"The township of Manchester chiefly consists of dense masses of houses, inhabited by the population engaged in the great manufactories of the cotton trade. Some of the central divisions are occupied by warehouses and shops, and a few streets by the dwellings of some of the more wealthy inhabitants; but the opulent merchants chiefly reside in the country, and even the superior servants of their establishments inhabit the suburban townships. Manchester, properly so called, is chiefly inhabited by shopkeepers and the labouring classes. Those districts where the poor dwell are of very recent origin. The rapid growth of the cotton manufacture has attracted operatives from every part of the kingdom, and Ireland has poured forth the most destitute of her hoardes to supply the constantly increasing demand for labour..."
- James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth, The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester, 1832.
Manchester lies 31 miles east of Liverpool and about 190 miles north of London. The city is located in a basin below the Rossendale upland, with lowlands lying south (Cheshire) and west (Merseyside). This basin contains many rivers, including the Irwell, Irk, Mersey, Medlock and Tib which flow through (and below) the city centre: these rivers supplied the early textile industry with its power. The growth of Manchester and the cotton industry are inextricably linked - it is remarkable to think that an exotic plant, growing far away from British shores, should play a vital part in the rise of Manchester and Lancashire, and help bring the North West of England to the forefront of industrial progress during the 18th and 19th Century. Manchester, or as it was later nicknamed "Cottonopolis", grew from a small market town, based on an ancient Roman settlement (Mamucium, or Mancunium) into the world's foremost industrial city, and played a central role in the Industrial Revolution. Manchester is recorded in the Domesday Book, and by the 13th Century was already a wool town of some note. Manchester's damp climate and numerous waterways made it the perfect town for the production of cotton, which began in the 16th Century. By 1543 the town's population stood at 2,300. Mosley built the first Cotton Exchange in the city in 1729, and from the mid-18th Century, Manchester became a world centre of cotton manufacture, cotton being imported from North America and India. By the 19th Century, Manchester became one of the world's pre-eminent industrial cities, "the Workshop of the World" and by 1851 - the year of the Great Exhibition - its population stood at 303,382, rising to over half a million by 1891 (563,368) and at peak of the cotton industry in 1921 stood at 730,307. Following the decline of the cotton industry after World War II, new uses have been found for many of the city's historic spinning mills and warehouses, many of which have been refurbished for both business and residential use.