Social Stratification


The industrialization of cotton resulted in the defining of the city’s social class structure. Due to Manchester’s status as a large manufacturing center within mainland England, its population was comprised mostly of lower working-class.

A local government body was formed to address issues in town, but a minimum income level was set as a requirement to hold any position ensured that small business owners and industrial-wage workers were ineligible. Given this fact, a large divide between the working-class citizens and the middle- to upper-classes developed.

Along with this divide came political discrimination: during the visit by the Duke of Wellington for the opening of the Manchester and Liverpool Railways,—which came about as a method of transporting coal and other resources to and from the collieries and the city—his train was stoned by crowds composed of working-class citizens who disagreed with his opposition to political reform that would give working- and lower-class citizens the right to vote.

The reform was intended to reorganize Parliament to reflect the industrial demographic changes in industrialized areas such as Manchester. The clash between the lower- and upper classes led to an attempt to withhold voting rights from anyone but the upper class.  

Poor acts made it illegal to be homeless or to beg, and combination acts made it illegal to collectively bargain, meaning that an employee who couldn’t afford to live on his wage could be fired for organizing, and then when he was on the street he would be thrown in jail for sleeping outside. In response to these working conditions, the working-class organized gatherings to speak on how they would enact change.

The Manchester upper class would have these shut down time and time again until 1819, when 60,000 people rallied for worker rights and were charged by the army. Eleven people died and over six hundred were wounded