Salford’s Early Past Pt8: The Medieval Town



Plan of the medieval borough of Salford. Image courtesy of Oxford Archaeology North.

By the early 13th century a settlement had grown up at a ford across the River Irwell, close to its junction with the River Irk. This was to become the core of the medieval town of Salford. Henry III granted this community market status in 1228. Shortly afterwards, in 1230, Ranulph de Blundevill, Earl of Chester, granted the settlement its own borough charter. This means of course that Salford had a town charter 70 years before its long standing rival, Manchester, and in the process cemented its place at the heart of the administrative Hundred of Salford.


The medieval town was built around Chapel Street, Greengate and Gravel Lane, forming a triangular plan. Salford Bridge, on or close to the site of Victoria Bridge, gave access to Manchester and was in existence by 1226. Documents also refer to other town buildings: a chapel on the bridge, a manorial mill, Salford Hall, a bakery and market place and cross.



The site of the Bull’s Head on Greengate, Salford, being excavated by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit in 1986.

Four medieval sites have been excavated in the last 31 years. In 1986 excavations revealed the foundations of the Bull’s Head. This was a timber-framed structure supported by low sandstone walls, in use as public house from the mid-18th century. The excavations uncovered two rock-cut cellars at the eastern end of the building. A 17th century stone-lined well was also found in the rear yard.


In 2004-5 excavations at the junction of Greengate and Gravel Lane revealed two large rubbish pits. These pits were dug at the rear of a medieval house fronting Greengate. They contained 13th and 14th century pottery. Also recovered was a leather archer’s bracer. Waterlogged plant remains from the pits included weeds that normally grow on waste ground or garden plots, seeds of edible plants such as elder, hazelnut and sloe, and arable weeds.

The site of One Greengate, revealed a ditch forming the boundary between two burgages. This contained a 13th century pot. The ditch was filled in the 14th century and in the 15th century the area was used as a cobbled yard, whilst rubbish pits were dug.



Clowes Street excavations in 2007.

Finally, fragments of medieval pottery were found in buried soils at Clowes Street, on the south-western edge of the medieval town. Excavation also revealed part of two ditches and a deep plough soil to the west of these features. This suggested that the ditches marked the edge of the late medieval town.


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