map of Greater Manchester from Wikimedia Commons
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England with a population of 510,700 (2012 estimate). Since 2001, population has grown by 20.8% (87,900), making it the fastest growing city in Britain. It lies within the United Kingdom's second most populous urban area which had a population of 2,553,379 in the census of 2011. Manchester is located in the south-central part of North West England, fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south and the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council, and the city's inhabitants are referred to as Mancunians.
The City of Manchester is governed by the Manchester City Council. The earlier Greater Manchester County Council was abolished in 1986 so it is effectively a unitary authority. Manchester has been a member of the English Core Cities Group since its inception in 1995.
The town of Manchester was granted a charter by Thomas Grelley in 1301, but lost its borough status in a court case of 1359. Until the 19th century, local government was largely provided by manorial courts, the last of which ended in 1846.
From a very early time, the township of Manchester lay within the historic or ceremonial county boundaries of Lancashire. Pevsner wrote "That [neighbouring] Stretford and Salford are not administratively one with Manchester is one of the most curious anomalies of England". A stroke of a Norman baron's pen is said to have divorced Manchester and Salford, though it was not Salford that became separated from Manchester, it was Manchester, with its humbler line of lords, that was separated from Salford. It was this separation that resulted in Salford becoming the judicial seat of Salfordshire, which included the ancient parish of Manchester. Manchester later formed its own Poor Law Union using the name "Manchester". In 1792, Commissioners—usually known as "Police Commissioners"—were established for the social improvement of Manchester. Manchester regained its borough status in 1838, and comprised the townships of Beswick, Cheetham Hill, Chorlton-upon-Medlock and Hulme. By 1846, with increasing population and greater industrialization, the Borough Council had taken over the powers of the "Police Commissioners". In 1853, Manchester was granted "city status" in the United Kingdom.
In 1885, Bradford, Harpurhey, Rusholme and parts of Moss Side and Withington townships became part of the City of Manchester. In 1889, the city became the county borough of Manchester, separate from the administrative/ceremonial county of Lancashire, and thus not governed by Lancashire County Council. Between 1890 and 1933, more areas were added to the city from Lancashire, including former villages such as Burnage, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Didsbury, Fallowfield, Levenshulme, Longsight, and Withington. In 1931, the Cheshire civil parishes of Baguley, Northenden and Northen Etchells from the south of the River Mersey were added. In 1974, by way of the Local Government Act 1972, the City of Manchester became a metropolitan district of the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester. That year, Ringway, the town where the Manchester Airport is located, was added to the City.