The handsome red brick building of Salford Museum and Art Gallery overlooks Peel Park and is within the Salford University campus. The building started out as a private house, a mansion known as Lark Hill, and opened as the UKs first unconditionally free public library in 1850, the museum and art gallery following a few months later. The facility was quickly popular and received an astonishing 1,240 visitors a day in its first year.
Today the library is no longer here but, as well as permanent exhibitions, the Museum and Art Gallery has changing exhibitions of works of arts and stories of the history of Salford, so it is always worth a visit. The exhibition spaces are light, airy and uncluttered. The entrance is always welcoming and has something interesting to browse thorugh.
The Victorian Gallery with its stunning ceiling has art works collected from that era. The Pilkington Gallery showcases items from Pilkington’s, a local firm that created decorative tiles and pottery. The company was formed by four Pilkington brothers in 1893 and in 1904 they began making pottery in the art nouveau style and their work rivalled that of famous pottery firms from Stoke-on-Trent [or The Potteries]. Salford Museum’s Pilkington collection contains a wide range of the ware Pilkington’s produced between 1900 and the 1970s and when the factory closed in 2010 the museum acquired the Pilkington archive. This gallery is full of vases, bowls, plates and tiles that are vibrant and beautiful.
Bringing the outside in, Lark Hill Place is a recreation of a Victorian northern shopping street, with gas lamps, a chemists, blacksmiths, toy shop and the Blue Lion Pub [this is recreated from a number of Salford pubs and the original Blue Lion was on Cook Street by the brewery] . Many of the shop fronts were originally in the streets of Salford and were saved as the city developed and the old shops were demolished.