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Introducing…The Story of Manchester in 101 Objects. No. 1: Origin of the Name Manchester

Here’s an exciting new series for everyone interested in Manchester history: “The Story of Manchester in 101 Objects” by Ed Glinert, one of Manchester’s most experienced journalists and writers, in conjunction with those good folk from I Love Mcr.

This is a unique chronological history of the world’s first industrial city…the capital of the North, covering every subject imaginable, every major figure, every important location. It will run throughout 2019.

No. 1
Story: Derivation of the Name “Manchester”
Object: Ford Madox Brown Mural No. 1
Location: Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square
Year: 79 AD

Why is Manchester called Manchester? When the Romans invaded the area in the year 79 ad, swarming north from Chester, crossing the Mersey by the street ford (now Stretford), and camping by the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell (the bottom end of Water Street), they nicknamed the under-populated community “Mamucium” – place of the breast-shaped hill.

They also had to contend with the existing name of the area. They discovered this to be Maenwicken, the “Maen” meaning rock or stone in Brythonic and the “Wicken” village. Such terms can be seen today in the Isle of Man or the Old Man [Maen] of Coniston and the modern version of Wicken found in Ipswich, Greenwich or Hackney Wick.

According to legend the Roman invaders couldn’t pronounce the word Maenwicken properly and voiced it as “Mancunian” or Mancenion (hard “c”), which is how the term came to be used to denote people from Manchester.

Over the centuries a variety of versions emerged: Mancenion, Manigceatre, by 1304 when a charter was granted Mamecestre. In 1603 we read of a Mancestri and there’s also mention of a Maincestriae. In the 17th century Manchester itself appeared, the “Man” being handed down from the original rock or stone, the “chester”, the Anglicisation of the Latin “castra” meaning camp also found in cities such as Worcester and Leicester.