How did money from slavery help develop Greater Manchester?

London Road, Manchester

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905), 1844-1850
Oil on canvas

Object number 2007.71
Purchased, 2007

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London Road, Manchester

This painting of London Road, Manchester, with its architectural detailing, lively characters and animals, gives a vivid impression of the city in its early Victorian heyday. By 1801, Manchester had become the largest urban area outside London and continued to expand, gaining city status in 1853. The cotton boom, and its associated industries and commerce, attracted large numbers of workers to the city, which was becoming notorious for its contrasts of extraordinary wealth and appalling squalor.

This view is taken from the junction with Auburn Street and shows London Road station at the top of the ramp in the background to the left. The station opened on 8 May 1842, initially known as Store Street station. In 1847 it was renamed London Road, and became Manchester Piccadilly in 1960.

The world's first passenger rail service, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, had opened 12 years earlier, initially as a freight service to improve the supply of cotton and cotton products to and from the city. During the decades that followed, a national railway network began to take shape, with the Grand Junction Railway linking the Liverpool and Manchester service to Birmingham via Crewe and Stafford. London Road station became the terminus for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway and Manchester Piccadilly is now the busiest passenger station in England outside London.

Arthur Tait, born in Liverpool, was mostly self-taught, but also studied at the Royal Manchester Institution (later Manchester Art Gallery) where he exhibited from 1839 to 1848. He worked as a lithographer for the art dealers, Agnews, but also published his own work in the 1840s, most notably a series of lithographs of the railways.

This information was provided by curators from Manchester Art Gallery.