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Manchester has long been known for it’s success, mostly in pop culture, for things such as our footballing prowess (We have the most prolific football team in English history!) and dominating the music scene with some of the biggest and most iconic bands in recent times. But what else is Manchester known for, what else do we have to be proud of?
It’s Not Just Football & Music
A famous but unattributed quote linked to Manchester is: "What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow". This still rings true today as much as it did over one hundred and fifty years ago with the city’s inception in 1853. Here we are going to take a look at the engineering achievements of Manchester that helped shape the future for our country and the world.
A Few Facts First
Before we delve into Manchesters rich engineering history, lets just look at a couple of great facts about Manchester. In 2003, we had the highest number of patent applications per head of population in the United Kingdom. It certainly shows we’re a city of thinkers that are always striving to find new techological achievements.
Manchesters Universities have a total of 25 Nobel Laureates, the only other universities to have more in England are the Oxbridge Universities. That certainly says something about the quality of teaching provided by the city and goes some way to explaining our rich engineering past. In addition, only 7 other nations have more Nobel Laurates….. That’s not bad for a little city from the North.
So lets take a look at some of the legacies Manchester has given to Britain and the World.
The Modern Canal
The Bridgewater Canal is sometimes described as England’s first canal. Named after its owner, Francis Egerton the third Duke of Bridgewater who built the Canal to transport coal from his mines at Worsley to the industrial areas of Manchester, the Bridgewater Canal was the forerunner of canal networks.
Opened on 17th July 1761, the Bridgewater Canal has a special place in history as the first canal in Britain to be built without following an existing watercourse, and so became a model for those that followed it. Affectionately known as the “Dukes Cut” the Bridgewater Canal revolutionised transport in this country and marked the beginning of the golden canal era which followed from 1760 to 1830. [source: www.bridgewatercanal.co.uk]
The First Passenger Railway
Liverpool Road Station is the Manchester terminus of the record-breaking Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Built by ambitious businessmen to link the factories of Manchester with the docks at Liverpool, the railway was an instant success. As the profits poured in, the pioneering project was copied all over the world. Soon, a vast network of iron rails covered the country triggering a transformation of technology and trade.
Built in 1830, this is the oldest passenger station in the world. In its working life, it was a scene of constant activity, as up to 2,500 travellers poured through the doors every day. The railway meant that people could travel faster than ever before, at less than half the price of a stagecoach. The busy service soon outgrew this building and in 1844, the passenger trains were rerouted to the grand new Victoria station. [source: www.msimanchester.org.uk]
A 235 foot long engineering masterpiece, built to carry the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal. The aqueduct pivots on an island in the middle of the ship canal and swings full of water, 800 tons of it. One of the engineering feats of the waterway world it attracts navigational enthusiasts from all around the world.
Built between 1893 and 1894 to replace Brindley's 3 arch aqueduct of 1761. The bridge compirsing an iron trough 18 feet wide, 7 feet deep and 235ft long full of water on roller bearings is driven by hydraulic machinery, supplied by electrically driven pumps.
The bridge swings twice daily - more if a ship needs to pass, the aqueduct has to be swung slowly in order to prevent the water moving to the extent of upsetting its equilibrium. A viewing platform at the rear of Chapel Place affords a good view of the bridge. [source: www.visitmanchester.com]
The First Municipal Airport
In the inter-war years, the City of Manchester, in its quest to establish a municipal airport, chose the location of Fox hill Farm, alongside the present A57 in 1928. This choice was strongly influenced by the City’s Cleansing Department’s ownership there of 2600 acres and additional persuasion by John Leeming, who went on to lead the Lancashire Aero Club into existence at the airfield.
Building of the Airport commenced in March 1929 and to initially reduce costs, the area was limited to 80 acres east of Fox Hill Glen.
The Airport officially opened on 29th January 1930 with a large Hangar, which was designed to house the most advanced passenger aircraft of the day, the Imperial Airways Argosy. The airport became the first municipal airfield in the UK to be licensed by the Air Ministry and the iconic Control Tower was completed shortly after. Both the Control Tower and original Hangar are now Grade II listed buildings and remain in operation today.
The first landing was by an Avro Avian, with the first large aircraft to use the airfield being Imperial Airway’s three-engine Argosy on 23rd May 1930. [source: www.cityportandheliport.com]
The First Purpose Built Industrial Estate
Trafford Park was built on land purchased from one of the region’s oldest and most noble families, the De Traffords. In the mid-19th century, the contrast of this stretch of meadow and “beautifully-timbered deer park” with the smoke-spouting chimneys and poverty-stricken streets of central Manchester would have been stark. The advancement of the steam engine, aided by a wet climate that suited the production of textile goods, principally cotton, had put Manchester – aka “Cottonopolis” – at the vanguard of the industrial revolution. [source: www.theguardian.com]
The First Computer
Freddie Williams started work in July 1946 on a form of digital storage using a Cathode Ray Tube, at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) at Malvern. He demonstrated the successful operation of a single bit memory using the "anticipation pulse method" in early October, and provisionally patented this system in December 1946. The bit was stored in the form of a charge on the CRT screen's phosphor, which could be controlled by the electron beam to write a 0 or a 1. Although the phosphor was an electrical insulator, the charge would leak away in the order of a second. Freddie Williams arranged to read the charge and then rewrite it continuously at electronic speeds so that information could be kept permanently; this process was called "regeneration" and the principle is still used today to replenish charge on modern integrated circuit RAMs. [source: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk]
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