From 1840-1914 England was transformed on a scale unprecended in its history. The country became the workshop of the world - an industrial powerhouse built on iron, coal and steam. Once-sleepy villages and ancient market towns were engulfed by a tide of development as the great manufacturing cities of the age - Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds - exploded scross the face of England. Railways wrought massive changes as their iron tentacles spreaad across the landscape, and the countryside reeled from the shock of the new. By 1900 nearly 80 per cent of England's population lived in urban areas, compared with just one third 100 years earlier.