Timeline

Use the buttons and arrows below to navigate through the timeline of the University of Manchester. Clicking on an image will open up a window with more information about that period in history and links to larger versions of the photographs used (if available) will be at the bottom of each body of text.

1824

The beginning

The beginning

The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and the current University of Manchester traces their origins to the Manchester Mechanics' Institution, founded in 1824 as part of a national movement for the education of working men. Founders of the Institution included Mr Benjamin Heywood, John Dalton and William Fairbairn. These industrialists thought that artisans should learn basic sciences at evening classes. “To enable mechanics and artisans, of whatsoever trade they be, to become acquainted with such branches of science as are of practical application in the exercise of that trade.”

See larger image

1827

The first of its kind

The first of its kind

The Institution first opened in hired premises before moving to purpose built accommodation on Cooper Street, opposite the southern entrance to the Town Hall. The building was funded by eleven major shareholders who provided £7,000 for its construction. It included many modern facilities, including hot water radiators, a library, a chemical laboratory and gas lighting. It was the first building in the UK designed specifically for a Mechanics’ Institution and was opened in May 1827 by Benjamin Heywood.

See larger image

Image courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

1835

Reaching out to the community

Reaching out to the community

In 1835 the Mechanics’ Institution decided to establish a boys’ day school for the use of the sons and brothers of the students at the Mechanics’ Institution, and appointed Alexander McDougall as its first master. The school taught the ‘three R’s’ and was branded a great success, leading the way for a girl’s school to be opened later in that same year. The Girl’s School proved just as popular, teaching the ‘three R’s’ as well as classes in knitting and sewing.

See larger image

Image courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

1853

Exhibitions and arts

Exhibitions and arts

By the 1850s, growth was sufficient to need a new building which opened in 1853 on Princess Street by Oliver Heywood. Soon after opening the Institution hosted an exhibition of international arts and industry that attracted over 270,000 visitors and earned enough money to lift the institution out of debt.

See larger image

1879

Hard times

Hard times

In the later decades of the century pressure for technical education increased, fuelled by fears that Britain might lose its leading position as an industrial nation. Despite this, at times the Institution struggled because students had little basic education; many children went straight into work with no formal education as primary schooling was not made compulsory in England until 1881. Artisans worked long hours and saw little advantage in science studies, so the institution’s more general classes often proved more useful to young office workers and shopkeepers seeking to improve their literacy and numeracy. J H Reynolds was appointed in 1879 and it was said of his tenure,
“Within one generation we have seen the small Mechanics Institute in a provincial city develop to an institution of University standing.”

See larger image

1883

Building a new future

Building a new future

By 1883 the Manchester Municipal Technical School, as it was then known, had begun to offer day courses covering a range of subjects including mechanical engineering, chemistry, bleaching, dyeing and printing. To cope with the new students and the need for extra work space, the school commissioned a new building. The school was awarded the former site of Sir Joseph Whitworth’s engineering works by Whitworth’s legatees along with a grant of £5000 for the proposed project.

See larger image

1887

The creation of chemical engineering

The creation of chemical engineering

In 1887, in the Manchester Technical School (as it had then become), Professor George E Davis created the discipline we now know as 'Chemical Engineering'. He delivered a series of lectures on the subject and wrote the very first chemical engineering textbook.

1888

A German influence

A German influence

In 1888 the Technical School council members began to visit various technical schools across Europe to gain inspiration for the design of the building before deciding to base the project on the Building Trades School in Stuttgart. On the advice of the renowned architect Alfred Waterhouse, the School’s Council selected Spalding & Cross of London as architects. To mark the beginning of construction in July 1895, the first sod of earth was turned by Chairman Alderman James Hoy with a silver-plated spade that is still in the University’s possession today.

See larger image

1892

Whisky Money

Whisky Money

From 1892 the Technical School became funded by the Manchester Corporation, partly from national taxes and what was known as the ‘whisky money’, money allocated from the new tax introduced on alcohol sales. It came to be known as the Manchester Municipal Technical School.

See larger image

1902

New digs

New digs

The huge new building commissioned in 1883, now called the Sackville Street Building, was opened in 1902. It was considered a hugely successful enterprise and contained the best and most modern of facilities when it was built. The original building housed the Godlee Observatory, which is still in use today. It also featured a brewery and a bakery, which was commissioned to bake Prince Charles’ first birthday cake.

See larger image

1905

Collaboration begins

Collaboration begins

The increasingly high standards of education and the beginnings of research at the Technical College had raised questions about the relationship with the Victoria University of Manchester, a mile to the south, which had its own department of engineering. An agreement was reached in 1905 for the professors at the Technical School to constitute the Faculty of Technology of the Victoria University. Highly unusual for its time, this marked the start of more than 100 years of collaboration between the two institutions.

1914-1918

World War One

World War One

During the war, the Tech’s penchant for technological investigation was used by various ministries and the armed forces. Some of the contributions of the Tech to WWI included:

  • A deep-sea hydrophone to counter the submarine threat to shipping
  • A high frequency alternator to power aircraft radios
  • Testing of aircraft fabric materials
  • A new type of gas furnace increased the shell manufacture rate
  • The development of high tensile strength cast iron which doubled the range of gas shells
  • Research into substitutes for materials in short supply
  • Advising the government on how to stretch the nation’s bread supply
After World War I the Technical School was renamed the Manchester Municipal College of Technology, to reflect the increasingly advanced level of teaching and research.

Find out more about the University’s contributions to World War One on our centenary website.

1939-1945

World War Two

World War Two

The Tech once more rose to the national need for training, research and development and provided an even greater contribution than the previous world war. The Tech offered specifically tailored courses to government departments and ‘war degrees’ which were completed in a much shorter time. Over 8,000 service personnel attended courses during the war.
The majority of Tech students were exempt from service as they studied in reserved occupations and so many contributed in other ways, such as joining the University Air Squadron to train replacement pilots, or the Officers’ Training Corps. In addition, the Tech provided technological development and testing in its labs for a variety of items, including sticky bombs, explosives, camouflage, parachutes and barrage balloons.
Tech alumnus Roy Chadwick was a chief designer at Avro, and of the Lancaster Bomber. The Lancaster Bomber came into service in 1942 and was used extensively throughout the war and beyond.
Until after the Second World War the majority of Tech courses were for professional and technical, rather than academic, qualifications and most of the teaching was through evening classes for students who were at work during the day.

See larger image

1956

Time for a change

Time for a change

In 1956 the College of Technology gained independent status as a university college after the non-degree work was moved to some of the municipal colleges, (which later became Manchester Polytechnic and then Manchester Metropolitan University).

See larger image

1957

Growing pains

Growing pains

Sackville Street Building is made up of two parts; the original building was completed in 1902 and the extension in 1957. The extension was already being planned in 1902 and the land was acquired in 1904. Unfortunately two world wars and a depression halted the build. When the steelwork was erected in 1938, it was estimated to cost around £500,000. However, the work quickly stopped and the steelwork remained in place throughout WWII. In the end the extension was not complete until 1957 and cost more than £2million. If you walk around the building today you can see the distinct differences between the original building and the extension.

See larger image

1961

The Bogle stroll

The Bogle stroll

Each year Manchester RAG organise a 55 mile walk, taking in the sights of Manchester in aid of the chosen RAG charities. This is known as the Bogle Stroll. It started in 1961 when a group of UMIST lecturers missed the last bus home from Lancaster and decided to walk the 55 miles back to Manchester. Along the way some of the group started to hallucinate and they saw the Bogle, a reputed Lancashire imp. They believed the Bogle was taunting them, willing them to give up. They managed to defeat the Bogle and this is what lends the event its name.

See larger image

1966

UMIST

UMIST

In 1966, during a period of rapid expansion, the College of Technology was renamed the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). It remained largely independent of the Victoria University but joint projects between the two universities continued and degrees were still awarded by Victoria University.

See larger image

1960-1970s

Modern masterpieces

Modern masterpieces

During the 1960s and 1970s the UMIST campus underwent significant development, driven by the enthusiasm of the then Principal Bertram Vivian Bowden. Pushed by the increased need for space to house the growing student population, UMIST constructed eleven new buildings during the period, as well as converting the Jackson Street Mill to house Chemical Engineering in 1959. Dedicated subject buildings, such as the Faraday building for Chemistry, the Ferranti building for the HV lab, the Chemical Engineering Pilot Plant and the 15-storey Mathematics and Social Sciences building propelled UMIST to the forefront of scientific study in England.

See larger image

1960-1990s

Radio Rag

Radio Rag

Radio Rag was a pirate radio station run by UMIST students for three or four weekends around Rag Week from the late 1960s through to early 1990s, when it was superseded by Manchester Campus Radio, an officially licensed radio station. It was broadcast from student residences around Manchester until rented studio space was found, and even made live outside broadcasts.

See larger image

1975

Bonded together

Bonded together

UMIST and Victoria University of Manchester created the Joint Departments of Metallurgy and Materials Science within a new purpose-designed building that marked an unprecedented fusion of academic excellence between the two universities. This continued the alliance that typified the relationship of these two Manchester universities.

1990s

Campus sculptures

Campus sculptures

The current North campus still encompasses the full range of buildings completed at the time of UMIST’s expansion. The campus is now augmented with sculptures that celebrate its historical origins and influences, many of which were arranged by the UMIST Campus Appearance Committee in the 1990s . These include ‘Archimedes’ by Thompson W Dagnall, the parabolic metal cables named ‘Technology’ by Axel Walkenhauer, the ‘Vimto’ sculpture by Kerry Morrison outside Sackville Street Building and the ‘Insulator Family’ outside Ferranti Building.

See larger image

1994

Independence

Independence

In 1984 Harold Hankins was appointed as Principal. Changes to legislation meant that, in 1994, UMIST became a completely autonomous university with its own degree-awarding powers. Hankins went on to become the first Vice-Chancellor of UMIST.

See larger image

2004

Unity

Unity

After 100 hundred years of working closely together, UMIST and Victoria University of Manchester merged to form a single university. On 22 October 2004 they officially combined to form the largest single-site university in the UK, The University of Manchester.