Salford local history

Cross Lane, Salford

Although little is recorded of its earlier history, Salford is, in fact, of great antiquity.

It grew up as a village on the banks of the Irwell and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 923 makes a reference, it is thought, to this village. It was certainly, however, a place of some importance in the 'land between the Ribble and Mersey', in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, a kingdom that had covered the whole of northern England until the Danish invasion.

Salford gave its name to the Hundred of Salford, an area which stretched from the Mersey to Rossendale and which was to form the South-East part of Lancashire when this came to be officially regarded as a separate county during the late 12th century.

The earliest description of the Hundred occurs in the Domesday Book, the great survey made for William the Conqueror in 1086. It is recorded that King Edward the Confessor had held the Manor, or Hundred, directly in 1066 when it contained much forest and was divided into 21 berewicks or sub-manors each held of the King by a thegn.

William granted the land to Roger de Poitou who made grants to his own followers. By 1086 the hundred was again in the King's hands and was held intermittently by the Crown over the next three centuries. Roger de Poitou created the subordinate Manor of Manchester which has ever since been separate in matters of local government from Salford.

In 1228, the town of Salford received from King Henry III the right to hold a market and an annual fair. During the years of 1230 - 1232, Ranulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester, granted the charter by which the town became a free borough, a charter by which Salford was governed until the Manchester and Salford Police Act of 1791. There are references in official records to the Manor of Salford being one of the possessions of the Duchy of Lancaster. Since Henry IV's accession in 1399, the Duchy has been held by the Crown, and the Sovereign has thereby always been the Lord of the Manor of Salford.

Notes about Salford through the Tudor and post-Tudor years are to be gleaned from the surviving volumes of the Portmote Records. The most famous family was the Radclyffes of Ordsall Hall (now a public museum) and their exploits feature frequently in local history of the period. They featured briefly in the Civil War when the first armed clash in that conflict (the so-called Siege of Manchester) took place on the one and only bridge spanning the Irwell.

Salford's slow growth was marked by some degree of industrialisation. Cloth was made; silk weaving was carried on; as were dyeing, fulling, and bleaching. The population had reached 7,000 by the end of the 18th century and the town was governed by Commissioners, mainly through Citizen Volunteer Officers.

The effect, in the 19th century, of the industrial revolution on Salford was phenomenal. Factories were substituted for homeworkers and the population, which was 12,000 in 1812, rose in 30 years to 70,244, and by the end of the century to 220,000. The rapid increase, hardly exceeded anywhere in the country, was reflected in the vast areas of poor quality housing that were built throughout the Victorian period when overcrowding created real social problems. Houses were crowded together at as many as 80 to the acre.

Improved local government, more able to deal with these problems, came when Salford township and part of Broughton township received the charter of incorporation in 1844. In 1853 the adjoining township of Pendleton and part of Pendlebury were merged with Salford which, in 1889, became one of the first county boroughs in the country. The status of 'city' was not, however, conferred until 1926.

Salford became one of the greatest of the cotton towns and contained several vast mills. Brewing, too, played a significant part in the local economy. With the opening, in 1894, of the Manchester Ship Canal the newly-built docks in Salford formed another major factor in the local economy and remained until recently an important occupation for men in the city.

The city has long been noted for its interest in education and social welfare. In 1896 the Royal Technical College was established and this was the direct 'ancestor' of the present University of which, in 1967, the Duke of Edinburgh, became its first Chancellor.

In the 1840s, Joseph Brotherton, Salford's Member of Parliament, played a major part in the reform and welfare legislation then being passed through Parliament. One of the most noticeable results of this was the first Public Libraries Act of 1850. Salford had, a year previously, established a library, museum and art gallery, the first municipal authority to do so.

The old city was proud of its pioneering efforts in the field of mass radiography and the use of immunisation and vaccination and, more recently, in the work of smoke control.

Finally, for more than a century, Salford has been prominent in the field of rugby football, the internationally known Salford Rugby Club having been formed in 1879. The team is now known as Salford Reds.

This page was last updated on 23 January 2014

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