what is cutting room?
Cutting Room is a new square in Ancoats. It's the first public space in this part of the city which is where the first industrial suburb was created. The name of this newly created square, just off Great Ancoats Street and next to St Peter's Church, comes from the rich heritage of the textile industry in this district in the late 18th and 19th century. This outdoor space was where large swathes of material were cut out.
For years, this piece of land has lain unused, but with the massive regeneration of Ancoats as an urban village, this has been developed as a new outdoor space
history of the area
In the last-mentioned broad district included under the name Ancoats, stand the largest mills of Manchester lining the canals, colossal six and seven-storied buildings towering with their slender chimneys far above the low cottages of the workers.
Frederick Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England - 1845
"Known as the world's first industrial suburb it is difficult to underestimate the significance of Ancoats in terms of its contribution to the wealth and development of Manchester and the modern industrial city and its influence on the thinking of political theorists such as Engels and Karl Marx. If Manchester is the ‘Original Modern' City then the mills of Ancoats came to symbolise the power of industry as well as the squalor of those workers living in their shadows."
Although always associated with the Victorian era Manchester, and Ancoats in particular, began development in Georgian times. The streets of Ancoats were laid out in the 1780s on what was essentially farmland on the edge of Manchester but it wasn't until 1797 that the first mills were constructed following confirmation that the Rochdale Canal was to be built.
Although the Industrial Revolution was by this time well underway the difference in Ancoats was the sheer scale and concentration of mills made possible by the use of steam engines as opposed to water driven mills that characterised early mill development. And of course the huge new factories required workers, lots of them, and so rows and rows of often back-to-back houses were built on adjacent streets. Within a thirty year period Ancoats had been transformed from open farmland to a densely populated industrial area. By 1851 the population of Ancoats alone was some 53,737.
The primary business was cotton spinning, that is, the production of fine cotton thread from raw cotton. At its height it was said that the price of finished cotton that came out of the McConnell and Kennedy Mills (now known as Royal Mills) effectively set the world price of cotton. But as the 19th made way for the 20th century then cotton production in Ancoats and Manchester began to decline as other parts of the world began to produce cotton thread more cost effectively. The industrial decline continued during the post-war period and during the 1960s most of the remaining housing in Ancoats was cleared and the population relocated to other parts of the city. By 1998 it is estimated that 80% of business space in Ancoats lay vacant. The area was characterised by empty, often derelict buildings and vacant plots of land where housing once was. Ancoats looked and felt abandoned.
Manchester was the first industrial city and the first to de-industrialise but is also a pioneer of regeneration and since the mid 1990s huge efforts have been to revitalise the area and breathe new life into the former mills.
Cutting Room is the latest addition to the renaissance of Ancoats. Designed by landscape architects Camlin Lonsdale and dominated by artist Dan Dubowitz's five ‘frames' the new open space is meant to be the focal point of the new Ancoats community. It's called Cutting Room for a couple of reasons. Firstly the images within the frames were taken by Dan Dubowitz in what used to be known as the Cutting Room in Royal Mills – where cloth was cut in to pieces of garments before being sewn together. The colourful but faded cardboard templates were left hanging on the walls as Dan photographed the interior of the mills shortly before they were redeveloped. Cutting Room also refers to the design aspiration of the new open space. The new square is slightly sunken with the intention of creating a more intimate space with a sense of enclosure, an ‘outside room' if you like.
where is cutting room?
Cutting Room is located off Great Ancoats Street between Blossom Street and Hood Street.