Science & Industry

A place of huge industrial significance, we’ve selected some of Castlefield’s key events from over the past 2000 years that reflect the innovative thinking and entrepreneurial ambition of its pioneers.

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  • 1. The Pioneer’s Canal: 1760 – 2017
  • 2. Up Up & Away! 1880 – 1983
  • 3. Canal Workers: 1979
  • 4. Furnaces & Kilns: 2nd Century AD
  • 5. Grocer’s Company Warehouse: 1827, 1960, 1985
  • 6. Social Revolution: 1840
  • 7. Castlefield Ironworks: 1850 – 1895
  • 8. James Brindley: 1765, 1770, 1838
  • 9. Connecting the City: 2017
  • 10. The Museum of Science and Industry: 1969 to Date
  • 11. The Oldest Surviving Passenger Railway Station: 1830 – 1844
  • 12. All Aboard: 1830, 1880 – 1890
  • 13. Get Creative: 1984 – 2017

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Francis Egerton 3rd Duke of Bridgewater built “Britain’s first” canal to transport coal from Worsley mines to industrial Manchester. By 1765 the canal reached Castlefield. The Wharf & Basin became a hive of activity resulting in kilns, and the warehouses we still see, being built. Rochdale Canal joined the Bridgewater in 1805 creating an inland port.

Split by St Mathews Church, Lower & Upper Campfield Markets thrived due to the stream of goods from Liverpool Rd Station. Mondays, market day and Tuesday the horse fair. Usage of the pair varied in the 20th c, from an exhibition hall to a test space for munitions in WWI and for barrage balloons in WWII. In 1983 it became the Air & Space Museum.

Perhaps the unsung heroes of Castlefield’s revolution were the everyday workers. In 1979 Ken Howarth founded the North West Sound Archive, and set about trying to document the memories of the families of the Canal Workers of the Industrial heritage.

As long ago as the 2nd century this was an area of industry. White Lion Street’s excavation found evidence 33 furnaces, which would have been used for smithing, probably creating weapons and tools. Pottery Kilns from around the same time were uncovered on Tonman Street, and a pit on Liverpool road would probably have been used for tanning.

Built in the early 19th Century in the Bridgewater Canal Basin. It was one of the first large warehouses in Britain where barges could be unloaded within the building. Sold in 1811 to the Manchester Grocers’ Company hence the name. Their vessels sailed daily between Castle-Quay and Grocers’ Company Wharf, Liverpool.

The Hall of Science opened by the ‘co-operative’ movement creator Robert Owen (Byrom St) to encourage radical and reforming debate. Over 3,000 people would attend lectures here at weekends, on English social and political matters. Amongst the list of speakers, Friedrich Engels, co-author of the Communist Manifesto appeared here during his time in Manchester.

Commonly known as the J S Bass Warehouse, this was first the site of Castlefield Iron Works. Built on a sandstone bluff on the site of the Roman fort gave the name Castlefield. Later occupied by engineers and machinists, Vaughan & Hossack, and then Crighton & Son. J S Bass & Co were the last industrial business to own the property, now office space.

Engineer James Brindley was a canal pioneer who received little formal education, however left a legacy of engineering feats. He was renowned for designing industrial machinery, and created the lift system known as Grocers’ Company Warehouse tunnel, built to lift coal from the boats to the upper street levels with ease.

The Metrolink has served Castlefield since the first line opened in 1992 with the local tram stop being named G-Mex. Local pressure led to the name of the stop being changed to Deansgate-Castlefield in 2010.

First set on Grosvenor St, the museum was so busy it had to expand. When Liverpool Rd Station shut in ’75 the council bought it as MOSI’s new home. The museum has continued to grow and proudly displays objects and ideas to explain all things scientific or industrial. An additional changing programme of exhibitions also educates and inspires.

The Manchester to Liverpool Railway opened in 1830 – the first passenger railway in the world. The station closed to passenger services on 4 May 1844 with the opening of Victoria Station, however it still operated as a bustling goods yard until British Rail took over in 1948. The original station survives as part of the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Manchester & Liverpool Railway was opened in 1830 – the first line to rely exclusively on steam power, with no horse-drawn traffic. Much of the brick and iron infrastructure that makes Castlefield so distinctive is linked in some way to the expansion of the railways, which enabled Manchester’s cotton industry to thrive.

Castlefield Gallery (est.1984) supports exciting contemporary practice whereas Saul Hay Fine Art (2016) is a commercial venture, promoting great contemporary art. The Buy Art Fair & Manchester Contemporary, the largest British art fair outside of London was held at the Old Granada Studios in 2014-16. Look hard and street art can be found.

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