Manchester is built on cotton. Our Textiles Gallery tells the story of the people, products and pioneers that made it and their continuing legacy in our city and our world today.
Dubbed 'Cottonopolis', Manchester was once the international centre of the world’s cotton industry. The city imported up to a billion tonnes of raw cotton a year, towns like Bolton and Preston became manufacturing centres and Oldham’s Platt Brothers & Co. Ltd. built textile machines for mills across the world. The North West’s landscape and culture are still shaped by its textile heritage today.
Our Textiles Gallery paints a vivid picture of how cotton transformed Manchester into an urban metropolis. See everything from world-changing innovations like an original Richard Arkwright Water Frame—one of the machines that kick started the Industrial Revolution—to surprising, everyday objects like a pair of child-sized clogs from Charter Street Ragged School, a local charity that helped some of Manchester’s poorest inhabitants.
Follow the textiles story through innovations in design, printing and finishing, adventure through life in industrial Manchester and find out how the city’s cotton spread around the globe.
Meet the machines, people and stories that made Manchester the first industrial city and find out how ‘Cottonopolis’ changed the world we all live in today.
More highlights in the Textiles Gallery
Experience the real sights and sounds of the cotton mills at our daily demonstrations. Find out why weavers learned to lip read and discover how to become a scavenger as our Explainer team run our original 19th century machines and take you from yarn to cloth.
Do you fancy taking on the role of a power loom and having a go at weaving your own piece of cloth? Then why not drop into our Weaving Workshop anytime between 14.00 and 16.00 every Saturday and Sunday. Recommended for ages 5+.
Our new activity space invites you to get involved and share your stories with us. Take a closer look at objects from our stores, try your hand at weaving, meet real-life scientists and engineers, or even help shape the way your museum looks in the future.
A quieter, more sensory space for families with babies and young children to play together. With projections, touch-feel wall panels and comfy mats, it’s the perfect place to try out our Blanket Bags and Treasure Baskets, or just take some time out.