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How have jobs in Manchester changed over the years?

Published: Monday 11th May 2015

From being the heart of the Industrial Revolution, to leading the way for the Northern Powerhouse; Manchester’s economic history has shaped the way the city looks and the jobs in Manchester that have been available. How have parts of Manchester changed over the years? 

Northern Quarter in Manchester

The first cotton mill in Manchester was opened in 1783, on the corner of Miller Street and Shudehill. Seventy years later, there were over a hundred mills in the city centre, creating thousands of jobs in Manchester. As Manchester became the centre of the Industrial Revolution, the area of the Northern Quarter saw both wealth and poverty. Oldham Street, the main street through the district, counted many warehouses and shops, while economic activity in the area continued to grow with the development of Smithfield Market. 

After the mills disappeared, in the later part of the 20th Century, the Northern Quarter was not considered to be a residential area. But since the 1990s, many of the old industrial and warehouse buildings in the area have been converted into flats. Today, the Northern Quarter is popular for its numerous bars and cafes, as well as its wide range of independent shops.

Manchester Bee symbol painted on wall

Salford Quays in Manchester

Salford Docks were one of two docks that made up the Manchester Docks. They were opened in 1894 by Queen Victoria and spanned 120 acres of water and 1,000 acres of land. At the height of their success, the Manchester Docks were the third busiest port in Britain. But containerization and the limit placed on vessel size on the Manchester Ship Canal meant the docks eventually closed in 1982, meaning that 3,000 jobs in Manchester were lost. Following the closure of the docks, the renamed Salford Quays became one of the first and largest urban regeneration projects in the United Kingdom. 

Today, the docks house the Lowry Museum, the Imperial War Museum North and MediaCityUK. The Lowry Outlet Malls include outlet stores of many well-known businesses including Marks & Spencer and Cadbury’s. And the former Colgate-Palmolive factory is undergoing a £25m renovation project, entitled Soapworks, to provide retail, accommodation and leisure facilities that are expected to create 2,000 new jobs in Manchester.

Trafford Park

Trafford Park is positioned opposite Salford Quays, on the other side of the canal. Once a deer park, belonging to the de Trafford family, it became the first planned industrial estate in the world. 

During the Second World War, Trafford Park produced war materiel such as heavy bombers and plane engines. In the 1960s employment in the park began to decline as companies closed their premises in favour of newer, more efficient plants elsewhere. In 1981, Trafford Park was declared an Enterprise Zone in an attempt to encourage new development within the estate.  Today, the park is a major centre of employment in Trafford, and its regeneration has led to a high start-up rate for businesses and low rates of unemployment in the area. As of 2008, there were 1,400 companies within the park employing an estimated 35,000 people.


The center of Crown Square on the area of Spinningfields Manchester city.

Spinningfields, an area in Manchester city centre, is located in the historic heart of Manchester, but was developed in the 2000s as a business, retail and residential development. By 2010, Manchester City Council stated that around 16,000 people were employed in Spinningfields and that the area accounted for over 35% of the Manchester’s prime office space.

Today, the area is dominated by commercial office developments and has been described as ‘the Canary Wharf of the North’, providing jobs in Manchester at companoes such as Barclays, HSBC Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and the Guardian Media Group.

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