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Salford: An Illustrated History

Glynis Cooper

Salford, better known for the sweet currant cakes produced by Eccles, one of its townships, is often seen as the lesser part of Manchester, yet it was by far the larger city in the past and has just as long and colourful a history as its neighbour. It was to Salford that Sir John Radclyffe bought his Flemish migrants in the 13th century. Their weaving skills laid the foundations for Manchester’s 19th-century ‘Cottonopolis’. Sir John’s home, Ordsall Hall, still survives, a black and white timbered building of rich history and whispered legends. It was here, in the Star Chamber, that Guy Fawkes is said to have plotted to blow up the House of Commons.

The city grew more slowly and less willingly than Manchester during the cotton manufacturing era. As the tentacles of the millscapes reached out across its green and pleasant countryside, Salford became a byword for grimness, polluted waterways and some of the worst slums in the area. The glitter and bustle of the commercial heart of Manchester passed Salford by until the building of the Manchester Ship Canal and the development of Salford Docks from 1890–1894 revolutionised the City of Salford.

World-renowned artist L.S. Lowry immortalised his home town with his paintings of Salford scenes peopled with his trademark ‘matchstick men’. The mills and the docks have gone; but today the Lowry Centre stands along side the Ship Canal, an innovative modern complex which fosters history and the arts. The canal has been cleaned and stocked with fish, and cruises run from Salford to Liverpool. Salford is firmly back on the map, and the old dock warehouses have become sought-after apartments and offices.

This new history of Salford chronicles events from its evolution some time at the end of the New Stone Age, through Romano/Celtic times and mediaeval expansion, down to the ‘heyday’ of the Industrial Revolution, the slow decline of the 20th century and the city’s ‘rebirth’ in the 1990s and early 21st century. History is essentially about people and, while all the facts are here, the inhabitants of Salford peep through the curtains of time as well in the events, stories, images and legends that help to bring Salford and its past to life.




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