Social Provision in Ancoats and Angel Meadow

Click to enlarge
Manchester, Murrays Mills, Ancoats

The Poor and Undeserving Poor: Responses to Poverty

Ancoats was largely open land until development began in the late 1780s, and within a few decades the area had altered beyond recognition. It became one of the most intensely developed industrial centres in the world, and it was not just cotton spinning which took place: foundries, glass works and many other types of industrial premises sprang up alongside the mills. The pace was given impetus by the construction of the Rochdale Canal on the E side of the township, while speculators were laying out streets and building over the rest of the area.

The street grid suggests that the suburb was planned, but this is deceptive: there was no guiding hand or regulatory body, and the layout was the product of the pattern of sales and convenience of plot division by speculators. It was clear from the outset, however, that the demand was for industry and housing for the workers. Covenants attached to sales generally lacked clauses regulating nuisances, unlike the conditions pertaining to the sale of, for example, the Lever lands in the Oldham Street area. The housing put up for the workers was not all shoddy back-to-back slum housing, though there was plenty of this, but after the middle of the C19 even the superior housing was largely reduced to slums by overcrowding and lack of maintenance. In 1815 Ancoats was the Manchester rating district with the most cotton mills and the largest number of households. The population, swelled by large numbers of immigrants from Ireland as well as the surrounding area, rose from 11,039 in 1801 to 53,737 in 1861.

The poor social and sanitary conditions of the workers attracted the attention of a middle class appalled by the unforeseen consequences of urban industrialisation and fearful of the attendant disease, lawlessness and moral laxity. The conditions were exacerbated by the cyclical depressions affecting the cotton industry, the organisation of labour on seasonal and casual lines and the lack of building regulations. The response included the provision of a dispensary founded in 1828, but the shelters, ragged schools and model lodging houses which followed did not proliferate until later in the century.

Inside Social Provision in Ancoats and Angel Meadow:

Shelters and Hostels

Municipal Housing

Police and Fire Station

Ragged Schools and Ashton House