Worsley and Walkden local history

Barge at Worsley

Although the most important events in Worsley's story took place with the building of the Bridgewater Canal in the 18th century, the place has a much older history dating from the times when it was a small township within the large parish of Eccles.

The first reference to it by name came in 1195 when records tell us that Hugh Poutrell gave the Manors of Worsley and Hulton to 'Richard, son of Elias de Workesley, for his homage and service'. Some 30 different methods of spelling the place-name were recorded during the 12th to 14th centuries, but by 1450 the present version was in permanent use.

A Roman road passed through Worsley en route from Manchester to Wigan and another, of lesser importance, crossed the north of the area roughly on the line of the present main road through Walkden and Little Hulton. Parts of the first of these roads were discovered in 1957 whilst ten years previously a hoard of 540 Roman coins had been unearthed in a stone quarry at nearby Boothstown. After the Norman period, the whole Worsley area came within the manor of Barton, a member of the Barton family having acquired the Worsley lands and taken on the name 'de Worsley' to proclaim his ownership.

The Worsley lands had, in fact, also included large parts of Swinton, Pendlebury, Kearsley and much of the extensive Chat Moss. The Worsleys continued to hold the manor until the 14th century but with the failure of the male line in 1385, the lands passed into other hands - first to the Masseys of Tatton and then to the Breretons of Malpas, both famous Cheshire families. A descendant of Richard Brereton married into the Egerton family, also from Cheshire. Thus began the long association between Worsley, the Egertons, the Dukes of Bridgewater and the Ellesmeres. Worsley Old Hall was the home of the Dukes of Bridgewater, who had vast coal mining interests in the area.

The Industrial Revolution brought ever-increasing demands for coal and improved transport. Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, employed the engineer Brindley to construct the Bridgewater Canal and you can read more about this feat in our special feature 'Revolution in Salford!'.

When the unmarried 3rd Duke died, the manor of Worsley was administered by trustees on behalf of his nephew and great-nephew. The latter became Earl of Ellesmere in 1846 and in this succession the family continued until 1923, when the 4th Earl sold the Worsley lands to the Bridgewater Estates Ltd, and the coal interests to Bridgewater Collieries Ltd, and thus ultimately to the National Coal Board (NCB). Much later, the Bridgewater Canal came under the British Waterways banner.

The development of the railways west of Manchester, through the Worsley and Walkden areas, led not only to an increase in industry (new deep collieries had by now replaced the original shallow pits) but also saw the growth, at the end of the Victorian period of these towns as residential areas for those who worked in Manchester itself.

In 1894, the Worsley Urban District Council was formed. In 1933, Little Hulton Urban District was merged with Worsley and alterations made to the boundary with Eccles Municipal Borough. This remained the unit of local government until the reorganisation of April 1974 which saw Worsley become a part of the 'new' city of Salford.

This page was last updated on 14 February 2012

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