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What is the Manchester Worker Bee Symbol?

Author: Amanda Hosking

The worker bee has been a symbol of Manchester since 1842. If you look around the city you will see the bee on buildings, floors, clock faces, bins, bollards, and many other features.

The worker bee as a concept first became associated with Manchester in the industrial revolution. In the 1800's Manchester was full of cotton mills and hundreds of hard-working people went to work in these buildings. The mills came to be described as ‘hives of activity’ because they were so busy, and the employees were likened to worker bees as they put so much effort into their jobs. This is how the worker bee association came to light.

After becoming aware of the metaphor some mill owners created beehive mills, one of which still exists in Ancoats.

In 1842 the worker bee became integrated into the coat of arms of Manchester City Council. This is when it became an official symbol of Manchester. It truly represents the hard work of the people in the industrial revolution and their resilience.

Locals say the bee represents the ‘togetherness’, ‘hard work’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘co-operation’ and ‘resilience’ of the people of Manchester.

Here are some of the areas where the bee can be seen:

• On the mosaic surface at Manchester Town Hall
• On the coat of arms at Manchester Town Hall
• On the clock face at the Palace Hotel
• Over the arches of Links of London
• On bins and planters

Look out for the bees at the Manchester Day Parade. Each year the street hoovers dress up as worker bees and clean the streets during the course of the day. This represents the hardworking symbol of the worker bee.

Manchester even supports our real bees, there is a beehive on the roof of the Printworks which is home to over 80,000 bees! This is run by volunteers and they produce their own honey to sell to the public.

The worker bee symbol remains relevant to this day as Manchester is still a city full of friendly, reliable, resilient, hardworking people.