The big idea

The city stretches over 37 square miles and includes such contrasting places as the Salford Quays – part of England’s largest inland waterway; the village of Worsley – a pretty little patch which can lay claim to being the birthplace of Britain’s transport revolution; and Eccles, famous worldwide for a certain round, flat, currant cake.

So why come here for a visit?

Well, rather like it’s big brother (but never say that) over the canal, it’s a fundamentally creative place, but there’s a strong working-class core to that creativity – be it the paintings of Lowry, the strong independent musical heritage or the stunning Lowry Theatre and Gallery – that give it an authenticity and rawness that’s hard to match elsewhere.

The city’s motto of ‘integrity and industry’ sums it up perfectly – if you want to be inspired by what the working man can achieve, come to Salford.

Solidarity: a fair deal for all

The industrial heritage of Salford is impressive: it houses the Bridgewater Canal, which was so crucial to the Industrial Revolution, and the huge Salford Quays – in its day the country’s third largest docks.

But dig deeper and it’s the spirit of industry and fair treatment of the worker that is so all-pervading.

The Working Class Movement Library, which houses the widest collection of labour movement and trade union history in the world, is based in Salford, and the Three Crowns pub in King Street was where the Trade Union Congress (TUC) was first established in 1868. It’s also worth checking out The Crescent pub – previously the Red Dragon – as it was a favourite haunt of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.

In fact, pubs feature prominently in Salford’s history, not only as venues for stimulating political debate, but also for the sheer volume and liveliness of them. Maybe this, and the attitude of the locals, led to the popular quip many years ago that ‘Salford goes to Manchester for its education, but the other way round for entertainment’! (Ironic really as Salford was also home to the Rechabites Temperance Movement, the oldest teetotal friendly society!)

Salford is also home to the famous Salford Lads Club, a venue with a strong music and sporting heritage. The iconic building not only featured on an early The Smiths album cover, but was also recently the scene of a famous spat between David Cameron and Hazel Blears, who both wanted to be photographed outside during local electioneering.

And if that wasn’t enough evidence that Salford believes in power and wellbeing to the people, consider this: Peel Park, named after the great social reformer Robert Peel, was the first free public park in the country; the first public library in the land was opened here; and it was the first officially smokeless city in the country.

Creative expression

Salford’s most famous resident has to be Laurence Stephen Lowry, the painter of industrial landscapes in the early- to mid-20th century, and one of the most popular of English painters. Named in his honour is the impressive and modern Lowry Theatre, a stunning venue dedicated to the communal experience of the arts. The major attractions at The Lowry are the Galleries, which is home to the largest public collection of Lowry’s work, and contemporary and historical exhibitions from around the world; the Lyric and Quays Theatres, which include the second-largest stage in England (oh, and the seats are designed by Ferrari – so pretty comfy too); and the Artworks, an interactive attraction in which you create your own works of art.

But art isn’t Salford’s only creative contribution; Salford has also played a pretty big part in the world of music. OK, there are some historical contributions – Kersal Cell was the birthplace of John Byrom, writer of the hymn Christians Awake, and the Salford Choral Society was formed in 1846. But it was more recently that a musical revolution was started in here.

In the late 1970s, from a small flat in Salford, a student organised what some believe to be one of the most influential gigs of all time – the Sex Pistols at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. Out of that small but very important gig exploded the Salford and Manchester music scenes of the 1980s – bands of this era include The Fall, Joy Division, The Smiths, James, Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses.

And it’s not just the punk revolution that started here: Salford is also home to Glen Crosby, formerly of the Hollies and then Crosby, Stills and Nash; and Graham Gouldman, of 10CC fame; and, more recently, Russell Watson – ‘the voice’.

In fact, the contribution of Salfordians to the arts doesn’t stop there: we can also include such distinguished actors as Albert Finney, Ben Kingsley and Robert Powell to the list. All in all a pretty impressive creative output!

The essence

Industry and creativity for all

The industry and heritage is clear to see; it’s the impact of this environment on the resulting artistic endeavours that makes Salford special.

Who it’s for/how it can make you feel

This place gives you a real sense of solidarity, community and pride. Salford is authentic, and the word ‘lively’ is a part of its DNA. And with such a creative heritage, it’s no wonder the BBC is planning on moving some of its creative output here.

So, it’s a great city for artists and music lovers, for people wanting to be inspired, but also for people wanting to find out more about the spirit of mutual cooperation.

History
 

The name Salford comes from a small village known 1,000 years ago as Salixford, meaning ‘the ford where the willows grow’. Originally the area was almost totally woodland, with an eel-infested river – later to be called the Irwell – running through it (eel pie has long been a Salford delicacy).

It was originally the capital of the Hundred of Salford, an ancient division of Lancashire, set up by Edward the Confessor, and it split from Manchester when Frenchman Roger de Poitou gave that city to one of his henchmen.

Interestingly, despite its proximity to Manchester, literally an Eccles cake’s throw over the river, it’s always been proud to be different. Go back to the Civil War and Manchester was for Parliament; Salford for the King. In 1642, the siege of Manchester actually started the English civil war; the siege was launched from Salford when up to 4,000 royalists attacked the Parliamentarian Manchester (look out for the Victoria Bridge – it stands on the site of the original Salford Bridge where the battle raged).

After that, the town continued to grow steadily until the early 18th century, when water power drove a boom in engineering work in the town, and boosted the growing textile industry.

In 1759 the famous Bridgewater Canal was opened, which linked the coal mines in Worsley with Manchester city centre. This immediately slashed the price of coal and effectively fuelled the industrial revolution.

Then, in 1874, the Manchester Ship Canal opened, linking the River Mersey to the Salford Quays. And at 35 miles long it was the world’s largest navigation canal – it took 16,000 workers to construct it and was the last great construction project in the western world to use such a vast labour force. This in turn led to significant trade with the Americas and Canada (interestingly, Alistair Cook, of Letters from America fame, is a Salford lad).

In the mid-1970s, Salford was replaced as a city and county borough, and became the City of Salford. It expanded to include villages and areas such as the aforementioned Worsley and Eccles.

More recently, in the last two decades, the area has undergone a huge renaissance: the Salford Quays area has been transformed by the Lowry theatre and Gallery, new shopping, dining and entertainment facilities, a new five-star hotel, and has also attracted the BBC who’ll be using the new MediaCityUK facility there. And they all celebrate the twin strengths of industry and creativity in one location.

How to experience Salford/get under the skin of the city

A visit to Salford is one of contrast. Despite such a strong industrial heritage, over 60% of Salford is green space – so to really get under the skin of the city it’s best to start a little further out.

Start out north of Salford Quays atWorsley. This village of picturesque half-timbered buildings in a peaceful setting provides a good opportunity to explore parkland and canals (a large chunk of the western side of Salford stretches across the Chat Moss peat bog) and, given the historic importance of the underground canal, is currently being considered for UNESCO World Heritage status.

From here, go on a canal cruise (the country’s only ‘orange canal’ because of the iron ore deposits), and make sure you see The Delph, where the famous 48-mile underground canal starts. Also check out Grade-II listed Packet House (views of this are much used by photographers and artists including Lowry), and cross the Alphabet bridge (so named by local school kids, who practised their A-Z on the 26 planks that make up the bridge’s walkway).

In the village you’ll come across a pretty green. This isn’t an ordinary green though; up until the early 20th century it was the centre of a busy industrial complex including a boatbuilding yard, motor mills and a timber yard – it’s still possible to see imprints in the grass where the railway sidings were (it’s also home to a clock that still strikes 13 at one o’clock – adjusted so the workmen could hear when their lunch break ended above the noise of the yard!).

Next, coming closer to the centre of Salford, explore the Chapel Street area. Starting at Blackfriars Bridge, look for the view of Sacred Trinity Church, the oldest church in the city, and the Flat Iron Market, from Chapel Street; this view was made famous by a Lowry painting, and remains the only view in the city unchanged since he painted it.

Next, check out the Lowry Hotel, Salford’s first five-star hotel, which is home to the first Bollinger Champagne Bar. If you fancy something a bit less, well, upmarket, there are several pubs of interest in the area. Pop in to the Copperheads pub – previously the Bulls Head and a favourite of George Best,  and prior to that home of the oldest fishing club in the country – or try The Crescent, which was previously the Red Dragon, a favourite of Karl Marx (where else could you get such a diversity of famous drinkers?). Real ale aficionados will be pleased to know that Salford is well served with real ale pubs, which is not surprising as CAMRA was formed by Salford-born Graham Lees.

After you’ve enjoyed your pint (or bubbly), look out for St John’s Cathedral, the first in the country built in the cruciform shape after the Reformation. And nearby find St Philips Church – one of the city’s most distinctively designed buildings and possibly the last remaining neo-classical building in the city.

For any physicists in your party, Joule House is just around the corner, which was once the home of scientist James Joule, who gave his name to the measure of heat.

Over the road is Salford Technical College – the first of its kind in the country – which houses The Peel building where Lowry studied life drawing. Also here is the Salford Museum, with its very own Lark Hill Place, a recreated street from Victorian times, and the award-winning Lifetimes Exhibition, which celebrates the history of Salford people.

Finally, spend some time atSalford Quays. This was previously the Port of Manchester and echoes of this famous past can be found on a walk around the quay. Standing on the impressive Lowry Footbridge affords a great view of the award-winning Lowry Theatre with its ship-like appearance; Manchester United’s Old Trafford; and the Imperial War Museum North, whose visually stunning exterior is designed as a globe shattered by war, with the three shards of the broken globe representing earth, water and air.

When you’re walking around the quays you’ll notice that many facilities are named after places in America and Canada: Winnipeg Quay, Detroit Bridge, Huron Bay – all chosen to reflect the port’s strong trading links with North America. And if you’ve got the time, take a trip on one of the Mersey ferries that leaves from the Quays (it takes six hours but is a fascinating way to appreciate the canal and surrounding areas).

The stretch of water itself is now the largest stretch of inland water in Britain, and the Quays are recognised as the country’s home of the triathlon (the annual Salford Triathlon is the UK’s only International Triathlon Union World Cup event). A visit to the Watersports Centre provides state-of-the-art sailing, kayaking, and many other watersports for all levels.

Finally, The Quays are also home MediaCityUK, the country’s first purpose-built, dedicated media area, which will become the new home for some of the BBC’s creative output from 2011. Makes sense really, for a city devoted to creating things built of integrity and industry.
 

When to visit

City pics

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