The Irish in Manchester, Lancashire England Before, During and After the Famine

The Irish that immigrated to Manchester, Lancashire England were drawn by the industrial growth and demand for labor. The Cotton Manufacturing Industry's development in particular provided many job opportunities.

Many of the Irish that came to Manchester were heavily concentrated in an area that became known as "Little Ireland." It consisted of a cluster of about 200 structures in very close proximity to each other that housed about 4000 people (primarily Irish). Factories encircled the area, the sanitation was poor, and the area was dark with poor ventilation. (Swift, Roger, 2002, p. 41). The slum-like conditions that existed in "Little Ireland" rivaled the densely populated Irish communities in Liverpool, London and Glasgow Scotland. (Swift, Roger and Gilley, 1985, p. 16). A cholera outbreak as early as 1821 in Manchester brought the over-crowded unsanitary conditions to the city official's attention, but conditions prevailed for years until the government implemented "sanitary acts" to improve the cities squalid conditions.

The mortality figures for Manchester showed the life expectancy to be more than 50% longer for the upper than the lower class. The numbers presented by Leon Faucher in his book "Manchester in 1844 its Conditions and Future Prospects were as follows: Professionals, gentry 38 years, shopkeepers 20 years and Factory operatives and laboring classes 17 years. The statistics were quite appalling for infants as well in this lower echelon of workers, with 570 out of 1000 infants dying before they turned 6. (Faucher, 1969, p. 69, 72).

According to the book "The Irish in the Victorian City," the Irish-born immigrants in Manchester already accounted for 1/5 of the population by the year 1834. (Swift, Roger, Gilley, 1985, p. 226). Manchester ranked number four in the top 20 Irish towns in Britain between 1851 and 1871 according to a table compiled by Roger Swift in his book "Irish Immigrants in Britain 1815-1914- A Documentary History." (13.1 % of the total population was Irish). (Swift, 2002, p. 35).

Many Irish immigrants that came through Liverpool and couldn't find work moved on to Lancashire for the promise of jobs associated with the expanding industry. Wide arrays of jobs were associated with the Cotton Mills (such as weaving, spinning, printing, dying, finishing, carding etc). Manchester was noted for its production of woolen cloth and cottons for hundreds of years before the exponential growth of the 19th century, but the process was very basic, working with just unbleached materials that were purchased, dyed and transported to market often via horseback. (Faucher, 1969, p. 11). In the early years "raw wool, flax and cotton were purchased and then woven by hand spinning wheels and looms. It was then dyed and sold." (Bagley, 1961, p. 2).

Significant growth and development of the textile Industry occurred from the mid 1700's to around 1850 when a host of equipment was invented that facilitated production such as the Fly Shuttle, the Spinning Jenny and the Mule (invented by weavers that allowed production of the finest yarns), the Power Loom, Dressing machine and Carding Machines. The steam engine that replaced the waterwheel led to development along the waterways. Manchester became the hub of the Textile industry. Many towns surrounding Manchester such as Bolton, Preston, Chorley, Rochdale, Oldham, Halifax, Ashton and Stockport among others worked in conjunction with Manchester to spin, Weave, dye and print the cotton. Manchester finished the product in preparation for shipping. Manchester's location and access to three waterways (the Medlock, Irk and Irwell Rivers) facilitated the development of not only the textile industry but also other manufacturers as well such as tanneries, dye works, machine shops, calico printers and foundries. (Faucher, 1969, p. 16-17). Development of the canal system, roadways and eventually the railroad (opened between Manchester and Liverpool in 1830) enhanced Manchester's productivity, their connection with the surrounding towns that supported the textile industry and provided efficient transport to Liverpool for shipping of products. "By 1825, 24 Iron Foundries and 37 Machine Manufactures were established in Manchester..." "By the beginning of the 19th century, cotton had almost entirely replaced wool and linen in the Lancashire Mills." (Bagley, 1961, p. 55, 58).

According to Donald Macraid in his book "Irish Migrants in Modern Britain," The Irish were heavily represented in the "building trades" but also worked as bricklayers and masons, and in the textile industry working with hand looms and power looms as weavers and spinners. (Macraid, 1999, p. 52). Many in Manchester saw the Irish influx as detrimental competition resulting in less jobs and lower wages. (Swift, 2002, p. 36-37). The textile industry suffered from a series of events in the early 19th century that caused economic hardship. A series of bad harvests from 1838 to 1841 increased food prices but decreased wages; many American banks collapsed in 1836 negatively impacting the cotton industry; tariffs placed by the U.S. to protect their manufactures vs. the competition from England was detrimental; increased competition from foreign competitors and decreased circulation of funds from the Banks of England during economic downturn all had an adverse effect on the textile industry. According to Faucher, Manchester fared better through the economic downturn than some of the smaller towns. (Faucher, 1969, p. 142,143). There was an economic turn-around, but when the U.S. civil war began in 1861, the cotton supply from the Southern part of the U.S. was blocked bringing another economic downturn to the Lancashire area lasting almost 4 years. (Bagley, 1961, p. 59).

I have read a variety of great books that discuss the industrial development of the County of Lancashire and the Irish and their impact on Manchester, Lancashire, England by some of the great authors listed below that I have referenced in this page:

Bagley, J.J., 1961. A History of Lancashire with Maps and Pictures. London: Darwen Finlayson LTD.

Faucher, Leon 1969; Manchester in 1844 its Present Conditon and Future Prospects. London; Simpkin, Marshall and Co

MacRaild, Donald 1999. Irish Immigrants in Modern Britain, 1750-1922. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Swift, Roger, Editor 2002. Irish Migrants in Britain 1815-1914 A Documentary History. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press.

Swift, Roger and Gilley, Sheridan, Editors 1985. The Irish in the Victorian City. London, England Croom Helm Ltd.

I have obtained many of these great reads at University Libraries, but the publishers of these works should be able to assist you in obtaining them as well. If your Irish ancestors lived in Manchester, even for a brief period, these detailed works will give you tremendous insight in what life was like for them in Lancashire in the 19th-20th century.

In researching my Irish ancestry, I have identified numerous Brennan, Corcoran, Coffee, Gahagan (and numerous variations of these surnames) families who were born in both County Mayo and County Roscommon Ireland in the England Census records for Manchester and the surrounding Civil Parishes. I am trying to trace these families from the Ireland church records to the England Census records and beyond and will include those who passed through or settled in Manchester in this section.

Book, Websites and other Resources for Manchester Research Irish Families Traced to Manchester from County Mayo or County Roscommon, Ireland
Manchester in 1844 Its Present Condition and Future Prospects. by Leon Faucher. This reference has a lot of information on the development of the Manchester Textile Industry A Brief Synopsis of the Irish in the St. St George Sub Registration Districts 1-15 of Manchester Civil Parish in the 1841 Census
Deansgate Library - Manchester Room. Has great resources for local family history A Brief Synopsis of the Irish in the St. St George Sub Registration Districts 16-29 of Manchester Civil Parish in the 1841 Census
The Reynolds letter. An Irish Emigrant Family in Late Victorian Manchester. edited by Lawrence W McBride. Story of an Irish immigrant families journey to Manchester, England. A Brief Synopsis of the Irish in the St. St George Sub Registration Districts of Manchester Civil Parish in the 1851 Census, their Counties of Origin in Ireland and Occupations held
Lancashire A Social History 1558-1939. by John K Wolton This book has lots of information on the development of Manchester amond other Towns in Lancashire. Brennan Families (and all variations of the Surname) Identified in the Manchester, Lancashire, England Census Records, Possible Origins in Ireland and Links Between the Census Years
A History of Lancashire with Maps and Pictures. By J. J Bagley This books covers the development of Manchester and Liverpool among other places in Lancashire. Corcoran Families (and all variations of the Surname) Identified in the Manchester, Lancashire, England Census Records, Possible Origins in Ireland and Links Between the Census Years
Website: Pride of Manchester- the online guide to Irish Manchester. Coffey (Coffee, Coffy) Families Identified in the Manchester, Lancashire, England Census Records, Possible Origins in Ireland and Links Between the Census Years
Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society. (great website and resource for Irish genealogical research.) The James Corcoran and Mary Veronica Sarah McManus Family of Manchester, England: An Analysis of Migration from County Roscommon Ireland to Manchester, England
The Irish in Victorian Britain. edited by Roger Swift and Sheridan Gilley This a great overall resource on the Irish in England The John Corcoran and Maria Marshall Family of Lancashire, Manchester, England: An analysis of their Migration from Ireland to Manchester, England
Irish Migrants in Modern Britain, 1750-1922. by Donald M McRaid. Another great overall resource on the Irish in England.  
Irish Migrants in Britain, 1815-1914. edited by Roger Swift. Another great book by Roger Swift on the Irish in England.