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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

(433,000 in 1991)
City in Greater Manchester on the east bank of the river Irwell; on the west bank, though the river is too small to provide a noticeable line of demarcation, stands the separate city of Salford. From AD 79 Manchester was the Roman fort of Mancunium, and its inhabitants are still known as Mancunians. The link with the textile industry began in the 14C when Flemish weavers settled here, but the transformation of a market town into the great metropolis of *cotton began only in the 18C. James *Brindley's Bridgewater canal brought cheap coal into the city in 1761; steam power was first used in Manchester in 1789 for the spinning of cotton; and the opening of the *Liverpool and Manchester railway in 1830 and of the *Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 made possible the export of vast quantities of finished goods.

The wealth of the city, combined with the pioneering efforts of its mill owners in the exploitation of factory workers, gave Manchester a radical edge. It was here that the *Peterloo massacre took place in 1819; it was in Manchester's mills that the political ideas of the young *Engels were formed. But the employers were radical too in their impatience with Britain's protectionism; the campaign of *Bright and Cobden against the Corn Laws was centred in Manchester (commemorated in the Free Trade Hall of 1856, the home of the *Hallé orchestra). The Manchester *Guardian, the leading English newspaper of liberal views, was founded in 1821.

Nearby, in Albert Square, is one of the greatest of Victorian town halls, Gothic in style with a huge clock tower, built 1867–76 to the design of Alfred *Waterhouse; the Great Hall has 12 murals by Ford Madox *Brown depicting the city's history. In keeping with its new dignity Manchester was made a diocese in 1847, whereupon the 15C parish church became the cathedral; it is known in particular for its finely carved choir stalls and misericords. The City Art Gallery, in a building of 1824–34 by Charles *Barry, has a European collection spanning the 14–20C but is strongest in British painting of the 19C – both pre-Raphaelite and high Victorian.

Two of Manchester's historic railway stations have recently been put to new uses. The site of the original passenger station for the *Liverpool and Manchester railway is now part of a Museum of Science and Industry. On a larger scale, the Central Station – opened in 1876 to the design of John *Fowler, with a single-span roof of 64m/210ft – has been turned into G-Mex, the Greater Manchester Exhibition and Events Centre. In 1992 the new Metrolink transport system was launched, reintroducing trams to link the road and rail networks. One of England's foremost cricket grounds is Manchester's *Old Trafford.

Manchester is famous for its libraries. Chetham's, founded by Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653), is the oldest free public library in England; it is attached to the school of the same name (see *music schools). The John Rylands library, a superb collection of rare books, is housed in an appropriately splendid Gothic building by Basil Champneys (1842–1935). The circular Central Library (1934) is England's largest municipal library, with a round reading room which can almost rival the one in the British Museum.

Platt Hall, a Palladian house of the mid-18C, has one of the largest displays in the country illustrating the history of costume. The Whitworth Art Gallery, a broadly based collection founded in memory of the engineer and inventor Joseph *Whitworth, has been since 1958 a part of the university of Manchester – which emerged from the earlier Owens College (1851) and was granted independent university status in 1904. Manchester Grammar School is now a *public school; founded in 1515, its high academic standards had long given it the reputation of being the country's leading grammar school.

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