.00

cotton & check manufacture

Others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

119.00

310.00

296.00

305.00

358.00

 

 

 

 

Table 3. Places of Origin of Tradesmen with Manchester Warehouses. [15]

 

These figures give an impression of the relative importance of local towns and villages within the Manchester commercial economy. They give no impression of the scale of trade which each individual tradesman undertook, one single tradesman may have brought as many goods to the market as ten or more of his contemporaries. John Aikin’s comments about the different towns and villages have been appended to the table. These comments help to illustrate the type of goods being produced in each of the places listed.

 

The increase in the number of places sending tradesmen to the Manchester market suggest changes elsewhere, either in the process of marketing itself, or in the types of goods being produced for sale in the Manchester market. Table 4, below, illustrates this latter change in the regional context. As regards the increased importance of particular towns in the Manchester economy, as represented by this proxy measure, the following towns increase in significance between 1772-1788 and 1800: Ashton, Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Colne, Macclesfield, Staleybridge, and Stockport. The traders from these areas who had Manchester warehouses dealt in cotton and the new “fancy” fabrics of calico, muslin and dimity. Those areas which declined significantly in importance were: Radcliff, Saddleworth and Wigan. These areas were still heavily involved in the production of fustian, although pure cotton had started to penetrate the local economic structure.

 

The table also shows the increasing number of towns and villages which came to send tradesmen to Manchester, reflecting the growth of the economy during the period, and the consolidation of the regional market as local producers sold their produce through Manchester. Between 1772 and 1788, the directories suggest that the number of extra-mural traders doubled in number, and tripled by 1800. This also reflects the demographic expansion of the town. Some, at least, of this growth of the Manchester market must be attributable to the improvement of transport and communications infrastructure which is described later.

 

Occupation

1772.00

1781.00

1788.00

1794.00

1800.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

bleacher/ whitster

 

 

 

22.00

11.00

calico manufacturer

 

1.00

 

3.00

14.00

calico printer

 

15.00

7.00

3.00

 

check manufacturer

24.00

29.00

13.00

8.00

 

clothier

 

 

9.00

2.00

 

cotton manufacturer

 

 

7.00

77.00

 

cotton spinner

 

 

 

28.00

23.00

dimity manufacturer

 

 

 

6.00

8.00

fustian manufacturer

78.00

168.00

163.00

91.00

67.00

muslin manufacturer

 

 

 

20.00

30.00

paper maker

 

6.00

7.00

3.00

 

tanner

 

 

 

2.00

12.00

twist spinner/ warp maker

 

 

 

16.00

7.00

woollen manufacturer/ clothier

 

71.00

35.00

16.00

9.00

yarn merchant/ dealer

4.00

14.00

 

2.00

 

other

11.00

 

55.00

 

177.00

Total

117.00

 

296.00

 

358.00

 

 

 

 

Table 4. Occupations of Tradesmen with Warehouses in Manchester 1772-1800. [16]

 

Table 4 shows the occupations of the tradesmen residing outside Manchester, but retaining a warehouse in the town.

 

The table illustrates the introduction of new trades, and highlights the role of the extra-mural traders. Calico manufacturing and printing appear in the last two dates, as does cotton manufacture and spinning. Muslin manufacture and twist spinning appear in 1800. These, as described in the chapter "Innovations in Industrial and Commercial Processes", were the new branches of the textile industry in the period, and were, very largely, the product of major technical innovation. The decline of the older branches of the textile industry is also illustrated. Check and fustian manufacture were the only products of note sending tradesmen to the Manchester market in 1772. Fustian, along with wool, experienced a substantial increase in importance by 1788, representing considerably in excess of 50% of all extra-mural tradesmen represented in the Manchester market. By 1800, both these industries had declined in comparative and absolute importance: wool sent 9 tradesmen to market in 1800 (from a high of 35 in 1788), and fustian sent only 67, fewer than in 1772.

 

Tables 3 and 4 have shown the importance of the extra-mural traders to the Manchester economy, but it is necessary to determine the importance of Manchester in the extra-mural region. Table 5 shows the sectoral occupational structures of five of the larger parishes identified in table 3.

       

           Ashton         Bolton          Bury     Rochdale   Stockport     

 

1750.00

1800.00

1750.00

1800.00

1750.00

1800.00

1750.00

1800.00

1750.00

1800.00

Agric/Food

7.30

4.60

10.40

5.70

12.70

6.90

3.80

2.80

36.00

15.60

Building

1.80

4.00

4.10

2.40

2.40

3.50

5.40

4.20

4.00

2.80

Clothing

28.40

15.60

8.30

1.90

14.30

6.90

12.30

9.40

20.00

19.40

Distrib.

3.70

1.80

2.00

0.50

1.60

0.00

0.00

0.00

2.00

0.60

Textiles

45.00

58.50

69.70

76.20

57.10

70.80

65.20

64.00

15.00

42.20

Other

13.80

15.60

5.50

13.30

11.90

11.80

13.30

19.60

23.00

19.40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 5. Sectoral Occupational Structures of Key Parishes in Manchester Region [17]

 

The table shows two very clear trends. The first is the decline in the importance of the agriculture and food sector in the occupational structure of the parishes, this is as would be expected in areas of population growth, where there is a static number of farms, with no changes in the labour intensiveness of agriculture. The second trend is an increase in the proportional size of the textile sector in all the parishes, except Rochdale, where the proportion of 1800 is a point lower than in the 1750s. The textile sector in this parish accounted for almost a third of the sample even by the 1750s.

 

Whilst the fact that there was an increase in the importance of textile industries in the countryside around Manchester does not necessarily indicate that the outputs were destined for the Manchester markets, and then onwards for national or even international resale, the evidence of Aikin does suggest this. The table therefore shows the extent of the restructuring of the urban regional economies to meet the demand of the economic regime dominated by the Manchester market.

 

Protoindustrialisation?

 

The expansion of population in the Manchester region, in many ways similar to that happening in the town itself, has already been discussed in the context of the debate on proto-industrialization, its consequences have been less well covered. [18] The classic model of proto-industrialisation is as follows: rural craftsmen produced goods for non-local markets and combined craft production with agriculture. Because these craftsmen gave only a part of their time to farming, they did not produce enough food to meet their families needs, so part of their income from manufacture went to supplement the food they produced themselves. This helped to create a market for food. Towns which were in these proto-industrial areas were mainly marketing centres where cottage manufactures and food could be exchanged. [19] The model goes on to suggest that a combination of factors, the expansion of population in these regions, and the practice of partible inheritance, the size of holdings was reduced and holdings became less viable as farms, and more people turned to manufacture to pay rents and buy food.

 

Aikin described the same situation but his explanation is rather different. "Since the introduction of manufactures, property has become more minutely divided... The yeomanry, formerly numerous and respectable, have greatly diminished of late, many of them having entered into trade: but in their stead, a number of small proprietors have been introduced, whose chief subsistence depends upon manufactures, but who have purchased land round their houses, which they cultivate by way of convenience and variety." [20] The extract is quoted at length because it suggests a quite different situation from that posed by proto-industrialization theory. Aikin attributes the division of property to the coming of manufactures, rather than the other way round, therefore whilst he agrees with the phenomenon described by the theorists, that of the division of holdings, he disagrees with the cause.

 

This question of timing is fundamental: if the division of holdings preceded the coming of manufacturing, then the division may have been a causal factor leading to industrialisation. If, however, the coming of manufactures preceded the division of holdings, then this division was probably a consequence of industrialisation. Whilst Aikin conceded that some farmers had made the transition to trade, he also related that new tradesmen had come to the area and that, whilst they were primarily concerned with manufacture, they had bought land to supplement their income. Proto-industrial theory would have this the other way round: farmers turn to manufacture for subsistence, rather than manufacturers turning to farming. In the 1750s, a similar, albeit briefer, explanation was given, specifically with regard to under-employed weavers: "Others betook themselves to Out-work, such as Day labouring, &c. and when Summer was over and that failed, would again return to the Loom, and would be content to work upon any Terms... rather than starve in the Winter." [21] As well as pushing back the chronology of the self-exploitation debate by over fifty years, this author suggests that the manufacturers came first, and turned to agriculture to supplement their trade, rather than the other way round.

 

Radcliffe described the impact of the new innovations on his home town, Mellor. "From the year 1770 to 1788 a complete change had gradually been effected in the spinning of yarns, - that of wool had disappeared altogether, and that of linen was also nearly gone,- cotton, cotton, cotton, was become the almost universal material for employment, the hand-wheels, with the exception of one establishment were all thrown into lumber-rooms, the yarn was all spun on common jennies, the carding... was done on carding engines... In weaving no great alteration had taken place during these 18 years, save the introduction of the fly-shuttle, a change in the woollen looms to fustians and calico, and the linen nearly gone..." [22] The countryside, then, also saw the great changes in production which had become a feaure of urban life.

 

In the Manchester region, the role of the subordinate town was slightly different to that of the classic protoindustrial town. The occupational structures in Table 5 show the importance of these towns as centres of production, although undoubtedly these towns also organised the production in the surrounding countryside, and held goods in warehouses prior to onward sale, either in Manchester or, less frequently, to another British or interbnational market. The table does, however, confirm that the decline in relative importance (in terms of occupational structure) of agriculture took place in the Manchester region: this is a classic feature of protoindustrialisation.

 

The next chapter goes on to confirm another feature: the increasing role of Manchester as a regional market for food, as agriculture ceased to be an important local activity, food had to be brought from further afield. Whilst this was recognised as early as at the time of the Shudehill Fight of 1757, it became even more recognised by the 1790s when improvements in the transport infrastructure faciliated economic specialisation, allowing grain and more perishable foodstuffs to be imported from Cheshire and even further afield.

 

This chapter has used a number of different measures to determine the significant economic importance of the textile industries, and specifically the weaving sector of those industries, in the economy of the Manchester region. It has illustrated the growing importance of Manchester as a marketing centre, and demarcated, in geographical terms, the Manchester production region. The changing significance of different textile products has been identified and fitted into the time-frame of the late eighteenth century, and some doubt has been cast on the robustness of the classic proto-industrialisation model to explain the industrialisation of Manchester's region, although two of its important features have been shown to apply to the case of Manchester during this period. The main "novelty" of this chapter is that it quantifies a number of previously observed characteristics of the regional economy and illustrates the changes which took place within the eighteenth century chronology.

 

 

 

 


 

[1] - See for example, Hudson, P, "Regions and Industries", Cambridge, 1989.

 

[2] -  Walton, p 47.

 

[3] - Aikin, p 3.

 

[4] - Radcliffe, p 16.

 

[5] - HMM 2068, Jan 1791.

 

[6] - Radcliffe, p 76. The workers were from Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Chorley, Chowbent, Manchester, Newton, Oldham, Warrington, Whitefield, and Wigan.

 

[7] - Walton, p 41.

 

[8] - Lloyd-Jones and Lewis, p 15.

 

[9] - These are extracted from the Marriage Registers of Manchester Cathedral Church. They are based on the first 500 occupations of grooms from outside the town of Manchester from 1754 onwards and from 1797 onwards. The increased size of the latter sample suggests that the area serviced by the Church probably became smaller as more local churches were built. The figures for Manchester town are derived from Table 1 of the chapter "The Changing Economic Structure of Manchester".

 

[10] - But of course the size of the sample is very small and only a small number of townships have been selected (those with more than six entries in either one of the sample dates)

 

[11] - Clarkson, p 15.

 

[12] - Manchester Central reference Library, MF 731, letter from Thomas Swift to Samuel Oldknow, 4th July 1786.

 

[13] - Clarkson, p 16.

 

[14] - For the quantitative support to this argument, see the chapter "The Changing Economic Structure of Manchester". In absolute terms, the numbers of weavers would have increased, probably throughouit the period.

 

[15] - The data in this table are from: Elizabeth Raffald's Directory of Manchester and Salford, 1772, undated reprint of the 1889 edition, Neil Richardson, the Manchester and Salford Directory 1788, a reprint of the 1888 Lewis' edition, 1984, Neil Richardson, the Manchester and Salford Directory...of 1800, 1982 reprint, Neil Richardson. The figure for Staleybridge for 1788 includes Stealey, Stealey Wood and Stealey Bridge.

 

[16] - This table is derived from the same sources as Table 5, and shows the occupations of those tradesmen from outside the town, having warehouses in Manchester.

 

[17] - These data are derived from the marriage registers of the relevant parishes, the figures for 1750 relating to the period 1754-55, with the exception of the occupational data for Ashton, which has occupational designations recorded in the baptismal registers both for both 1750 and 1800.

 

[18] - The main summaries of extant work on the population expansion of the Manchester region during the period is Walton, and in Hudson, 1989.

 

[19] - This is paraphrased from the features described in Clarkson, pp15-16.

 

[20] - Aikin, p23.

 

[21] - Shuttle, p 5.

 

[22] - Radcliffe, p 61.