In mid-September 2020 I was lucky enough to be asked to record a short video for Salford City on the archaeological and historical importance of The Delph in Worsley. This was one of a series of seven short films showcasing Salford’s green credentials through interviews with individuals linked to a variety of green locations across the borough.
The films were produced by Marketing Manchester on behalf of Salford City Council and the University of Salford. They provide a broad overview of the different types of green spaces in Salford, several with industrial roots, and with interviewees ranging from local families to park rangers to gardeners, community groups, academics, and the head of the new RHS Garden Bridgewater in Worsley.
Today Worsley Delph and Green form a relatively tranquil area of the city with houses and open spaces strung along the blue, and sometimes orange, ribbon of the canal. Today walking through the village and along the canal there is a backdrop rumble from the traffic on the nearby M60 but from the 1750s to the 1900s the soundtrack would have been the industry of boats and coal. The Delph was the start of the Bridgwater Canal, the world’s first long distance industrial canal, and the canal that demonstrated that money could be made, and time saved, by using an artificial waterway to transport bulk goods across the landscape. The Delph provides the entry into the 80kms of underground canal tunnels that were developed as part of the Duke of Bridgewater’s coal mines from 1759 onwards. By the 1790s around 100,000 tons of coal were carried by boats on the canal each year to Manchester and beyond: a figure which by the 1840s had doubled. Hundreds of men and women lived and worked in the growing canal port of late 18th and early 19th century Worsley, from carpenters and smiths, to boatmen and colliers.
Thanks to recent renovation work by the city council, including extensive dredging and improved access, a new viewing platform allows visitors to enter The Delph almost at water level. Here you can experience how coal boats entered and left the huge underground mines. The entrance to the mines was abandoned by the 1880s and the nearby canal port and workshops landscaped in the Edwardian period. Renovation work along the canal during the early 21st century has been able to marry the industrial heritage of The Delph and Worsley with the green outdoor spaces, improving the character of the village and giving it roots and historical context.
The seven films, which include sites at Clifton County Park, Ordsall Hall, and RHS Bridgewater, can be found online by following the link below or by using the hashtag #GreenSalford on social media: