It was no good, I had to go back.
The morning two weeks ago when I re-visited the bit of Salford I knew as a boy the weather was very grey with the consequence that I took very few photos. The cliché would have just been too great, particularly as the sun came out as we left.
Now I’m back up North and the sun was shining so I went back on my own to take photos of the Classic Slum, and other bits of Salford in the sunshine. So this is largely a pictorial blog with a few memories and reactions thrown in. Word of caution, the reactions and comments are those of a casual observer, not informed local opinion. I left the area over half a century ago.
I was born and brought up in Seedley. Though the house in which I was born is still there, the house in which I lived until the age of 12 is now under the hard shoulder of the M602.
One of the features of the streets of terrace houses in the area is what we called the ‘entry’, otherwise known in the North as a ‘ginnel’ or back alley, cobbled or stone-flagged. Our parlour window, which we got to look through once a year at Christmas, looked straight across the street at the entry between Cardigan Street and Pembroke Street. I remember ‘the twins’ who lurked in the entry and pestered my sister and when I was sent to sort them out I got half a brick in my head for my trouble. I guess things got a lot worse in later years because now all the entries have iron gates to protect the backs of the houses and presumably to prevent them being used as escape routes.
At the age of 11 I started in Salford Grammar School which meant a walk of about a mile uphill and up through the social strata. The terraced streets on the way up the hill had the air of being a little grander with the houses on Derby road having small but ‘proper’ front gardens. Though the entries here are now gated there is an air of something more positive being done with them as semi-private open spaces for the benefit of residents.
The second part of the walk was through Buile Hill Park which is itself largely unchanged but the buildings, including in particular the museum (Buile Hill Mansion!) and the greenhouse are now derelict. To a lad from Seedley Buile Hill Park was like a green lung, a breath of fresh air.
Then at the top of the park is the ‘posh’ area. When I was a lad I thought that this was as posh as it got and for some reason it engendered resentment. I never regarded myself as ‘deprived’ living in the Classic Slum, it was just home. But resentment kicked in when I realised that others had more and better. I think that that is a pretty general reaction and has had a major impact on attitudes as the ‘underprivileged’ have had affluence flaunted on film and TV and offered as attainable via the Lottery and the like.
The other route up the hill from Seedley is Langworthy Road behind which Friedrich Engels, who dubbed the area ‘The Classic Slum, had his cotton factory. As described previously, at the bottom of the hill is Langworthy Park, affectionately known then and now renamed as ‘Chimney Pot Park.
21The many small shops in Langworthy Road are much changed but most are still there as shops, though the two cinemas have gone and the Langworthy Hotel is boarded up and awaiting demolition. Apparently the Council, which bought it to preserve it as a landmark structure, have given up hope of attracting a developer.
My reactions to Seedley now? Nostalgic? I don’t know really. It’s encouraging both as a planner and as an ex-local to see pockets of the old terraces being preserved. On the other hand the demise of the greenhouse in Buile Hill Park is very much to be regretted, I was looking forward to that as a ‘high point’. But that’s about it in terms of positive reaction. Certain bits rekindle memories but they are neither good nor bad, emotionless.
I was offered a post in Salford University when I completed my research but after discussing it with Enfys I turned it down. That was in 1970. Even then the Salford I knew was no more, a memory. It held no emotion for me.
Author LP Hartley opens his book ‘The Go-Between’ with the words “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”. That’s how it is. I lived and grew up in Seedley but now I’m a tourist there. I even carry a camera.