Why you see 'Manchester' on shop signs in Australia and New Zealand as it continues to puzzle people years on

It can often be a head-scratcher if you don't know the background.
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Manchester’s history as an industrial powerhouse is something which makes the city famous. The cotton and textiles industry put Manchester and the wider North West on the map, and helped the UK to lead the way as a manufacturing nation. 

The cotton mills of the region supplied materials to the manufacturing industry for decades, with the industrial boom giving Manchester the title of ‘Cottonopolis’ in the early 19th century. Thousands of people moved into the city to take up work in the new cotton mills, which by the mid-19th century peaked at more than 100. 

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Cotton produced in Manchester was sent all around the world, to places that looked very different to the cobbled streets of the city. The impact of Manchester’s role as a cotton hotbed is still noticed on the other side of the planet.

If you are out and about shopping for bedding in South Africa, New Zealand or Australia, you might need to take a double take at signs around the shop - as captured brilliantly by comedian Justin Moorhouse of Phoenix Nights fame. You might see ‘Manchester’ at the top of an aisle, and its reasoning is an example of Manchester’s cotton legacy. 

The term ‘Manchester’ is given to bedding products in the two southern hemisphere nations. According to the history of them, this is due to the large amount of Manchester cotton used in the production of bedding items over the years. 

Seeing signs such as ‘Manchester collection’ is commonplace in shops and department stores in Australia and New Zealand. People moved to these countries from Manchester have taken to social media over the years to tell of their surprise when seeing Manchester written down in their local shop. 

The inside of a cotton mill in Manchester at the start of the 20th centuryThe inside of a cotton mill in Manchester at the start of the 20th century
The inside of a cotton mill in Manchester at the start of the 20th century
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This can also be traced back to when the nations were colonies of the British Empire, and therefore had direct links to the rich cotton production of North West England. The life of workers in the cotton mills was hard, with unpleasant working conditions and long hours - factors which led to the formation of workers unions and the fight for more rights through the 19th and 20th centuries. 

The strong recognition of Manchester’s cotton-rich history makes a lot of sense. During the 19th century, more than three quarters of the world’s cotton was spun from Manchester mills - meaning that a little part of the city was taken across huge areas of the planet. 

Manchester and the Lancashire Cotton Industry boomed for decades, supplying a much needed product to an ever-growing world population. It’s impact on the world has been fittingly kept alive in nations thousands of miles away, and the region's most famous export will never be forgotten.