Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Salford Bridge

Salford Bridge in 1924

Salford Bridge, today, stands in the shade beneath Spaghetti Junction, but was a thriving part of Gravelly Hill with shops, houses and a pub called the Erdington Arms fifty years ago. This has all gone now, it was swept away with the coming of Spaghetti, something that I'm sure couldn't happen now. The bridge is now roaring with traffic, and the fumes can take your breath away as you come to it from Salford Lake.
Salford Bridge- the corner of Tyburn Road & Gravelly Hill, 1925 

The present site of Salford Bridge is very near to an ancient crossing. According to William Fowler, writing in 1883, 'the ancient ford and bridge were situate about fifty yards higher up the stream than the present bridge and a very short distance above the old bridge'.* This is where Hawthorne Brook used to come into the Tame, now lost underground it can be spotted briefly along the Tame Valley Canal. The area here was good ground for a crossing point due to its gravelly nature (hence Gravelly Hill nearby). The name itself was originally Scaford or Scraford, the word scraet meaning cave; near to the original crossing there were caves formed in the sandstone rock, probably either by the river or by Hawthorne Brook. First mentioned in the 1400s, Fowler notes that the caves were 'known as the Dwarf holes, [and] are marked and so described on many ancient maps.'*

The caves on the River Tame, also known as the Dwarf-holes, c. 1895 by Benjamin Stone

Close-up of the caves on the River Tame, c. 1895 by Benjamin Stone

In World War II the caves were used as shelters from bombing, and bombs also dropped near Salford Bridge during the war (see map below). The caves were part of what was destroyed with the building of Spaghetti Junction in 1973.

Just up from the caves, on Hawthorne Brook, was a water-powered mill that was known as Dwarfehole Mill in the 1600s. This later became Witton Lower Mill, and was worked, along with Bromford Mill/Forge by James Rollason.

* The latter 'old bridge' could possibly be the long demolished stone packhorse bridge mentioned in 1536, but this is uncertain. William Fowlers quote can be found here:

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