Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Manchester
Manchester, the center of the southeast Lancashire conurbation, is the commercial and cultural capital of the northwest of England. It is noted as an arts, media, and higher education centre. With Salford and eight other municipalities, it forms the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, in which some three million people now live.
Manchester played an important part in the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the workers' movement. Friedrich Engels (1820-95) worked in his father's business in Manchester, gathering material for his "Condition of the Working Classes in England". The slums which he described have now disappeared, and the city, which suffered much destruction during the Second World War, has been rebuilt in modern style. Latterly, however, problems in the structure of the economy have in many places created new problem areas through high unemployment, emigration and decay. The legendary cradle of the cotton industry today finds itself, in common with other British cities, faced with the difficult task of a substantial, economically imperative restructuring. The decline of the traditional textile mills was dictated by various circumstances: the loss of markets in the colonies, insufficient urgency in reacting to change, an over-delayed switch from a labor-intensive to a capital-intensive economy, outdated production and organization techniques, as well as measures on the part of the government, which stepped up subsidies to other struggling branches of the economy, such as the mines and the docks. The main branches of industry today are mechanical engineering (GEC, Massey Ferguson, BICC, etc.) food (Heinz, Kellogg's, Wall's and United Biscuits), chemicals (Shell, Proctor and Gamble, Colgate Palmolive) and high-tech firms (Siemen's, Ferranti, ICL and IBM). The city's development into a stronghold of the insurance, banking and wholesale industries is reflected in the many new building complexes, e.g. the modern G Mex conference hall.
In a similar way to its neighbor, Liverpool, the last few years have seen the introduction of a whole range of measures designed to clean up the inner-city area, including the wide-ranging Castlefield project, with a museum complex on Liverpool Road. This extension of the city's entertainment and sports facilities has considerably enhanced the attractiveness of the city for the tourist.
Manchester lies at the point of intersection of the M6 (north-south) and M62 (east-west) motorways. The international airport is about 9mi/14km south of the city center. Trains from the south (London, Birmingham) run into Piccadilly Station, while services from Lancashire, Wales, Scotland, North and West Yorkshire use Victoria Station.
The Roman settlement of Mancunium was laid out on a flat gravel area. Its rise to prosperity began after Flemish immigrants introduced the manufacture of wool and linen in the 14th century. The extension of the canal network and road links with neighboring towns and the Pennines, which took place between 1700 and 1750, created the right conditions for the rapid growth of the textile industry. By 1850 the transport infrastructure had been further extended by the creation of railroad links, and in 1887-1894 this expansion continued with the building of the 35.5mi/57km long Manchester Ship Canal, which made the city navigable to ocean-going vessels (today up to 12,500 tons). Finally an international airport was established, second only to London.
These rail and canal links brought about the concentration of the textile industry in Manchester with its access to the sheep-rearing pastures of the Pennines and a skilled workforce. The first steam-driven spinning machines were the "Spinning Jenny", built by James Hargreaves in 1764, and Samuel Crompton's "Spinning Mule" of 1780. Five years later Edmund Cartwright invented the electric loom, which was however not successfully introduced until 1820. The distribution of the weaving and spinning branches of the industry became in effect a north-south division, with weaving being concentrated in the north of the city, spinning in the south. The cloth manufacturing industry's period of prosperity lasted until the end of the 19th century, whereas in the present century it has been beset by an increasing fall in demand and attendant crises.
Manchester's city centre has undergone extensive redevelopment to include popular shopping and entertainment complexes, and old mills converted to modern dwellings. Beetham Tower, completed in 2006, is the tallest building outside London - its stands 169 metres tall.