Towns in Greater Manchester Towns
BL8 BL9 BL0
BL1 – BL7
M3, M5–M7, M50
Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.8 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Greater Manchester was created on 1 April 1974 due to the Local Government Act 1972, and designated a City Region on 1 April 2011.
Greater Manchester spans 493 square miles (1,277 km2), which roughly covers the territory of the Greater Manchester Built-up Area, the second most populous urban area in the UK. It is landlocked and borders Cheshire (to the south-west and south), Derbyshire (to the south-east), West Yorkshire (to the north-east), Lancashire (to the north) and Merseyside (to the west). There is a mix of high-density urban areas, suburbs, semi-rural and rural locations in Greater Manchester, but land use is mostly urban — the product of concentric urbanisation and industrialisation which occurred mostly during the 19th century when the region flourished as the global centre of the cotton industry. It has a focused central business district, formed by Manchester city centre and the adjoining parts of Salford and Trafford, but Greater Manchester is also a polycentric county with ten metropolitan districts, each of which has at least one major town centre and outlying suburbs.
For the 12 years following 1974 the county had a two-tier system of local government; district councils shared power with the Greater Manchester County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986, and so its districts (the metropolitan boroughs) effectively became unitary authority areas. However, the urban county has continued to exist in law and as a geographic frame of reference, and as a ceremonial county has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. Several county-wide services were co-ordinated through the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities until April 2011, when the Greater Manchester Combined Authority was established as the strategic county-wide authority for Greater Manchester, taking on functions and responsibilities for economic development, regeneration and transport. A further devolution of powers to Greater Manchester is set to be held upon the election of the inaugural Mayor of Greater Manchester scheduled for 2017.
Before the creation of the metropolitan county, the area known as SELNEC, taken from the initials of “South East Lancashire North East Cheshire”. Greater Manchester is an amalgamation of 70 former local government districts from the former administrative counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire and eight independent county boroughs. Since de-industrialisation in the mid-20th century, Greater Manchester has emerged as an exporter of media and digital content, guitar and dance music, and association football.
Although the modern county of Greater Manchester, not created until 1974, the history of its constituent settlements and parts goes back centuries. There is evidence of Iron Age habitation, particularly at Mellor, and Celtic activity in a settlement named Chochion, believed to have been an area of Wigan settled by the Brigantes. Stretford was also part of the land believed to have been occupied by the Celtic Brigantes tribe and lay on their border with the Cornovii on the southern side of the River Mersey. The remains of 1st-century forts at Castlefield in Manchester and Castleshaw Roman fort in Saddleworth are evidence of Roman occupation. Much of the region was omitted from the Domesday Book of 1086; Redhead states that this was because only a partial survey was taken, rather than sparsity of population.
During the Middle Ages, much of what became Greater Manchester lay within the hundred of Salfordshire – an old division of the county of Lancashire. Salfordshire encompassed several parishes and townships, some of which, like Rochdale, were important market towns and centres of England’s woollen trade. The development of what became Greater Manchester is attributed to a shared tradition of domestic flannel and fustian cloth production, which encouraged a system of cross-regional trade. In the late-18th century, the Industrial Revolution transformed the local internal system; mechanisation enabled the industrialisation of the region’s textile business, triggering rapid growth in the cotton industry and expansion in ancillary businesses. Infrastructure such as rows of terraced housing, factories and roads were constructed to house labour, transport goods, and produce cotton goods on an industrial scale for a global market. The townships in and around Manchester began expanding “at an astonishing rate” around the turn of the 19th century as part of a process of unplanned urbanisation brought on by a boom in industrial textile production and processing. This population increase resulted in the “vigorous concentric growth” of a conurbation between Manchester and an arc of surrounding mill towns, formed from a steady accretion of houses, factories and transport infrastructure. Places such as Bury, Oldham and Bolton played a central economic role nationally, and by the end of the 19th century had become some of the most meaningful and productive cotton-producing towns in the world. However, it was Manchester that was the most populous settlement, a major city, the world’s largest marketplace for cotton goods, and the natural centre of its region. By 1835 “Manchester was without challenge the first and greatest industrial city in the world”; and by 1848 urban sprawl had fused the city to its surrounding towns and hinterland to form a single continuous conurbation. In the 1910s, local government reforms to administer this conurbation as a single entity proposed.
In the 18th century, German traders had coined the name Manchesterthum to cover the region in and around Manchester. However, the English term “Greater Manchester” did not appear until the 20th century. One of its first known recorded uses was in a 1914 report put forward in response to what was considered to have been the successful creation of the County of London in 1889. The report suggested that a county should be set up to recognise the “Manchester known in commerce”, and referred to the areas that formed “a substantial part of South Lancashire and part of Cheshire, comprising all municipal boroughs and minor authorities within a radius of eight or nine miles of Manchester”. In his 1915 book Cities In Evolution, urban planner Sir Patrick Geddes wrote “far more than Lancashire realises, is growing up another Greater London”.
Most of Greater Manchester lay within the ancient county boundaries of Lancashire; those areas south of the Mersey and Tame were in Cheshire. The Saddleworth area and a small part of Mossley are historically part of Yorkshire and in the south-east a small part in Derbyshire. The sectors that were incorporated into Greater Manchester in 1974 previously formed parts of the administrative counties of Cheshire, Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire and eight independent county boroughs. By the early 1970s, this system of demarcation was described as “archaic” and “grossly inadequate to keep pace both with the impact of motor travel and with the massive increases in local government responsibilities”.
The Manchester Evening Chronicle brought to the fore the issue of “regional unity” for the area in April 1935 under the headline “Greater Manchester – The Ratepayers’ Salvation”. It reported on the “increasing demands for the exploration of the possibilities of a greater merger of public services throughout Manchester and the surrounding municipalities”. The issue frequently discussed by civic leaders in the area at that time, particularly those from Manchester and Salford. The Mayor of Salford pledged his support to the idea, stating that he looked forward to the day when “there would be a merging of the essential services of Manchester, Salford, and the surrounding districts constituting Greater Manchester.” Proposals were halted by the Second World War, though in the decade after it, the pace of proposals for local government reform for the area quickened. In 1947, Lancashire County Council proposed a three “ridings” system to meet the changing needs of the county of Lancashire, including those for Manchester and surrounding districts. Other proposals included the creation of a Manchester County Council, a directly elected regional body. In 1951, the census in the UK began reporting on South East Lancashire as a homogeneous conurbation.
The Local Government Act 1958 designated the southeast Lancashire area (which, despite its name, included part of northeast Cheshire), a Special Review Area. The Local Government Commission for England presented draft recommendations, in December 1965, proposing a new county based on the conurbation surrounding and including Manchester, with nine most-purpose boroughs corresponding to the new Greater Manchester boroughs (excluding Wigan). The review was abolished in favour of the Royal Commission on Local Government before issuing a final report.
The Royal Commission’s 1969 report, known as the Redcliffe-Maud Report, proposed the removal of much of the then existing system of local government. The commission described the system of administering urban and rural districts separately as outdated, noting that urban areas provided employment and services for rural dwellers, and the open countryside was used by town dwellers for recreation. The commission considered interdependence of areas at many levels, including travel-to-work, provision of services, and which local newspapers were read, before proposing a new administrative metropolitan area. The area had roughly the same northern boundary as today’s Greater Manchester (though included Rossendale), but covered much more territory from Cheshire (including Macclesfield, Warrington, Alderley Edge, Northwich, Middlewich, Wilmslow and Lymm), and Derbyshire (the towns of New Mills, Whaley Bridge, Glossop and Chapel-en-le-Frith – a minority report suggested that Buxton be included). The metropolitan area was to be divided into nine metropolitan districts, based on Wigan, Bolton, Bury/Rochdale, Warrington, Manchester (including Salford and Old Trafford), Oldham, Altrincham, Stockport and Tameside. The report noted, “The choice even of a label of convenience for this metropolitan area is difficult”. Seven years earlier, a survey prepared for the British Association intended to define the “SouthEast Lancashire conurbation” noted that “Greater Manchester it is not … One of its main characteristics is the marked individuality of its towns, … all of which have an industrial and commercial history of more than local significance”. The term Selnec (or SELNEC) was already in use as an abbreviation for south east Lancashire and north east Cheshire; Redcliffe-Maud took this as “the most convenient term available”, having modified it to south east Lancashire, northeast and central Cheshire.
Following the Transport Act 1968, in 1969 the SELNEC Passenger Transport Executive (an authority to co-ordinate and operate public transport in the region) was set up, covering an area smaller than the proposed Selnec, and different again to the eventual Greater Manchester. Compared with the Redcliffe-Maud area, it excluded Macclesfield, Warrington, and Knutsford but included Glossop and Saddleworth in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It excluded Wigan, which was in both the Redcliffe-Maud area and in the eventual Greater Manchester (but had not been part of the 1958 act’s review area).
Redcliffe-Maud’s recommendations were accepted by the Labour-controlled government in February 1970. Although the Redcliffe-Maud Report was rejected by the Conservative government after the 1970 general election, there was a commitment to local government reform, and the need for a metropolitan county centred on the conurbation surrounding Manchester accepted. The new administration’s original proposal was much smaller than the Redcliffe-Maud Report’s Selnec, with areas such as Winsford, Northwich, Knutsford, Macclesfield and Glossop retained by their original counties to ensure their county councils had enough revenue to remain competitive (Cheshire County Council would have ceased to exist). Other late changes included the separation of the proposed Bury/Rochdale authority (retained from the Redcliffe-Maud report) into the Metropolitan Borough of Bury and the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale. Bury and Rochdale were originally planned to form a single district (dubbed “Botchdale” by local MP Michael Fidler) but were divided into separate boroughs. To re-balance, the districts, the borough of Rochdale took Middleton from Oldham. During the passage of the bill, the towns of Whitworth, Wilmslow and Poynton successfully objected to their incorporation in the new county.
GREATER MANCHESTER NEIGHBOURS
Merseyside < GREATER MANCHESTER > Derbyshire