How did money from slavery help develop Greater Manchester?

Bank of England, King Street, Manchester

Manchester: financial centre

Manchester was an important commercial and financial centre long before the Industrial Revolution. An important source of credit was derived from discounting bills of exchange, and it is known that Liverpool merchants involved in the transatlantic slave trade used such bills issued by Manchester merchants.

Cotton trade and banking

As the volume of cotton imports through Liverpool continued to increase, the financial links between Manchester and Liverpool strengthened. Manchester merchants were attracted to the profits that could be made by trading in raw cotton. The dramatic growth of the factory-based cotton industry in the last quarter of the 1700s saw Manchester consolidate its position as the main marketing centre for cotton yarn and goods.

The rise of Manchester as a banking centre was part of this process, though in these years trading was often volatile and bank failures were not uncommon. By the 1820s Manchester was acknowledged to be one of the main financial centres outside London, a position that was boosted following the relaxing of restrictions on establishing joint stock banks in the 1820s.

Bank of England branch

The cotton industry was a major source of business for local banks and, in turn merchants, who had made their fortunes in cotton, invested in new banks. Manchester’s importance as a commercial centre was recognised when the Bank of England established a branch in the town in 1826. Some 20 years later it moved into a suitably imposing new building, designed by one of the country’s leading architects, Charles Cockerell. The location was Upper King Street, almost directly opposite the town hall. Manchester’s importance as a financial centre was further consolidated in 1836 when the Manchester Stock Exchange was opened in Exchange Street, in part to deal in the shares of the local joint-stock banking companies.

Cockerell’s Bank of England branch building survives in King Street but it is no longer home to the bank, the latter having moved into new premises located at the junction of Portland Street and Charlotte Street in 1971.  

This information was provided by Terry Wyke.