In 1800, Burnage Lane looked very different. There was no village centre and the landscape was made up of farms and fields with very few houses. Farmers grew potatoes, turnips and corn, and owned cows and horses which grazed around the grass. There were trees, hedges, brooks and ponds – altogether a peaceful area. Carts bringing salt into Manchester from mines in Cheshire rumbled along the road.
In addition to farms, there was a small amount of industry taking place. Spinning and weaving cotton was beginning to become a good way for families to earn money and in the beginning – before there was a huge need for cotton – people could work with cotton in their own homes. On Fog Lane there are several cottages in a row which were known as ‘cotton shops’. The people in these houses were handloom weaving and would take the finished cloth by cart into town in the hope of selling it onto merchants.
In the early 1800s though, a huge rise in the need for cotton took the country – particularly Manchester – by storm. The Industrial Revolution found mechanically engineered methods to speed up the processes which had previously been done in the home. Owners of factories and engineers were able to make a lot of money and live in big houses in countryside areas like Burnage, while most workers were forced to live in tiny spaces in cities, close to the factories, where the noise and fog would have been horrible. Wealthy families who had previously lived in the city now moved out to semi-rural areas like Burnage.
Of the 20 families on Burnage Lane, 16 moved to Burnage from Manchester. Even those who didn’t live here were drawn to Burnage for its prettiness and it became a popular walking route.