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.
Although called Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club this grade II listed building is actually across the Irwell in Salford but also just a short walk from the centre of Manchester. Although the name of the club is above the grand arched entrance you could easily miss this historic building, the exterior of which is packed with faded grandeur. The red-brick building apparently retains many of its Victorian features inside and is an interesting historical sporting venue.
At this unique venue members can play real tennis, a game that goes back as far as the 1400’s as well as squash. You can also play the fast game of rackets which was first developed in prisons and later alleyways, played against one or more walls. Rackets is played with wooden rackets and a small hard ball as either singles or doubles. The indoor rackets court at Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club has been in continuous use since 1882.
Opening on this site on Blackfriars Road in 1882, the club started life nearby a few years before. At that time it had one rackets court and a tennis court, a squash court was added later in the 20th century.
It would be interesting to take a peak inside this building sometime.
‘I met my love by the gas works wall Dreamed a dream by the old canal I kissed my girl by the factory wall Dirty old town’
Ewan MacColl wrote ‘Dirty Old Town’ in 1949 about Salford. The gas works wall encloses the gas holders that have stood between Liverpool Street and Regent Road for around 150 years. I can see them from our kitchen window and often find myself humming the tune but not for much longer; these familiar landmarks are in the process of being dismantled. The ‘gas works wall’ will remain and this now has a board that records the memories of local people and the history of the gas works and the area.
On Friday 15 November a small group of us gathered to see the new board, meet some of the people involved and have a chance to get up close and personal with the remaining gas holder. As we walked over to the site from home I said, ‘Surely we will get to sing the song.’ It almost didn’t happen but someone else was keen and standing in the chilly November air we all managed to remember the words to the first verse.
The memories of local people bring the industrial landscape of Salford alive. Today this part of Salford is an odd mixture of recycling plants and car show rooms but once housing, shops, pubs and cinemas crowded around four gasometers and a power station. Built in 1869 and 1879 the gasometers have not been used since the 1960s. We donned hard hats and fluorescent jackets, walked up to the remaining metal gas holder structure and peered into the hole that is gradually being filled before the surrounding structure is removed. Although functional, there is a charm in these gas holder and I admired the detail on the columns and the crisscross pattern of the structure. I will miss them.
From the work of the community artists who recorded the memories of local people I learnt that there is a railway tunnel underneath West Egerton Street and from Les’ story I found out just how close this part of Salford came to being blown sky high:
‘An incendiary bomb landed on top of the gasometers during WW2. It was moved by an auxiliary fireman. He managed to put it out and save the area from being blown up. He was awarded the George Medal.’ Les
We like to get out and stretch our legs and get the heart pumping after writing at the laptop for much of the day. Salford Quays is the place we take one of our favourite regular walks and we often swing by the Watersports Centre as there is usually something going on there which gives us an excuse to linger and lean on the railings and watch. Sometimes there are groups of young people learning how to manage a kayak, on other occasions there are acrobatic wakeboarding sessions. Those of us not taking part in these water-focused activities [and we are never alone here] can idly enjoy the spectacle.
I am always pleased to see the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays being used. When I used to cycle to work over the canal I would often see groups rowing along the canal in the early morning. In winter it would be barely dawn and the sun would be coming up over Manchester, the rowers were out on the water and wrapped up against the cold. On other trips around Salford Quays we have stumbled upon open water swimming events when the noise from splashing arms and legs echoes around the blocks of flats.
My first experience of the Watersport Centre was when our son took part in the Salford Dragon Boat Festival. His workplace had a team in the race and we came along to watch the fun. The dragon boats themselves are stunning, each decorated boat is 40-foot long and holds 18 people. One of these is a qualified helm, 16 people row and one person is the drummer beating time. We cheered our son’s team on and for novices they did pretty well, getting through a number of the heats but the main thing was that they enjoyed taking part. This event is a great spectacle if you can get to Salford Quays next time it is on.