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Skyline of Salford from Hartshead Pike
Grid reference: SJ805985
Location: 53°28’59"N, 2°17’35"W
Population: 72,750  (2001)
Post town: Salford
Postcode: M3, M5-M7, M17, M50
Dialling code: 0161
Local Government
Council: Salford
Salford and Eccles

Salford is a city in Lancashire, in the south-east of the county sited in a meander of the River Irwell, which river divides it from the City of Manchester to the east. Salford was granted city status in 1926. Salford also gives a name to the Salford Hundred or Salfordshire, which encompasses Salford, Manchester and much of south-eastern Lancashire.

Salford has a resident population of 72,750 and occupies an area of some eight square miles.

Salford's early history is marked by its status as a Royal manor and the seat of the Hundred of Salfordshire. Salford received a charter from Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, in about 1230, making Salford a free borough. During the early stages of its growth, Salford was of greater cultural and commercial importance than its neighbour Manchester,[1] although since the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that position has been reversed.

Salford became a major factory town and inland port during the 18th and 19th centuries. Cotton and silk spinning and weaving in local mills attracted an influx of families and provided Salford with a strong economy. Salford Docks was a principal dockyard of the Manchester Ship Canal. By the end of the 19th century Salford had an enlarged working class community and suffered from chronic overpopulation. Industrial activities declined during the 20th century however, causing a local economic depression. Salford subsequently became one of contrasts, with regenerated inner-city areas like Salford Quays next to some of the most socially deprived and violent areas in England.[2]

Salford has become a centre of higher education, home to the University of Salford, and has seen several firsts, including the world's first unconditionally free public library,[3] and the first street in the world to be lit by gas, Chapel Street in 1806.[4] MediaCityUK at Salford Quays became the headquarters of several departments of the British Broadcasting Corporation and much of the BBC's programming is made there.

Name of the city

The name of Salford is from the Old English word Sealhford, meaning a "willow ford", from the ford over the River Irwell here. (Here sealh interestingly seems to be derived form the Latin salix.)[5][6] The ford was about where Victoria Bridge is today.[7] Willow trees are still found in Lower Broughton.[6]

Salford appears in the pipe roll of 1169 as "Sauford"[8] and in the Lancashire Inquisitions of 1226 as "Sainford".[9]


Salford stands on relatively flat ground to the west of a meander of the River Irwell – the city's main topographical feature. In 1904 Salford was recorded as "within a great loop of the River Irwell ... roughly three quarters of a mile from north to south and one mile from east to west".[10] Salford is contiguous with Manchester, and has been described "in participation of its trade, and for all other practical purposes, an integral part of it; presents a near resemblance to it in streets and edifices; contains several public buildings and a great public park, which belong fully more to Manchester than to itself".[11] Greengate, the original centre of Salford, is located at a fording point on the river opposite Manchester Cathedral. In 1969 Nikolaus Pevsner wrote:

That [neighbouring] Stretford and Salford are not administratively one with Manchester is one of the most curious anomalies of England.[12]
—Nikolaus Pevsner, Lancashire, The Industrial and Commercial South, 1969

The Irwell flows from the north and for a distance forms the boundary between Salford and Manchester. Flooding has historically been a problem and the Irwell has seen much modification along its course in Salford with some bends being removed, channelisation, and the construction of levees and bank reinforcements.[13][14] Salford has expanded along the river valley to the north and south and on to higher ground on the valley sides at Irlams o' th' Height and Higher Broughton. Unconsolidated glacial deposits along the riverbank at Broughton have caused several landslides along the riverbank. The City Engineer's Department of the City of Salford recorded one such incident near Great Clowes Street in February 1882, and others in 1886, 1887 and 1888. In 1892 the road was propped with timber supports. The tram service along the road was discontinued in 1925, and the road closed to mechanically propelled vehicles in January 1926. Further slips saw the road closed completely in July 1933, and although no substantial movements have been recorded since 1948 slow subsidence around the Cliff continues to this day.[15]

Salford's cityscape from Hartshead Pike

Salford's built environment is made up of a range of building stock. Some inner-city areas are noted for chronic urban decay. Salford's housing stock is characterised by an oversupply of older, smaller terraced housing and flatted accommodation that declined in value during the late 20th century. As demand fell, it left many owners in negative equity and often without the means to maintain their homes in reasonable condition. As a result, much of the built environment is poor.

The land use in Salford is overwhelmingly urban, with a number of green spaces.

Parks and open spaces include:

  • Kersal Dale Country Park, which covers about 79.1 acres;
  • Kersal Moor in Higher Kersal,
  • The Meadow;
  • Peel Park and the adjacent David Lewis Recreation Ground
  • Albert Park and Clowes Park in Broughton

The territory of Salford is contiguous with other towns on all sides, all within the conurbation centred on Manchester, which is the United Kingdom's third largest conurbation.

The M602 motorway enters Salford from Eccles to the west. The A580 "East Lancashire Road" terminates at Salford, entering the area from Pendlebury. Heavy rail lines pass through Salford.

Salford Quays

MediaCityUK at Salford Quays

Salford Quays' is the area by the Manchester Ship Canal. The old docks on the Manchester Ship Canal were the heart of commercial Salford, and accordingly a horrid symbol of its decline as the canal traffic stopped. This area has now been developed as Salford Quays.

The main development here is the Peel Group's MediaCityUK; a home to much of the British Broadcasting Corporation's output, to ITV Granada and to several other media companies too.

Also in this area are visitor attractions such as the Bridgewater Canal and the Lowry Centre.

The Lowry Centre is an award-winning theatre and art gallery complex, consisting of two theatres and three art galleries. The centre is named after the artist L. S. Lowry, who attended Salford School of Art and lived in nearby Pendlebury for 40 years.[16] Many of his paintings of Salford and Manchester mill scenes, populated with small matchstick-like figures, are on display.[17]


Early history

The Salford Hundred

Neolithic flint arrow-heads and workings have been found on Kersal Moor and in the River Irwell from 7–10,000 years ago. The flint for such tools was scarce and so they are not of the quality found elsewhere. A Neolithic axe-hammer was found near Mode Wheel during the excavation of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1890, and a Bronze Age cremation urn during the construction of a road on the Broughton Hall estate in 1873.[18][19]

After Roman conquest of Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola ordered the construction of a fort at Mamucium (Manchester) to protect the routes to Deva Victrix (Chester) and Eboracum (York), which fort was completed in AD 79.[19] The main Roman road to the north, from Mamucium to Ribchester, and another to the west both ran through what is now Salford, but few Roman artefacts have been found in the area.[20]

Little is known of Anglo-Saxon Salford, which period gave the town its name. Edward the Elder conquered Manchester from the Norsemen, but no mention is made of its neighbour until the creation of the Salford Hundred.

By the late Saxon period Salford had become a central manor within a broad rural area of southern Lancashire by the Kings of the English. The Domesday Book records the land as having been held by the King in the reign of Edward the Confessor. The area between the rivers Mersey and Ribble is the only part of Lancashire properly recorded in the Domesday Survey; it was divided into six wapentakes or hundreds, of which the south-eastern one was the Hundred of Salford. It contained nine large parishes, smaller parts of two others, and the township of Aspull in the parish of Wigan.[20][21][22][23]

William the Conqueror inherited the Salford Hundred from his predecessors and granted it to Roger de Poitevin. The Domesday Book of 1086 records the Hundred as covering an area of 350 square miles with a population of 35,000.[24] Poitevin created the subordinate Manor of Manchester out of the hundred. Poitevin forfeited the manor in 1102 when he was defeated in a failed rebellion attempt against King Henry I, and in about 1115 King Henry incorporated it with the Earldom of Lancaster,[23] whence it became a royal manor of which the Lord of the Manor was either the king, or a landowner administering the manor for the king.[1] During the reign of Henry II the Royal Manor of Salford passed to Ranulf de Gernon, 4th Earl of Chester.[23][25]

Ordsall Hall

Salford began to emerge as a small town early in the 13th century. In 1228, Henry III granted Salford the right to hold a market and an annual fair. The fairs were important to the town; a 17th-century order required each burgess to attend, but the fairs were abolished during the 19th century.[26] The Earls of Chester aided the development of the town, and in 1230 Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester made Salford a burgage, or free borough.[23][27] The charter gave its burgesses certain commercial rights, privileges and advantages over traders living outside Salford; one of the 26 clauses of the charter stated that no one could work in the Hundred of Salford unless they also lived in the borough.[1][9][26] Salford's status as a burgage encouraged an influx of distinguished families, and by the Late Middle Ages Salford was "rich in its manor houses", with over 30 within a 5-mile radius of Ordsall.[1] These included Ordsall Hall (owned by the Radclyffe family) and Broughton Hall, owned by the Earls of Derby.[1][21]

During the Civil War of 1640–49, Salford supported the Royalist cause, in contrast to Manchester just across the Irwell which declared in favour of the Parliamentarians. Royalist forces mounted a siege of Manchester across what is now the site of Victoria Bridge, which although short-lived, "did little to improve relations between the two towns". A century later, in 1745, Salford supported the Young Pretender ("Bonnie Prince Charlie"), in his attempt to seize the throne of England. He entered the town at the head of his army and was blessed by the Reverend John Clayton before leaving "in high spirits" to march on London. He returned to Salford in retreat just nine days later.[28]

Industrial Revolution

A map of Manchester and Salford in 1801

Salford has a history of textile processing that pre-dates the Industrial Revolution, and as an old town had been developing for about 700 years.[29] Before the introduction of cotton there was a considerable trade in woollen goods and fustians. Other cottage industries prevalent at this time included clogging, cobbling, weaving and brewing.[30] The changes to textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution had a profound effect on both on population and urbanisation, as well as the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of Salford.

The well-established textile processing and trading infrastructure, and the ready supply of water from the River Irwell and its tributaries, attracted entrepreneurs who built cotton mills along the banks of the river in Pendleton and Ordsall. Although Salford followed a similar pattern of industrial development to Manchester, most businesses preferred to build their premises on the Manchester side of the Irwell, and consequently Salford did not develop as a commercial centre in the same way as its neighbour. Many of these earlier mills had been based on Arkwright-type designs. These relied on strong falls of water, but Salford is on a meander of the Irwell with only a slight gradient and thus mills tended to be built upstream, at Kersal and Pendleton. With the introduction of the steam engine in the late 18th century however, merchants began to construct mills closer to the centres of Salford and Manchester, where supplies of labour and coal were more readily available (the first steam-powered mill was built in Manchester in 1780). One of the first factories to be built was Philip's and Lee's Twist Mill in Salford, completed in 1801, the second iron-framed multi-story building to be erected in Britain.[31] The large Salford Engine Twist Company mill was built to the west of Salford, between Chapel Street and the Irwell, and in 1806 was the first large cotton mill to use gas lighting. It was however outnumbered by the numerous smaller factories and mills throughout the area, including Nathan Gough's steam-driven mule spinning mill, near Oldfield Road, where a serious accident occurred on 13 October 1824.[32]

Woodcut of a serious incident at Nathan Gough's mill in 1824
The earliest known photograph of Salford, May 1856

Canal-building provided a further stimulus for Salford's industrial development. The opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761 improved the transport of fuel and raw materials, reducing the price of coal by about 50%.[33] The later Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal (which terminated at Salford) brought more cheap coal from pits at Pendleton, Agecroft Colliery and beyond. By 1818 Manchester, Salford and Eccles had about 80 mills, but it was the completion of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 which triggered Salford's development as a major inland port.[34] Salford Docks, a major dockland on the Ship Canal 35 miles east of the Irish Sea, brought employment to over 3,000 labourers.[35] By 1914 the Port of Manchester, most of whose docks were in Salford, had become one of the largest port authorities in the world, handling 5% of the UK's imports and 4.4% of its exports. Commodities handled included cotton, grain, wool, textile machinery and steam locomotives.[36]

For centuries, textiles and related trades were the main source of employment in the town.[30] Bleaching was a widely distributed finishing trade in Salford, carried over from the earlier woollen industry. In the 18th century, before the introduction of chemical bleaching, bleaching fields were commonplace, some very close to the town. In 1773 there were 25 bleachers around Salford, most to the west of the township. Printing was another source of trade; the earliest recorded in the region was a calique printer in the Manchester Parish Register of 1763.[37] These industries became more important as Salford faced increasing competition from the nearby towns of Bolton and Oldham. As its cotton spinning industries faltered its economy turned increasingly to other textiles and to the finishing trades, including rexine and sil dyeing, and fulling and bleaching, at a string of works in Salford.[34]

Manchester Dock No 9

The opening of the Salford Docks turned Salford into a major inland port along the ocean-going Manchester Ship Canal. The area has since been redeveloped as Salford Quays; Manchester Dock No 9 (pictured) is now occupied by The Lowry Centre.

Both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels spent time in Salford, studying the British working class. In The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, Engels described Salford as "really one large working-class quarter ... [a] very unhealthy, dirty and dilapidated district which, while other industries were almost always textile related is situated opposite the 'Old Church' of Manchester".[38]

Salford developed several civic institutions; in 1806, Chapel Street became the first street in the world to be lit by gas (supplied by Phillips and Lee's cotton mill).[39] In 1850, under the terms of the Museums Act 1845, the municipal borough council established the Royal Museum and Public Library, said to have been the first unconditional free public library in England,[3][4][40] preceding the Public Libraries Act 1850.

The effect on Salford of the Industrial Revolution has been described as "phenomenal". The area expanded from a small market town into a major industrial metropolis; factories replaced cottage industries, and the population rose from 12,000 in 1812 to 70,244 within 30 years. By the end of the 19th century it had increased to 220,000. Large-scale building of low quality Victorian terraced housing did not stop overcrowding, which itself lead to chronic social deprivation. The density of housing was as high as 80 homes per acre.[21][41] Private roads were built for the use of the middle classes moving to the outskirts of Salford. The entrances to such roads, which included Elleray Road in Irlams o' th' Height, were often gated, and patrolled.[42]

Post-industrial decline and regenration

The Crescent. Tower blocks replacing Victorian slums
Thursfield Street

During the early 20th century, improvements in regional transport infrastructure precipitated the decline of Salford's existing industries, including those at the Salford Docks. Increased foreign competition began to undermine the competitiveness of local textile processing businesses. Rising unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s,[43] and a significant economic decline in the decades following the Second World War contributed toward a fall in Salford's population. By 1939 local coal mining had almost stopped, and cotton spinning had by 1971 ceased completely.[43] Between 1921 and 1939, the population of Salford decreased by 29%, from 234,045 to 166,386,[44] far greater than the rate of decline within the whole of Lancashire.

A survey in 1931 concluded that parts of Salford contained some of the worst slums in the country. Many houses were infested by rats and lacked elementary amenities. Inspectors found that of 950 houses surveyed, 257 were in a state of bad repair with leaking roofs, broken flooring and rotten woodwork. The inspectors were "struck by the courage and perseverance with which the greater number of tenants kept their houses clean and respectable under most adverse conditions".[43] By 1933 slum clearance projects were under way,[45] and by the end of 1956 over a thousand families had been rehoused in overspill estates at Little Hulton.[46] These clearances have, for some, changed the character of the area to such an extent that "observers in search of the typical Salford may have to look in Eccles and Swinton, for much of the community and townscape ... has gone from Salford, replaced by tall blocks of flats".[47] Large areas of the city were redeveloped in the 1960s and 1970s, with Victorian era terraced housing estates that inspired painter L. S. Lowry and soap opera Coronation Street giving way to concrete tower blocks and austere architecture.[47] Life in Salford during the early 20th century was described by Robert Roberts, in his study The Classic Slum.[48]

Despite extensive redevelopment, throughout the 1980s and 1990s the area experienced chronic poverty, deprivation and unemployment. This social deprivation led to increased levels of gang crime linked to illegal narcotics, firearms and robberies. Organised crime in Salford, particularly in Ordsall and Pendleton, "began to have a disturbing effect on grass roots democracy. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives announced they would not contest certain Salford wards" because they regarded them as "unsafe" and would put their "party workers at risk".[49] Salford's social amenities and the night-time economy folded amid criminal "intimidation", "drug use, fights and demands for money".[50] From 2004, a crackdown by the police coupled with investment in, and structural changes to the housing stock, began the change in Salford's fortunes;[51] population decline has slowed, and Salford's city councillors have insisted it is a safe place to visit.[52] In August 2005, a survey by Channel 4 television rated the city as the 9th worst place to live in the United Kingdom, based on criteria of crime, education, environment, lifestyle and employment.[53]

During the 1990s many of the awful high-rise housing blocks from the 1960s and 1970s were demolished "a sign that the great social engineering schemes (from that period) had failed".[54] However, the high-rises that remain are a striking feature of Salford's landscape.

Work was scheduled to begin on the £180 million redevelopment of the Greengate area of Salford in January 2007. The plans include the construction of what will be the two tallest tower blocks in Salford. Plans also include a five-star hotel, a new public square and park, restaurants, cafes and 403 apartments.[55] Work is ongoing to regenerate the area known as Middlewood Locks, with the restored Salford terminus of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal forming the centrepiece of a brand new residential development.[56] Rows of terraces in neighbourhoods such as Seedley and Langworthy – once used for the title sequence of Coronation Street – are being compulsorily purchased, demolished and replaced by "modern sustainable accommodation".[57]


The Church of the Sacred Trinity
The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

Salford is within the Diocese of Manchester, a bishopric carved out of the Diocese of Chester in the Victorian era. Until 1541 Salfordshire was part of the Diocese of Lichfield. The parishes of Salford are part of Salford Deanery, which has 16 churches.

Church of the Sacred Trinity

In the Middle Ages there was no church in Salford and worshipers walked to the parish church of Manchester. A small chantry chapel existed in 1368 on the only bridge linking the two settlements but the chantry was suppressed at the Reformation in the 16th century and the chapel converted into a dungeon. It was demolished in 1779.

In 1634–1635, Humphrey Booth, a wealthy local merchant, opened a chapel of ease, which a year later was consecrated as the Chapel of Sacred Trinity (the parish of Sacred Trinity was created in 1650).[58] John Wesley preached in the chapel, before his break with the Church of England, and on his return in 1747 he preached in the open, at Salford Cross. The chapel was rebuilt in about 1752–53, although the tower probably belonged to the original building.[59][60] It was restored in 1871–74 by the architect J. P. Holden and a chapel was added to the south-east in 1934.

The church has three galleries, supported by Tuscan (Doric according to Hartwell (2004)) columns. The wooden roof is Victorian.[61][62] It is now a Grade II* listed building.[63]


Churches in Salford include:

  • Church of England:
    • Church of the Sacred Trinity
    • Saint Paul the Apostle in Paddington
    • St Thomas' in Pendleton
    • St Philip with St Stephen in Salford
    • St Clement's in Ordsall
  • The Anchor: MediaCityUK chaplaincy
  • Baptist: Christway Baptist Church
  • Independent / evangelical: (many churches)
  • Methodist:
    • Emmanuel Church (jointly with Church of England)
    • The Height
  • United Reformed Church: Central United Reformed Church, Salford
  • Greek Orthodox: Church of the Annunciation, founded in 1861, in Broughton by Greek immigrants arriving after the Greek War of Independence[64]
  • Roman Catholic: Salford Cathedral (built between 1844 and 1848[65]

Sights of the town

Kersal Cell

Salford is not as blessed as neighbouring Manchester with pretty listed buildings, it does have a wide range of both classical and modern architecture, as well as some unique structures, including the 19th-century Barton Swing Aqueduct.

Ordsall Hall (Grade I listed) is one of Salford's oldest buildings. It is a Tudor mansion and former stately home in nearby Ordsall. It dates back over 750 years, although the oldest surviving parts of the present hall were built in the 15th century.[66]

Kersal Cell is a Grade II* listed 16th-century timber-framed manor house, currently in use as a private residence.[67]

  • The Church of the Sacred Trinity has a tower built in 1635, and the main building from 1752. It was restored between 1871 and 1874, and is now used as a library and office space.[68]

Salford's Roman Catholic Cathedral (Grade II* listed) is a decorated neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church built between 1844 and 1848.[69]

Bridges: Salford is linked to Manchester by a series of bridges, including the Grade II listed Blackfriars Bridge, completed in 1820.[70]

The city is dominated by the several railway viaducts built in the 19th century.[71][72]

Salford (Old) Town Hall, in Bexley Square off Chapel Street, is a Neo-classical brick building dressed in stone, designed by Richard Lane.[73]

Public swimming baths were provided, on Blackfriars Road. Now in commercial use, the two-storey building was constructed in about 1890 from brick, with terracotta dressings and a part-glazed roof.[74]

The Salford University Campus, visible partly from the Crescent, contains a number of interesting buildings including the Royal Art Gallery and the Peel Building.[75][76]

Salford Lads Club

Salford Lads Club is a recreational club established in 1903 and located in Ordsall. It is a listed building and gained international fame in 1986 when the pop band The Smiths posed in front of it for the inside cover of their album The Queen Is Dead. A report by English Heritage said "The building is thought to be the most complete example of this rare form of social provision to survive."[77] In 2007, the Manchester Evening News reported that the club was third in a nationwide hunt to find the most iconic buildings in the country.[78]


Salford has hosted major events including some of the events in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Salford had a venue for horse racing since the 17th century; the earliest record of racing at Kersal Moor dates from 1687.[79]

Salford Quays has been used as a major international triathlon site.

  • Football: No professional team. Non-league Salford City plays in the Northern Premier League
  • Rugby league: Salford City Reds


The Lowry at Salford Quays
Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Salford Museum and Art Gallery opened in November 1850 as the Royal Museum and Public Library. It was built on the site of Lark Hill estate and Mansion, which was purchased by public subscription. The park was named Peel Park after Robert Peel who contributed to the subscription fund. The library was the first unconditionally free public library in the country.[80]

Harold Brighouse's play Hobson's Choice takes place in the Salford of 1880, and the 1954 film version was shot in the town. Walter Greenwood's 1933 novel Love on the Dole was set in a fictional area known as Hanky Park, said in the novel to be near Salford, but in reality based on Salford itself.[81] A more modern fictional setting influenced by the area is Coronation Street's Weatherfield.[82] The Salford of the 1970s was the setting for the BAFTA award winning East is East.[83] Salford was featured in the second series of the Channel 4 programme The Secret Millionaire, screened in 2007.

The folk song "Dirty Old Town", written by native Ewan MacColl, is the origin of Salford's nickname.[84] Local band Doves (band)|Doves released a song on their 2005 album Some Cities called "Shadows of Salford".[85] One of the most famous photographs of band The Smiths shows them standing outside the Salford Lads Club, and was featured in the artwork for their album The Queen Is Dead. The videos for the Timbaland song "The Way I Are", and the Justin Timberlake song "Lovestoned" were filmed in Salford.[86]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Salford)


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