Salford Cathedral: #surprisingsalford #45

Salford Cathedral
Salford Cathedral

I have been watching the progress of the works around the side entrance and garden next to Salford Cathedral for some time.  We walk by the Cathedral regularly on our way into Manchester and on a recent walk I noticed the workers had finished.  The new piazza, that is now the entrance to the Cathedral, is completed and was officially opened on 6 July 2019.  This provides an entrance that is away from the pavement and busy Chapel Street and will be a lovely space for the congregation to gather after services.

Beyond the piazza is the Cathedral garden with the Onion Shelter at its centre.  Made from ten steam-bent oak wood planks, this open structure has a circle of seating.

Opened in 1848, Salford Cathedral on Chapel Street is dedicated to St John the Evangelist and is positioned north-south.  In 1854 the Great East Window was installed, a traditional and stunning stained glass window.  The stained glass was removed during the Second World War to protect it from bomb damage.  Along the base of the window are images that tell the story of the Catholic faith in England.

What was originally the Blessed Sacrament chapel became the World War One Memorial Chapel in 1923.  The Cathedral has a light and airy interior with a central modern altar in white marble.  There are interesting floor mosaics and tiling that give the building a clean finish.

While we were looking around, a young woman approached me and asked if I would take her photograph outside the Cathedral [the three of us were the only visitors].  I did willingly and asked her where she was visiting from.  ‘Mexico’, she told me with a smile and exclaimed how beautiful the Cathedral was.  We chatted some more and I learnt that she was staying in London, Manchester and Dublin and hoping to learn more English.  The new piazza gives an elegance to Salford Cathedral that it lacked before and maybe more tourists will make the trip to see it.

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The new piazza at Salford Cathedral

 

 

 

A day visiting Salford Quays with a local

I have lived a hop and a skip away from Salford Quays for over ten years now and still visiting the Quays is a favourite thing to do.  Salford Quays is my local walk, it is our first choice for drinks and a restaurant and it is where we always take our visitors.  It is a fantastic place to live near, always changing and interesting.  When I have been chained to the laptop for a morning, a stroll around the Quays brings me back to life as there is always something new to see.  As well as being a great place to live near Salford Quays is also a wonderful place to visit for a day or two.  Here’s a local’s guide to what to see and do.

Getting here

If you are coming from Manchester city centre then the Metrolink tram is the way to travel.  The trams run every few minutes from Piccadilly Station to Eccles and Media City.  After the Pomona stop make sure you look over the Manchester Ship Canal at the view back to Manchester.  I would get off at the Salford Quays stop and walk along Ontario Basin to the Lowry.

If you drive, there is a multi-storey car park for the Lowry Outlet Mall and if, like me, you own a high top campervan that won’t fit in a multi-storey car park, use the parking outside Booths, just off Broadway.

Morning coffee

You have plenty of choices for your morning coffee but I would start by sitting in the cafe in The Lowry Theatre [opens at 10.00] while you get your bearings.  This is a chance to look around the airy and modern theatre building too.  The Lowry has an excellent gift shop that sells Salford and LS Lowry related items and much more.

Lowry, a Salford painter

After coffee, head upstairs to the gallery [open from 11.00 Sunday to Friday and 10.00 on Saturday] to see some of Salford’s collection of paintings by LS Lowry.  You will see that Lowry painted more than the matchstick people and mills he is known for, although these are fascinating.  As well as the Lowry’s on permanent display the gallery has temporary exhibitions and there is always something worth seeing.

Imperial War Museum North

Cross the Manchester Ship Canal by the Millennium Footbridge, a lifting bridge of white tubular steel with changing LED lighting at night to the Imperial War Museum North.  This purpose built museum [open 10.00 – 17.00] is free to visit, although donations are welcome.  A mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions about conflict and its effects, a visit here is always moving and informative.

Time for lunch

Walking by the ITV studios, where the new Coronation Street set is now housed, [tours are available at weekends] cross the curved Media City Bridge into the heart of Media City, where many BBC TV and radio programmes are recorded every day.  In the lively plaza look out for stars [we have eaten in the same restaurant as Glenda Jackson and you might see a Coronation Street actor or a favourite DJ] and head for Catena, an independent deli-cafe with a relaxed rustic feel and a great menu.  At the very least everyone around you will be wearing a BBC lanyard!  If you have the appetite, Catena’s pistachio and lemon cake is scrumptious.

Behind the scenes at the BBC

If you have booked, you can get behind the scenes at the BBC on a Media City tour.  The tours vary, depending on what is being filmed or recorded at the time, but this is a marvellous opportunity to get a feel for how the BBC produce their quality programmes, from Blue Peter to the BBC Philharmonic, Woman’s Hour to Five Live Sport.  There are also special CBBC tours for children.  The tours are lots of fun and everyone enjoys being in the interactive studio where you get to try your hand at being a weather presenter and reading the news.

While you are in Media City take a few minutes to walk the Blue Peter Gold Badge Walk, a path honouring some of the well-known names who have received a Blue Peter Gold Badge.  This ends near the actual Blue Peter Garden which is tiny but always makes me smile.

Shopping or history or football

If you are as frugal as I am you might like the bargains in the Lowry Outlet Mall … but you might also hate the idea of shopping.  If that’s the case, walk along Ontario Basin, by the Helly Hensen Watersports Centre [and maybe stopping for a beer and watching some water sports at the pub next door].  Cross Trafford Road to Ordsall Park [looking left to see the stripped-classical 1920s Dock Office], skirting around the park to reach Ordsall Hall.  This charming building is over 800 years old and has a great hall with a definite wow factor.  Only open until 16.00 and closed on Fridays and Saturdays, you might have to rush to fit this stunning building in [or come for the weekend instead of a day!]  If it is closed you can still enjoy the attractive timber-framed building from the outside, admire the gardens and appreciate the contrast with the surrounding modern buildings.

If neither of these are your cup of tea, then walk back across the Millennium Bridge, over Wharf Road and up the hill to Manchester United Football Club’s Old Trafford ground.  You can visit the shop for the latest strip or book on a Museum and Stadium Tour in the Theatre of Dreams.

Cocktails

The early evening is cocktail hour at Salford Quays.  You might be tempted by the remarkable golden Alchemist building that overlooks the Manchester Ship Canal and this certainly has the best view in the house from its terrace.  Of course, this terrace is also the retreat of smokers and so isn’t always as pleasant as it could be.  Instead I prefer to visit The Lime Bar, a stylish long-standing Salford Quays restaurant-bar that has a classical cocktails list, friendly staff and a vibrant vibe.  Stay long enough and you might decide to eat here too and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Sunset

If you are lucky you will get the chance to see a Salford sunset.  Standing on the Media City Bridge and watching the sun go down over the Ship Canal is a big hit at the end of a packed day of sightseeing.

Agecroft Cemetery: #surprisingsalford #44

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Agecroft Cemetery on a wintery day

It was a chilly winter morning when I last visited Agecroft Cemetery.  We wrapped up and walked along the River Irwell carrying a flask and biscuits in a rucksack and sat on a sheltered bench in weak sunlight looking over the gravestones.  A few other people were here tending to graves and, as always, the cemetery felt soothingly calm.

Agecroft Cemetery is Salford’s newest cemetery.  Designed by Manchester Architects Sharp and Foster and built by Gerrard’s of Swinton, the cemetery was opened in 1903.  More than 53,700 interments have been carried out within the cemetery’s 45 acres.

The cemetery has splendid ornate entrance gates on Langley Road.  Inside there are neatly arranged roads and rows of gravestones.  The buildings were all designed by Sharp and Foster; the crematorium building was converted from a Non-Conformist burial chapel in 1957 and there was also once a Roman Catholic chapel within the cemetery.  It is hoped to save the disused chapel with a clock tower and many stunning features that was abandoned in the 1980s and can be seen in the photograph.  Work is being carried out to protect this derelict gothic-revival chapel from the weather and there are plans to seek funding to restore it.   The group’s website has more information on the history of the cemetery.

Later I explored the graveyard, reading inscriptions on stones that took my eye.  I like to visit Salford’s cemeteries at this time of year as many of the graves have seasonal decorations and I find this makes the graveyard feel part of the spirit and movement of the seasons.  The cemetery has plenty of interesting burials, including Commonwealth war graves.  A stone memorial to the crew of a Lancaster bomber carrying a full bomb load that crashed nearby in 1944 is near the entrance.  All seven members of the crew and two civilians on the ground died in the crash.  Reports at the time said that around 80 people were injured.

The Stockport air disaster of 1967 killed 72 of the 84 people on board.  The passenger aircraft full of holidaymakers returning from Palma de Mallorca crashed near the centre of Stockport, just a short distance from Manchester Airport.  Astonishingly no one was killed on the ground.  Arthur and Elsie Kemp from Salford, who sadly died in the plane crash, are buried together at Agecroft Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

Flood defence & storage basin: #surprisingsalford #43

The opening of the Salford flood storage basin was a big deal.  Anyone who remembers the terrible floods of 2015 will be relieved to see improved flood prevention up and running.  The River Irwell has burst its banks many times over the centuries; notably in September and October 1946 5,300 homes were flooded.  The most recent flooding was on Boxing Day 2015; after a day and a half of constant rainfall 2,250 homes across Greater Manchester were flooded and over 500 businesses.  Water rushing into your home is devastating and for many of the families it took many months for their lives to get back to anything like normal.

The Salford Flood Basin opened in 2018.  I intended to visit earlier but other things got in the way and it was a fine but cold wintry day when I eventually got there.  I cycled along the River Irwell to the flood basin and entering along the path from Great Cheetham Street West.  Arriving at the flood basin I was firstly aware of  the size, it is huge (five hectares apparently).

At a cost of £10 million, we are told that the basin is big enough to hold more than 250 Olympic-size swimming pools of water and will protect almost 2,000 homes and businesses from flooding.  In addition, the scheme has created an urban wetland habitat and a green space for Salford residents.  A 2.5 km footpath runs around the periphery of the basin and on a sunny day this will be a peaceful place to stroll, well away from the bustle of the city.

The photograph at the top of the post shows one of the two kiosks on the site.  The colourful designs were decorated by Manchester graffiti artist, kELzO.

How does a flood storage basin work?

The basin is a sort of natural flood plain in the middle of the city.  Sitting within a sweeping meander of the River Irwell, the area was excavated and the soil used to create an embankment around the edge of the site.  This embankment is a flood defence in itself but if needed the storage basin can be flooded in a controlled way. through an inlet in one corner.  When the river levels are high excess water can be diverted into the storage basin where it will be stored and released back into the river when water levels have subsided.

It is hoped that this and the existing flood storage area at Littleton Road will prevent devastation like that seen on Boxing Day 2015 in the future.

 

Caroline Birley: #surprisingsalford #42

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It was a fascinating heritage walk around Seedley and Buile Hill Parks that sparked my interest in Caroline Birley.  She lived in a house, no longer standing, that looked over Seedley Park on Seedley Terrace and we were told she kept her huge collection of fossils and rocks in a building that was constructed on the back of the house that she called the Seedley Museum.  She opened this home-museum to the public in 1888.

Born in Manchester in 1851 [or 1852] Caroline came from a wealthy family that made money from textiles and rubber in Manchester.  She was the youngest of four and had an early passion for science and despite having no formal education was lucky enough to be able to follow interests that were considered the realm of men at that time.  She travelled widely collecting specimens; between 1887 and 1907 she travelled across the world from Denmark to North America and South Africa with her friend Louisa Copland.  A number of fossil species were named after her and although Caroline collected and catalogued her own finds publication about her findings had to come from a man, Dr Henry Woodward, the Keeper of Geology at the British Museum.

She left Salford and moved to London in 1896 and her collection moved with her so didn’t make it in to the Salford Natural History Museum in Buile Hill House.  Before she moved she made a will stating that she wished her collection to be given to the London Natural History Museum and The Manchester University Museum.  During her lifetime Caroline also gave many specimens to Oxford University.  Her executors wanted to see some museums in the north-west of England benefit after her death and so her collection was further fragmented as specimens were sent to Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Radcliffee and Warrington and the Manchester Grammer School museum.

Between 1879 and 1898 Caroline Birley also wrote several children’s books, including the intriguingly titled J

Caroline returned to Salford just before her death in 1907 at the age of 55-years.  She had not married and had no children.  Her obituary, published in The Geological Magazine, said of her:

‘By the death of Miss Caroline Birley, a most ardent and enthusiastic student has been lost to the science of Geology, one who from her childhood to the end of her life never wavered in devotion to this her cherished pursuit, nor thought any fatigue or personal sacrifice too great in order to visit places of geological interest and obtain specimens for her beloved museum’

 

Blackfriars Street: #surprisingsalford #40

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Blackfriars Road in Salford crosses Trinity Way, going under the railway line.  From the Chapel Street junction this becomes Blackfriars Street and continues up to the River Irwell where Blackfriars Bridge crosses the river in to Manchester.  Along Blackfriars Street a few impressive buildings from old Salford remain.

The sandstone three-arched Blackfriars Bridge replaced a previous wooden footbridge and was opened in 1820.  The tollbooth on the bridge was removed in 1848.

On the corner of Blackfriars Bridge and chapel Street is the Black Lion Hotel, where John Cooper Clarke gave early performances and the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain was born.  This organisation was founded at the UK Van Dwellers Protection Association in 1889 to protect the rights of fairground workers and changed its name in 1917.  The Guild represents travelling funfair businesses and I remembering finding their lovely and moving memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum that remembers the Guild members who died in the First and Second World Wars.

The splendid building in the photograph is the former Baerlein’s warehouse and was built in 1877.  The building is listed and today it has been converted to residential use and is known as Textile Apartments.  Baerlein & Co were an engineering company that made machinery for the textile industry.

 

 

 

Chapel Street Police Station: #surprisingsalford #41

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This is surely one of the most attractive police stations you have ever seen.  The old police station on Chapel Street in Salford is near to the junction with Blackfriars Road and on the junction of Chapel Street and Salford Approach.  The latter went to the former railway station.  This is the historic core of Salford and at one time this police station would have faced the busy Flat Iron Market place, a bustling area of second-hand clothing stalls and auctioneers with lively patter and a fairground with roundabouts, shooting galleries and a boxing booth.  A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4  originally published by Victoria County History, London in 1911 described the market as a ‘sort of rag fair.’

This charming red brick building was built in 1888 and above the door you can still make our the ‘Police Station’ sign.  The single-storey building has an unusual curved end with a short spire above it and a decorative baluster around the roof line.

For a time the old Police Station was boarded up and its future looked dismal.  Today, despite being surrounded by new build offices and flats the building appears to be safe at least in the short-term, it is listed and is now used as offices.  Apparently between its life as a police station and its current use it was also used as a tram ticket office.

Salford City Council plan to improve this part of Salford, known as Greengate, in their Chapel Street East Scheme.  The proposals include cycle and pedestrian friendly routes which can only be an improvement on the area which is currently a nightmare for those on foot and two wheels.  The Greengate Regeneration Strategy states:

‘The Vision of the Strategy is to deliver a dynamic
residential and commercial place with an exceptional
public realm. Greengate will be a focus of cultural
activity for both residents and visitors alike, building
on the current strong brands within the area and
developing new exciting opportunities. The area
will witness the regeneration of important historical
aspects of the Collier Street Baths and the Market
Cross.’