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Manchester History, United Kingdom

The city of Manchester started out as a mere Roman fort built from wood around 80 A.D.  The fort was named Mamuciam, or “breast-shaped hill.”  The Roman armies stayed in the area until 407 A.D.  In 200 A.D. the fort was rebuilt out of stone.  Around this time, a small civilian population began to spring up around the fort in order to market their goods to the soldiers.  After the Roman armies left the area was abandoned and the fort was soon in ruins.

Two hundred years later, the Saxons resettled the area and created a tiny village.  The Saxon word for the Roman forts was “ceaster.”  Therefore, the new name for the village was Mamm ceaster.  Over time, the name evolved into its final form: Manchester.

In 919 A.D. the ruined Roman fort was restored by the king in order to defend the area from Danish invasion.  At this time, the fort was named Castlefield and the original area of the city is known by this name today.  In the 1980’s this area of the city was turned into an “Urban Heritage Park” and the Roman fort was reconstructed.

In the early 1200’s, Lord Robert Grelly built a manor house along with the church St. Mary.  He partitioned his land into several plots and rented them out in order to give craftsmen a place to work.  This caused the population to grow and a town developed. 

Over the next four centuries the population continued to grow and the town obtained a grammar school and an archaic water line.  Then, in 1603 approximately one quarter of the town’s population was killed by the plague.  The town was restored quickly due to the positions of those who had passed away being replaced by poor people in the surrounding countryside.  Another outbreak of the plague occurred in 1645.

Three years earlier the English Civil War began.  Manchester was on the side of Parliament and was well-defended against the Royalist armies.  The people of the town built earthen walls and erected posts made of wood that were linked by chains in a circle around the town.  The Royalist armies tried to take Manchester for over a week but were never successful.

The next century saw many improvements to the town and a great population growth.  The improvements included the building of St. Ann’s Church in 1712.  During the next century the church was made into a cathedral and a tower was built.

On August 16, 1819 the Peterloo massacre occurred in St. Peter’s field outside of Manchester.  Eleven people were killed and over 600 more were wounded when the Manchester Yeomanry was sent to arrest some radical speakers.  Their audience, which consisted of tens of thousands, harassed the soldiers.  The soldiers then turned on the crowd.  The town magistrates sent another group of soldiers in to try to disperse the crowds, but instead this group turned on the crowds as well.

One of the reasons for the anger of the crowds was the fact that Manchester was filled with slums.  There were families living in one room cellars and some had to sleep on straw heaps.  These parts of the town were filthy and filled with disease.  This led to an outbreak of cholera in 1832 that killed almost 700 people.

In the nicer parts of the town, however, there were great improvements including the opening of many museums and other institutions.  Later in the century, the town council put effort into cleaning up the slums which were completely demolished in the early twentieth century. 

The early 1900’s were a time of great growth for the city.  This includes the opening of Manchester University in 1903.  The city center of Manchester was all but destroyed during World War II, however the next one hundred years saw great development and growth for the city including the addition of a Chinatown in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

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