“Upon Salford Bridge, I turned my horse again
My son George by the hand I hent
I held so hard forsooth certain
That his forefinger out of joint went
I hurt him sore I did complain”
The stone bridge linking the towns is first mentioned in 1368 when Thomas De Bothe built his first chapel, leaving the sum of thirty pounds for masses to be sang daily for his soul. He was forced to place it on the boundary bridge as Salford’s charter specifically forbade burgages, land holdings alienated to religion, as a result of Randolph de Blundeville’s fierce opposition to the Pope whom he felt had far too much influence on the English King.
The bridge was rumoured to have been built from materials stolen from across the river with the remains of Manchester’s legendary castle.
The Church, frequently flooded, would soon move up Chapel Street, the bridge meanwhile would continue to play a role in the history of the two towns, Henry VII would cross the bridge in 1495 stopping at the Old King’s Head on his way from visiting his mother Margaret at Lathom, as would Salford’s version of Dick Whittington, Ralph Byrom.
By the time of the Reformation the church had closed, its use transformed into a prison. In 1573 the punishment for drunkenness was a night in the dungeon and a fine of sixpence. If the fine could not be paid then it was the responsibility of the person who supplied the liquor to pay it.
The Bridge would play a pivotal part in the civil war, the scene of one of the first battles in September 1642 when troops loyal to Parliament held off Royalist forces intent on taking the town.
By the nineteenth century it had outgrown its usefulness, its left hand battlement leaning so precariously close to the river that it was feared that a heavily loaded carriage might have tipped the whole construction into the Irwell and for foot travellers, the risk of being knocked down by a carriage or being forced to put one’s feet in the muddy sludge was a risk deemed not worth taking. It was knocked down and replaced by Victoria Bridge in 1839 and followed by a second Salford Bridge connecting Hunts Bank with Chapel Street in 1864.