The dark beginnings of Spinningfields


Over the years, Spinningfields has earned a reputation as one of Manchester’s most dynamic and thriving destinations.

Considered one of the city’s most exclusive areas, Spinningfields is home to many of Manchester’s most exclusive office developments and most expensive apartments, as well as one of the busiest and most important civil courts in the city. UK.

The area has become a thriving hub for work and entertainment, largely thanks to a handsome £1.5billion cash injection from Allied London in the 2000s.

However, things weren’t always that way for Spinningfields, with the area once plagued by crippling poverty.

Science Museum Group Collection

If you go back a few hundred years to the 1800s, technology and economic needs had transformed the once picturesque market town on the banks of the Irwell into the spearhead of England’s Industrial Revolution, with sprawling slums and chemical factories producing dyes used in the textile industry lining the banks of the river.

Due to the boom in employment opportunities, overcrowding became a major problem in the area at this time, with three or more families sharing a room.

This has led to a decline in hygiene and sanitation; slaughtered pigs and chickens were kept out of the streets, and there was a near-constant flow of human filth unchecked by sanitation everywhere thousands of people lived, worked and, tragically, died.

Friedrich Engels was the man who revealed this extreme poverty that gripped the region; in 1842 and at the age of twenty-two, the budding journalist was sent from his home in Germany to England to help run the family cotton mill.

Science Museum Group Collection

And while his father, a wealthy businessman, had hoped the move would alienate him from his “increasingly radical beliefs”, a young Friedrich instead became a witness to the suffering and exploitation of the class. Manchester worker.

According to the American socialist publication Jacobin MagazineFriedrich described a public bathroom in the Old Town district as so squalid that “the yard dwellers can’t get in or out of the yard unless they’re prepared to wade through puddles of urine and water.” ‘outdated excrement’.

Read more: FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The quirky story of the Shudehill Armory

He wrote: “Here are long narrow lanes between which run constricted and winding courts and passages, the entrances to which are so irregular that the explorer is caught in a dead end at every step, or comes out where he expects. the least, unless he knows every court and every lane exactly and separately.

“The most demoralized class in all of Manchester lived in these ruinous and filthy quarters, people whose occupations were theft and prostitution.”

Friedrich Engels/Wikimedia Commons

He also described the streets of Spinningfields as being filled with ‘disgusting filth and filth’ and ‘puddles of stagnant urine and excrement’.

And it wasn’t just poverty-stricken Spinningfields; Engels also reported that what are now bustling Arndale and Printworks areas were also “overwhelmed”.

He described how the tiny public squares were rented out by “pig herders”, recalling that the atmosphere, which was “confined on all four sides”, was “completely corrupted by putrefying animal and vegetable substances”.

Engels’ inquiry into Manchester’s poverty was eventually chronicled in his book The condition of the working class in Englandwhere working conditions in factories during the industrial revolution were considered dangerous, unhealthy and inhumane.

Dunk / Flickr

It was concluded that workers – men, women and children – spent endless hours in the factories working, with the average number of hours per working day varying between twelve and fourteen hours.

Interestingly, Engels repeatedly used the phrase “social murder” to describe the grim conditions in which the working class was forced to live.

It took nearly 100 years for Spinningfields to start rebuilding its reputation, the slum buildings are believed to have been demolished in the 19th century.

Since then the area has undergone a number of iterations, most recently in the 2000s when Allied London injected £1.5 billion into the creation of the commercial and retail space, which is today a thriving part of Manchester’s economy.

And, as a nod to the impact Friedrich Engels had on Manchester, there is now a statue of him in the city centre, although he is some distance from Spinningfields outside the cinema and theater complex.


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