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 Jessamine and her Lesson Books, and How She Missed the Gypsy Tea in 1887.
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 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.
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.’
The corner of Salford where you find Sacred Trinity Church has been a special place for many years. Hard up against the railway line and towards the end of Chapel Street, this lovely and well-proportioned church was originally built in 1635 and was the first church in Salford. The tower was added later but it is said the vibration of the bells affected the church’s integrity and most of the building, with the exception of the tower, was taken down in 1751 and rebuilt the following year. The tower was largely rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century and a clock added on each face. The church is built in a Gothic-classical style.
The money to build the church came from Sir Humphrey Booth [1580 – 1635] a local wealthy Salfordian and benefactor. Humphrey Booth was a church warden at what is now Manchester Cathedral but he was keen for the people of Salford to have their own place of worship. Although the town by then had a borough charter and market charter and was a growing town, there was no place of worship. Humphrey Booth laid the foundation stone in 1634 and the church was completed a year later, after Humphrey Booth’s death. At this time the church was on the edge of Salford and it stayed that way until the industrial revolution led to the huge expansion of the city. Humphrey Booth’s grandson left land in his will to ensure the upkeep of the church and asked if there was any surplus that it should be distributed among the poor of Salford. This ensured Sacred Trinity was maintained and rebuilt but it also led to the creation of Booths Charities which continues to fund many good causes in Salford.
The Flat Iron conservation area centres around this listed building and the plot that the church sits on is triangular in shape, resembling an old flat iron. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the area around here was fashionable residential streets but through the 19th century commerce and industry moved in. Today the area is once again seeing an increase of residential properties with the building of blocks of flats. The Flat Iron Market was held in front of the church until the 1930s and LS Lowry painted this scene in 1925.
Walk west beyond Eccles, heading along the Manchester Ship Canal towards Irlam and at Barton you come across the Barton Swing Bridge that carries the Bridgewater Canal over the Ship Canal. The Bridgewater Canal came from the Worsley coal mines and in to Manchester. The original aqueduct built in 1761 was an ambitious construction carrying the canal 38 feet above the Ship Canal.
To enable larger and taller vessels to use the Manchester Ship Canal this aqueduct was demolished and replaced by a swing aqueduct that was completed in 1893. The channel of water can be sealed at each end forming what is in effect a tank that is 235 feet long and 18 feet wide and swung on a central pivot that allows ships to pass either side of it. This is an engineering wonder and apparently the only swing aqueduct in the world. The Swing Bridge is adjacent to the Barton Road Swing Bridge and the two bridges share the same control tower.
Barton Swing Bridge was designed by the engineer Edward Leader Williams who was also involved in the building the Manchester Ship Canal and the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire. Rarely used today, the Barton Swing Bridge continues to be in working order and has protection as a listed building. This bridge is just another surprising feature you find when you walk around Salford.
Walking through the railway bridge from Salford I stopped and smiled when I spotted this graffiti of the unmistakable image of John Cooper Clarke. Born in Salford in 1949 and often referred to as ‘the bard of Salford,’ on stage he introduces himself as ‘Johnny Clarke, the name behind the hairstyle’.
John Cooper Clarke emerged in the 1970s as a performance poet and has retained his distinctive look, although today he lives in the south of England. His work is funny and clever, showing a joy for language in his poetry that is delightful. You can find his poems here but in the meantime below is a favourite:
I Wrote The Songs
I wrote the songs that nearly made
The bottom line of the hit parade
Almost anthems, shoulda been hits
Songs like… Puttin’ on the Ritz
Some enchanted afternoon
Twenty-four hours to Levenshulme
Dancin’ in the daylight, singin’ in the smog
You ain’t nothin’ but a hedgehog
So close and yet so far
Do you remember they way we are
I’d like to get you on a speedboat to china
From an idea by George Steiner
Ain’t no blag – uncle’s got a brand new jag
Ain’t no slouch – mama’s got a brand new couch
She ain’t heavy, she’s my sister
Not to leave out twist and whisper
Brand new leapordskin pillbox glove
Baby you and me we got a greasy kind of love
I enjoy all the wildlife we have in Salford but one bird that brings particular joy is the Canada goose that is found in large groups around our waterways; these geese are always full of character, lively and beautiful to see. Take a walk down to Salford Quays and the Canada geese will be there, pottering under the trees along the quay and bobbing on the water of the Manchester Ship Canal. Stroll around Peel Park and you will often find a group of these gregarious birds on the river Irwell. Introduced to the UK around 300 years ago as an ornamental bird, over 60,000 breeding pairs are now living here. These geese have adapted well to life in the city and to warmer climates.
The Canada goose is a large goose and has a black head and neck and large white throat patch. These geese were introduced from North America [Canada I guess] and have successfully spread to cover most of the UK. In North America these geese migrate [as most geese do] but in the UK they are resident all year round and have never learned migration routes. With a wingspan of up to 1.8 metre and a loud honking call it is not surprising that I have met more than one person who is too terrified to pass when one of these large geese is blocking a narrow path by the canal; they can be very intimidating. When Canada geese have nests and young they are very protective and they will hiss and charge anyone that they think is threatening their brood. In some areas of the UK Canada geese are so territorial they can chase off other wildfowl, therefore putting native species at risk.
These are handsome birds that generally mate for life and in spring the goslings are very cute and yet many consider them a nuisance both here and in North America. This intolerance is probably because of their numbers, their enjoyment of green lawns and the amount of droppings they leave behind. Canada goose droppings do cover the paths where they hang out and there are some suggestions that these droppings might be harmful to humans. The evidence that this is the case doesn’t appear to be there but [the same as droppings for other animals] if you ate goose faeces this would probably make you ill.
Families enjoy feeding the Canada geese, swans and black headed gulls at Salford Quays and the activity and excitement when someone turns up at the water’s edge with food is vibrant and stunning. While the birds will eat the bread most people bring, grains would be a better option if you want to help the birds through winter when there is less grass for them to eat.