The Royal Exchange is a grade II listed building in Manchester, England. It is located in the city centre on the land bounded by St Ann's Square, Exchange Street, Market Street, Cross Street and Old Bank Street. The complex includes the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Royal Exchange Shopping Centre.
The Royal Exchange was heavily damaged in the Manchester Blitz and in the 1996 Manchester bombing. The current building is the last of several buildings on the site used for commodities exchange, primarily but not exclusively of cotton and textiles.
The cotton industry in Lancashire was served by the Manchester Royal Exchange which traded in spun yarn and finished goods throughout the world including Africa while the Liverpool Cotton Exchange traded in imported raw cotton. In the 18th century the trade was part of part the slave trade in which African slaves were transported to America where the cotton was grown and then exported to Liverpool where the raw cotton was sold.
The first exchange opened in 1729 but closed by the end of the century. As the cotton industry boomed, the need for a new exchange was recognized. Thomas Harrison designed the new exchange of 1809 at the junction of Market Street and Exchange Street. The expanding cotton industry required a larger building and its extension was completed in 1849. The second exchange was replaced, by a third exchange by Mills & Murgatroyd, constructed between 1867 and 1874. It was extended and modified by Bradshaw Gass & Hope between 1914 and 1931 to form the largest trading hall in England.
The trading hall had three domes and was double the size of the current hall. The colonnade parallel to Cross Street marked the its centre. On trading days merchants and brokers struck deals which supported the jobs of tens of thousands of textile workers in Manchester and the surrounding towns. Manchester's cotton dealers and manufactureres trading from the Royal Exchange earned the city the name, Cottonopolis