SEP Part 11: Industrial Salford – Early Mills and Canals


Salford district pre 1851

The Salford landscape in 1851

The 18th and 19th centuries transformed Salford into an industrialised urban landscape. The old town had around 500 inhabitants in 1666. In 1717 it was estimated that this had grown to 2,500 inhabitants. By 1773 Salford had 4,765 people and in 1801 there were 13,611 people living in the town. Salford tripled in size over the next 30 years, reaching 40,786 people in 1831, and by the end of the 19th century 109,732 people lived in the city.


Mid-18th century workshop dwellings on the corner of Chapel Street and Clowes Street, Salford.

The most important industry was textile production. In the 17th century the spinning and weaving of woollen cloth was done at home. During the first half of the 18th century, as cotton became the main fibre in use, purpose-built weavers’ cottages were erected. A pair dating from around 1730 can still be seen at the corner of Clowes Street and Chapel Street. Until very recently they have distinctive long and narrow multi-light windows in the rear elevation to allow plenty of light for weaving.

Over 60 cotton spinning and weaving mills were built in the city between the 1770s and the 1900s. One of the first water-powered cotton mills was Bank Mill on the River Irwell. It was built by Holland Ackers, Jonathan Beever and Joseph Ramsbottom around 1793 off Adelhpi Street. The stone-built wheelhouse still survives, jutting into the River Irwell, making it the oldest textile mill structure in the city. The only other mill to survive in the city centre is Islington Mill on James Street, built in 1823.

Coal and canals were also a vital part of Salford’s industry. There were coalmines at Clifton, Pendlebury, Walkden and Worsley. These were served by three canals, the Bridgewater (built in the 170s6), Fletcher’s Canal (built in the 1790s), and the Manchester, Bolton and Bury (also built in the 1790s). 

WorsleyCanalTourJune17 (1)

The Bridgewater Canal at Worsley

Of these the Bridgewater Canal is internationally important. The original section linking Worsley to Manchester was the world’s first arterial industrial canal, its route going inland and crossing rivers rather than following the line of an existing river to the coast. Built in the years 1759 to 1763 it carried coal from the mines at Worsley to Manchester providing domestic fuel for that town’s burgeoning population.

A pair of lime kilns, built in the mid-18th century to supply the canal, can still be seen at Worsley. These burnt lime as part of the process in creating the mortar that held the canal structure together. The kilns were recorded and partially excavated in 2010.


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