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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Manchester

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From factories into flats


The Olde English name was "ana cots" meaning "old cottage". Unfortunately none of these cottages have survived. Today slum dwellings and factories remain and are seen as the area's trademark.

Aerial photograph of Ancoats, 1960
© Ancoats Buildings Preservation Trust
George Leigh owned much of the land in the late-18th Century. Spotting the desperate need for flat, unspoilt land, he sold off areas, based on a grid format, to industrialists left, right and centre, based on a grid format. The land had originally been market gardens and as such was virgin soil, ideal for canny capitalists to put to use.

From this soil grew the world's first industrial suburb. Factories, housing and community facilities, such as the recently restored St Peter's Church and the Methodist Women's Mission, gave Ancoats the architectural heritage that still lives on today. At the time it was a busy and dirty area - typifying the architecture and lifestyles of the day. Friedrich Engels took it to be such a 'good' example he used it, and its people, as the basis for his book "Conditions of the Working Class in England" in 1844.

Lilac now grows over much of the derelict buildings
© Ancoats Buildings Preservation Trust
The mills, most of which still remain, are a sad testament to its downturn in fortune. Much of the original back-to-back housing was cleared in 1880, in an early attempt at urban regeneration. When cotton finally left in the 1950s, many of the residents were moved to what are now known as Manchester's sink estates.

However many buildings remain, albeit in a state of disrepair, bearing witness to greater times. One of the best examples of this is the Murray's Mill complex.

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