Friedrich Engels' life in Manchester amid furore over £2.5million Deansgate Square penthouse named after him

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Engels co-wrote The Communist Manifesto - and was a resident of Manchester for decades.

Friedrich Engels is a name that divides opinion in the political sphere. The German philosopher co-wrote The Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx, and these views have influenced some of the most significant events in history. 

During his life, Engels spent many years in Manchester and Salford. In 2024, one of the most famous communists in history has been given a position in Manchester’s fast moving luxury accommodation scene. A £2.5 million penthouse in Deansgate Square has been named ‘The Engels’ in a turn of fate branded just a little ironic by critics. The Engels has three bedrooms and can be viewed through Deansgate Square apartments. 

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“It’s just another iteration of that thing that Manchester’s been very good at doing, which is reabsorbing radical elements of its history into a brand,” Isaac Rose from Greater Manchester Tenants Union told The Guardian.

Who was Friedrich Engels? 

Friedrich EngelsFriedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels was born on November 20 1820 in Barmen, Prussia (modern-day Germany). His father was a wealthy textile manufacturer, and at the age of 17 Engels was sent to Manchester which - in the 1840s - was a booming industrial hub. 

He was sent to learn the family business, and would go on to develop feelings of resentment towards themes of society - including capitalism. These were contrasting to the relatively moderate political background of his family. 

Engels would go on to attend university in Berlin following his work at the Manchester mill owned by his family. It was his time in Manchester that would go on to shape his political views and in 1841 he met Karl Marx at a club called  ‘Young Hegelian circle of The Free,’ which was for like-minded left wing young people to gather at. 

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Manchester’s influence on ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’

Engels’ stay in Manchester had a profound impact on him and his politics. The philosopher could see the uneven distribution of wealth that had come about in the city as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and documented it in his 1845 book ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’.

On life in Manchester, he wrote about: “women made unfit for childbearing, children deformed, men enfeebled, limbs crushed, whole generations wrecked, afflicted with disease and infirmity, purely to fill the purses of the bourgeoisie". 

He also commented on the Angel Meadows area of Ancoats, which during the Victorian era was a slum occupied by workers coming to Manchester for work. The area was used as a pauper's burial ground for decades around the turn of the 19th century. 

When did Engels and Marx write The Communist Manifesto? 

By the late 1840s, Engels and Marx had started to note they had similar ideas for society and political infrastructure. In 1848, they published ‘The Communist Manifesto’ documenting a way they believed the social landscape could be made into an even playing field. The text has been used as a reference by political leaders ever since. It has left a lasting impact on politics from the 19th century onwards.

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Engels the Manchester Mill owner

For two decades of his life, Engels held the unusual title (for a communist) of mill owner. In 1850 he took over the family textile business when Marx went away to write ‘Das Kapital’.

It was Engel’s experience of working and living amongst the Manchester cotton industry that would be an influence on the  text, and Marx went to Engels for practical advice.  The book was published in 1867. 

This controversial statue of philosopher Friedrich Engels in Manchester. This controversial statue of philosopher Friedrich Engels in Manchester.
This controversial statue of philosopher Friedrich Engels in Manchester. | Manchester World

Are there any reminders of Engels' time in Manchester? 

Engels time in Manchester had a lasting impact on how the German industrialist viewed politics and society. In 2017, a statue of Engels that had been erected in the Soviet Union-era Ukraine was unveiled in Manchester at Tony Wilson Place.

The statue was removed from its original home in Ukraine in 2015 after a law was passed banning people from publicly displaying Soviet symbols. It was brought to Manchester by artist Phil Collins. The statue led to some controversy, with some questioning why a statue from the brutal regime that was the Soviet Union should be erected in a city with a large Ukrainian population.

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