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Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD)

Loom machines at The University of Manchester in the early 20th century

Heritage

Birthplace of a revolution, Manchester is the home of pioneers - and we continue to be led by discovery. The Manchester Engineering Campus will reflect pride in our rich academic and civic heritage.

We're extremely proud of our heritage, which is why the Manchester Engineering Campus will reflect this pride while also showcasing our ongoing advancement in research and education.

Manchester was the world’s first modern industrial city. Home to the Bridgewater Canal, Britain’s first artificial waterway, and the world’s first passenger railway between Manchester and Liverpool, the city became the dominant marketplace for textiles in the 18th century.

The University’s foundations were likewise entwined with the history of the city. In 1824, wealthy industrialists, wanting their workers to learn the basic principles of science, founded The Manchester Mechanics’ Institution, which later became the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).

Since then, this has been a hotbed of numerous revolutionary innovations, all of which have had a profound impact on society.

Timeline of innovation

The University of Manchester has been home to a number of innovations since the 19th century:

  • In 1887, Professor George E Davis created the discipline we know as ‘Chemical Engineering’ at the Manchester Technical School. Davis gave a series of 12 lectures that lay the foundations for his Handbook of Chemical Engineering. 
Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov being presented with the freedom of Manchester
Nobel Prize winners Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim.
  • In 1929, Beatrice Shilling was one of the first women to be accepted on to an Electrical Engineering degree course at the University. She went on to develop the RAE restrictor, which increased the capability of Hurricane and Spitfire planes in WWII.
  • The world’s first stored-program computer, nicknamed Baby, came into being here. Designed and built by Frederic C Williams, Geoff Tootill and Tom Kilburn, it ran its first program on 21 June 1948.
  • In 1957, Bernard Lovell built the world’s first steerable radio telescope at Jodrell Bank.
  • In 2004, the wonder material graphene was first isolated on campus by Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim, earning them a Nobel Prize in Physics.

A history of North Campus

The University’s North Campus has a long and esteemed history. It can trace its roots back through UMIST to the Manchester Mechanics’ Institution, founded on 27 April 1824 in the Bridgewater Arms by industrialists who believed Manchester’s rapidly growing working population should be taught basic science.

That sense of history will be instilled in the new campus. But while acknowledging the past, the campus will simultaneously remain an innovative, forward-looking institution, led by the discovery of new knowledge.

Two centuries of change

Illustration of the Manchester Mechanics Institute as it appeared in 1825
The Manchester Mechanics’ Institution’s first home, opened in 1927.

Founded in 1824, the Manchester Mechanics’ Institution’s first permanent home was opened in 1827 on Cooper Street. It was a modest building in appearance, but with impressive facilities inside, and also stood out for being the first building for a mechanics institution in England.

By the 1850s, the Institution had outgrown its building on Cooper Street and so a new building was constructed and opened in 1857 on what is now Princess Street. The Institution, having not fully succeeded in its initial objective, adapted to meet local educational needs and extended its purpose to include “to promote social and friendly intercourse” – clubs for gymnastics, chess and billiards and a coffee room became available to subscribers.

However, the introduction of legislation governing the provision of education in the 1870s had a detrimental impact on the Institution, and in 1883 it was converted to the Manchester Technical School and the Manchester Mechanics’ Institution.

Entering the 20th century

Exterior of Sackville Street Building
The present day Sackville Street Building.

By the 1890s, further changes had taken place. The City Council had resumed responsibility for the running of the Institution and in 1892 it was again renamed and became the Manchester Municipal Technical School. It was agreed that a new building would be erected, and the present day Sackville Street Building was opened on 15 October 1902.

This resulted in yet another name change for the institution, this time to the Manchester Municipal School of Technology. The building was the finest example of Edwardian brickwork and terracotta in the region. It was heralded by the Prime Minister at the time as “perhaps the greatest of this kind of municipal enterprise in the country”.

After World War I, to reflect the increasingly advanced level of teaching and research, the Technical School was renamed the Manchester Municipal College of Technology. It remained as ‘Tech’ until 1966 when, during a period of rapid expansion, it was renamed the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). In 2004, following the merger of UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester, it became the North Campus, home to the four engineering Schools within the Faculty of Science and Engineering.