Stockport is a metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, in North West England. With a population of 284,528 (2001), Stockport is one of the largest towns in the United Kingdom.
Stockport was originally a Saxon village. Its name is derived from two Saxon words: STOC - a stockaded place or castle, and PORT - a wood. Literally, a castle in a wood. There is sufficient evidence that a fortified stronghold existed in the vicinity in ancient British times, and that Agricola in AD79 recognised its strategical advantages and fortified Stockport to guard the passage of the Mersey.
(Source: Local history page on Stockport Council's web site, March 3 2005)
After the Norman Conquest, it became ruled by a hereditary Baron of Stockport.
Stockport has never been a sea or river port. The river Mersey at Stockport is not navigable to anything much above canoe size, and in the center of Stockport has been culverted and the main shopping street Mersey Way built above it.
The 1835 Municipal Corporation Act made Stockport a town divided into seven wards. In 1888, its status was raised to County Borough.
Due to its close proximity to Manchester, Stockport rapidly expanded during the Industrial Revolution, helped particularly by the growth of the cotton manufacturing industries. However, economic growth took its toll, and 19th Century philosopher Friedrich Engels wrote in 1844 that Stockport was "renowned as one of the duskiest, smokiest holes in the whole of the industrial area".
Today, Stockport includes a large town centre around the A6, as well as several areas including:
- Bramhall, Bredbury , Brinnington
- Cale Green , Cheadle , Cheadle Hulme, Compstall
- Four Heatons
- Hazel Grove, Heald Green , High Lane
- Marple, Mellor
- Reddish, Romiley
- Woodford , Woodley, Woodsmoor
Stockport is home to League One football team Stockport County Football Club and Premiership rugby union side Sale Sharks, as well as Bramall Hall and the National Trust property of Lyme Park. The UK's last working hat factory was located in Stockport; in its place is now HatWorks hat museum. The viaduct, built in 1842, is the largest free-standing brick structure in Europe, containing a total of eleven million bricks.
Its principal commercial district is located in the town centre, with most common department stores to be found in the Merseyway Shopping Centre. The Grand Central Square complex boasts three nightclubs, a cinema and a bowling alley. Stockport is located seven miles away from Manchester City Centre, making it convenient for commuters and shoppers.
Although the suburbs of Bramhall and Cheadle rank amongst the wealthiest areas of the United Kingdom and 45% of the borough is green space, districts such as Adswood and Brinnington suffer from widespread poverty and post-industrial decay. Opinions on the general quality of life in Stockport greatly differ. In its favour, some highlight its close proximity to Manchester, and its abundance of amenities; but its perceived grittiness and loutish youth culture earned it 12th place in the internet-based 2004 guide "Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places To Live In The UK" (however, given that its fellows on this list were places such as Oxford, Winchester, Liverpool (European Capital of Culture), and tiny London commuter belt villages, the relevance of the list is disputed).
There are three parliamentary constituencies in the Stockport area: Stockport, Cheadle and Hazel Grove.
Stockport has been represented by Labour MP Ann Coffey since 1992. The Liberal Democrat Patsy Calton was elected in Cheadle in 2001 over long-standing Conservative member Stephen Day by the smallest margin of any constituency in the country. Andrew Stunell has been the Liberal Democrat MP for Hazel Grove since 1997. The constituency of Denton and Reddish bridges Stockport and Tameside; the current member is Andrew Bennett who will retire at the May 2005 election.
In 1967 the Stockport Air Disaster occurred, when a British Midland Airways Argonaut crashed in the town, resulting in the deaths of 72 passengers.