Salford is also a city, but sometimes it may get overlooked because of the close proximity of the much larger Manchester, however there is plenty to see!
Status: City of Salford District, Greater Manchester (Historically Lancashire), City, England
Date: Various, First 24/08/2012
Travel: Metrolink Tram Network
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Salford Cathedral, Salford Town Hall, Salford Quays, MediaCityUK, Irwell Sculpture Trail, River Irwell, The Lowry, St Phillips Church, Peel Park, Museum & Art Gallery, Ordsall Hall Museum etc
We started in the city centre areas of Salford, located just over a number of road and pedestrian bridges from Manchester city centre, on the other side of the River Irwell. The first building we found is the Old Salford Cinema, which despite its appearance didn’t start out as a cinema.
The building opened in 1846 as the Scottish Presbyterian Church, and it had a large spire as part of the brick section of the building. You can see that the frontage was a later addition as it differs widely from the rest of the structure, and was added in 1912 when the church had closed and the transformation into a cinema had been completed. The new cinema was one of the first in either of the two cities here. A name change in 1938 turned it into the Rex Cinema, which lasted until 1958. After a brief empty period it became a bingo hall between 1967 and 1985, and it is now the New Harvest Christian Fellowship Church of Salford. I quite like the new building front, and it is one of the more ornate buildings in this area of the city.
The next building along is the Old Town Hall, accessible down a small pedestrianised avenue leading up to the front of the building. It was built between 1825 and 1827, and there are two brown plaques on the building giving more information. The first gives the construction dates, and the second reads:
“Wall, Archways and Gates (Grade II) a 19th Century addition to Salford Town Hall”. This refers to the gates you can see just off to the left of the main building. The building lost its Town Hall status long ago however it was still in use until at least 2011 as a Magistrates Court although these functions have now been transferred over into Manchester.
This street that we were following is quite incredible as there are two other major landmarks to come too. The next major building along from the Town Hall is the office building of the former education offices for the city. It is a grand building, built all the way back in 1895, opening a year later in 1896. Another brown plaque states this on the side of the building. The city council’s education directorate used the building until 2001, and as far as I know the building is empty at the moment.
As you approach the old education offices the tall spire of Salford Cathedral risings up behind it. this truly beautiful building is the fourth and more impressive of the four buildings on this part of the street.
The foundation stone was laid by Bishop James Sharples (1797 – 1850) in 1844, and the building was completed 4 years later and opened in 1848 by Bishop George Brown (1784 – 1856), as St John’s Church.
The man responsible for the inspiring design was Matthew Ellison Hadfield (1812 – 1885) who belonged to a firm called Weightman, Hadfield and Goldie from nearby Sheffield. Benjamin Hollins from Manchester then helped to bring it to life.
Matthew’s inspiration came from a number of existing churches, including Howden Church in yorkshire for the West Front, and the spire from the Church of St Mary Madalene in Newark-on-Trent. The spire is the tallest in the city and easily visible from large parts of Manchester as well.
In 1850 the new diocese of Salford was created and the church became a Cathedral, and consecrated in 1890. It’s free to go inside and I would recommend having a look around this fine Victorian Cathedral.
There are other churches in the city, with the most notable being St Philip’s, just down the road from the Cathedral as you head towards the Irwell (which does a half loop around Salford to Manchester), further into Salford.
It’s a shame it was covered in scaffolding the day we actually got to this part of Salford however you get the general idea of the impressive tower, which has a clock 3/4 of the way up and a dome on the very top. Construction started 20 years prior to the start of the Cathedral, in 1822, taking 2 years for a completion in 1824. Anyone that has been to Bryanston Square in London will think this looks very similar to St Mary’s Church in the square. This is because the architect was Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867, English Architect) who designed that church and then reused his idea for St Philip’s.
In 1962 a local church called St Stephens was closed so the congregations merged into a new parish, so St Philips is currently the parish church of St Philip and St Stephen.
Moving on still in the direction of the river, is this charming square that formed the Market Ssquare which was the heart of 19th century Salford. The building with the blue front door is the Old Court House, which bears the royal arms above the front door, and a sign naming the building. This whole area is quite traditional with a cobbled street and terraced houses which presumably had significant functions in the city before this whole row was turned into flats. At least the historical parts of the building have been kept. It’s a beautiful building and adds more to the stunning portfolio of interesting things we have found so far in Salford.
The next stop on our tour is the famous Salford Quays, which contains many delights of a modern city as a contrast to the older Victorian setting of the city centre.
If you continue on past the Old Court House towards the river you will a few parks, one called the Meadow and the main one called Peel Park. The Salford Museum & Art Gallery is located here along with the University of Salford and one of the two train stations, Salford Crescent. The second station, Salford Central, is located not far back past the Old Cinema building.
The Quays are now the main tourist section of the city. Originally this whole area was part of the Manchester Docks with Salford making up the larger of the two sections of the docks. Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) opened the docks in 1894 and they quickly became the third busiest port in Britain. Salford Quays was where the River Irwell and the River Mersey met so it was widened and this section renamed the Manchester Ship Canal and it allowed large ships to head to Liverpool and out into the Irish Sea. The docks did good trade for almost 100 years, but closed in 1982.
The Quays have now been cut off with locks as the pollution in the water after all the industrial works was a problem. Fish now thrive here and sections of the Quays are used for water sports. Between 1986 and 1990 new roads and bridges were added, along with hotels, cinemas, and large tower blocks housing flats now line the quays. The project was the largest urban regeneration project in the UK and is still growing.
You can see on the pictures above how the area looks now. A number of basins make up the complex, including the Huron, Ontario, St Louis and St Peter Basins. The quays themselves are split into a number of different quays, with the first being Anchorage, then Salford Quays and then Merchants Quay.
The first picture shows off the Ontario Basin, where a sailing school has been set up and they can be seen regularly giving lessons in the Basin. At the far end are the towering structures of the Salford Cranes, built in the docks in 1966. When the docks closed they were moved here in 1988 and fell out of use. They have been rusting for a while however they are distinctive landmarks in the area. Despite a rigorous campaign to have them saved, they were taken down in later 2013, to my great sadness.
Next is a view looking up the Mariner’s Canal which connects the Ontario Basin with the Huron Basin and there are a number of flats in the area. It shows how great the whole area looks now. Keep your eyes pealed for a number of sculptures located in and around the Quays which mark the start of the Irwell Sculpture Trail, which follows the river, around Peel Park (with a few located in and around the Cathedral) all the way up to Rawtenstall in the Rossendale District of Lancashire.
Looking across the Ship Canal into the Trafford District you get a great view of the home of Manchester United Football Club, Old Trafford, the 2nd largest football stadium in the country which opened in 1910, with numerous expansions in the years since.
One of the most well known buildings on the Quays is the Lowry, a large theatre and gallery complex named after Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887 – 1976) a famous artist from Lancashire. A large number of his works are contained the gallery, which was opened in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II.
Directly across from the Gallery is the Lowry Shopping Centre which opened the same year, and is again named after L S Lowry. Just over the river is the Imperial War Museum North although is technically in the Trafford District and not part of Salford although visitors to the Museum often move over to Salford Quays afterwards and vice versus.
The third picture is a view down the Quays towards the MediaCityUK Suspension Bridge but more on MediaCityUK in a minute.
You can cross over to Trafford using the Lowy Footbridge, with a span of 1000 metres. When boats come along it can be raised up to the top of the support towerings, and then lowed again. You get a great view of the Quays from here.
Walking down the Trafford Side you get a great view of the Quays and from the Lowry we used it to get round to one of the newest entries into Salford Quays, MediaCityUK.
Construction started on the area in 2007, the last part of the Docks not yet developed. The new area opened in 2011, it houses parts of the University of Salford, as well as studios belonging to the BBC, ITV and Granada. The set of Coronation Street was moved here from its previous location at studios in Manchester City Centre, and is being recreated from scratch. Metrolink was later extended directly to MediaCityUK
I will finish our journey around Salford Quays with a panoramic staring from MediaCityUK, looking round to the Lowry and then the Ontario Basin back in the distance.
My Dad works at Anchorage Quay and the view from the top of his office car park gives a great look over at Manchester City Centre, with the Beetham Tower housing the Hilton Hotel standing out noticeably.
Salford is constantly updating and changing, and is definitely a city to watch. Good access via Metrolink is provided, with regular trams to Manchester, that pass through the Quays and MediaCityUK before heading on to the town of Eccles. It is also well served by the bus network in the area, and contains two main train stations, Salford Central and Salford Crescent, with trains going on from here to destinations (apart from Manchester) such as Southport, Rochdale, Bolton, Wigan and beyond.
For a great new modern destination accompanied by beautiful Victorian Architecture, visit Salford, or if you are visiting Manchester take a few hours out to take a tram into Salford and see what you can find.