Parks, leisure and the arts Manchester Firsts

Manchester has long been a city to pave the way with the wealth of innovations, economy and ideas of society it has produced over the decades. From the city that split the atom, created the programmable computer and produced countless musical movements, Manchester is a city to be admired and replicated; not just in the UK but worldwide.

  • 1653 The nation's first free public library opened, founded using money donated by wealthy Mancunian Humphrey Chetham.
  • 1761 The Bridgewater Canal opened; the first totally artificial waterway independent of natural rivers.
  • 1773 The first steamboats operated on the Bridgewater Canal.
  • 1783 Richard Arkwright set up the first mill to use steam power on Miller Street in the city centre, paving the way for mass production techniques.
  • 1803 John Dalton's atomic theory with its pioneering work on the constitution of elements was the precursor of all modern chemistry.
  • 1805 The first gas street lighting illuminated part of Chapel Street in Salford, along with the Philips and Lee factory.
  • 1815 Modern vegetarianism began, inspired by the sermons of the Reverend William Cowherd at the Salford Bible Christian church.
  • 1824 The first bus route ran from Market Street in Manchester to Salford.
  • 1825 Glasgow born, Manchester mill owner Charles Mackintosh took out a patent for a practical waterproof fabric.
  • 1830 The world's first true railways started operating from a purpose built station on Liverpool Road.
  • 1841 Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803-87) was the father of precision engineering.
  • 1842 The world's first commuter towns developed along the railway routes of southern Manchester at places such as Alderly Edge and Sale.
  • 1844 Manchester was the birth place of the worldwide co-operative movement.
  • 1846 Philips Park, Queens Park and Peel Park became the city's first parks.
  • 1850 Manchester led the way in providing its citizens a supply of fresh, pure water when it opened Longdale Reservoirs.
  • 1850 The first law in thermodynamics was discovered in Manchester by James Prescott Joule.
  • 1853 John Benjamin Dancer, working from 43 Cross Street, invented microphotography and microfilms.
  • 1857 The first international art exhibition was held in Manchester.
  • 1868 The first general meeting of the Trade Union Congress took place in the Mechanics Institute, Princess Street.
  • 1880 The first mechanically powered submarine was launched to the designs of eccentric Hulme curate, the Reverend George Garrett.
  • 1888 The first professional football league was formally created in the Royal Hotel, Manchester.
  • 1892 A predecessor of New Labour, the Independent Labour Party was formed in Manchester- its first MP was Keir Hardie.
  • 1893 The first and only swing aqueduct in the world was built at Barton- it carries the Bridgewater Canal over the Ship Canal.
  • 1894 Despite having a market stall in Leeds, Marks and Spencer opened its first store on Stretford Road in Hulme.
  • 1896 The first purpose built industrial estate was created at Trafford Park.
  • 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union in her home, which still stands on Nelson Street. The aim of the organisation was to recruit working class women into the struggle for the vote.
  • 1904 Frederick Royce met Charles Rolls in the Midland Hotel and set up the famous company which bears their names.
  • 1908 The first British plane was designed and flown by A V Roe.
  • 1908 Annie Elizabeth Fredericka Horniman began the British repertory movement, influencing 20th-century drama, acting, and production.
  • 1917 Ernest Rutherford discovered how to split the atom at Manchester University.
  • 1919 Alcock and Brown, both Manchester Central High School students, were the first to fly the Atlantic Ocean non-stop.
  • 1919 Probably the world's first scheduled airline service was set up between Manchester and Southport.
  • 1948 The first computer with a stored programme and memory, nicknamed 'baby', was developed at Manchester University.
  • 1960 Granada Television's Coronation Street is the world's longest running soap opera.
  • 1964 The first Top of the Pops was recorded in Manchester in a church on Dickenson Road in Longsight.
  • 1980 Manchester became the first British Nuclear Free City.
  • 1982 The Castlefield area of the city became Britain's first Urban Heritage Park.
  • 1986 Renovation of Central Station was completed to become G-Mex; Europe's largest indoor arena.
  • 1992 Trams were reintroduced to British streets by Manchester Metrolink service.
  • 2002 The Commonwealth Games, held in Manchester, became the largest multi-sport event ever hosted in the UK.
  • 2003 The Boho Britain Creativity Index ranked Manchester as the creative capital of the UK.
  • 2006 Manchester was voted Britain's best city for business in a national survey of over 5,000 of the country's biggest employers in 28 cities.
  • 2010 Scientists at the University of Manchester were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for inventing graphene, the world's thinnest material.
  • 2012 Manchester Airport was voted best UK airport
  • 2013 Assessment confirms that Manchester has the largest commercial property market outside London
  • 2015 The Global Liveability Survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit names Manchester the best British city and 46th out of 160 internationally to live in.
  • 2017 Construction of the Britain's first asymmetric network arch bridge as part of the Ordsall Chord rail extension.

If you know of any other Manchester firsts please let us know

Was this page helpful?

Fields marked * cannot be left blank

Feedback submitted to us on this form is monitored but you won’t receive a reply. In an emergency, visit our emergency contact details page. Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.