How did money from slavery help develop Greater Manchester?

Interior of the Royal Exchange

HL Saunders and Frederick Sargent, 1877
Oil on canvas

Object number 1968.245
Given by the Manchester Royal Exchange, 1968

See this object at Manchester Art Gallery This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

Interior of the Royal Exchange

This painting shows the trading room of Manchester's Royal Exchange in 1877, at the height of the city's commercial success. It was the third exchange building to be built on the site since 1729, each larger than the last, and was described at the time as 'the largest trading room in the world'. In this hall, up to 11,000 merchants traded the cotton goods of some 280 cotton towns and villages in the north west of England.

During the 1800s, Manchester became the clearing house for the region's booming cotton industry. Slave-grown raw cotton, traded in the Liverpool Exchange, went to the Lancashire mills and came into Manchester as yarn or cotton goods, stored in the huge warehouse buildings that still make up much of today's city centre. On a Tuesday and Friday, the merchants of the exchange negotiated prices and traded their goods. New banks sprang up to support the development of commerce, and although Manchester had long been an important banking centre, by the 1820s it had become one of the main financial centres outside London. At one point, in the mid-1800s, it is estimated that 80% of the world trade in finished cotton took place in Manchester's Royal Exchange.

This painting by HL Saunders and Frederick Sargent, shows the trading hall at the height of its energy. Most of the top-hatted merchants depicted are individual portraits of real people, identified in an accompanying diagram which lists 231 merchants. The list includes many influential Manchester and Lancashire men, including Oliver Heywood of the Heywood banking family, JC Zigomala of textile manufacturers Stavert, Zigomala and Company, Daniel Adamson, promoter of the Manchester Ship Canal, and the textile merchant and manufacturer John Rylands, whose wife Enriqueta founded the John Rylands Library in his memory.

The painting was given to Manchester Art Gallery when the Royal Exchange closed in 1968 and is now displayed in the council rooms of Manchester Town Hall.

This information was provided by curators from Manchester Art Gallery.