The area of Ancoats lies just outside the city centre, immediately to the north of Great Ancoats Street.
The principal buildings are the massive cotton spinning mills, which are located adjacent to the Rochdale Canal and the nearby housing. This juxtaposition and inter-linking of manufacturing, transport and residential uses meant that Ancoats functioned as the first industrial estate in the world.
Before the Industrial Revolution, textile and other manufacturing processes were carried on in and around worker's homes. Following the harnessing of water power, mills were sited alongside rivers but they had to be spaced out in order to extract the limited amount of power available from a certain stretch of water.
The invention of the steam engine overcame these limitations, ensuring that mills could be larger and sited where most convenient. Ancoats proved to be a suitable location for the larger mills and it eventually became recognised as the place where the Industrial Revolution commenced on a grand scale.
The part of Ancoats designated as a conservation area by Manchester City Council in June 1989, is bounded by Great Ancoats Street, Oldham Road, Kemp Street, Wadeford Close, Jersey Street and the Rochdale Canal.