The Creation of Trafford Park
The development of Trafford Park as the world’s first industrial park, (and still its biggest), was dependent upon the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. It was this canal which made it suitable for import of raw materials and export of mercantile goods directly to the River Mersey and on to the world beyond.
The port of Manchester still ranked as fourth most important in the UK, thanks to the Manchester Ship Canal and its direct access to the sea. It ran directly through the Trafford Park Industrial Estate, where other new industries had emerged.
Trafford Park is some 1,183 acres, originally parkland with deer, and Trafford Hall as its centre. The hall was destroyed in the blitz of 1940. It was purchased in August 1896 by Ernest Hooley for the sum of £360,000. Hooley immediately created the Trafford Park Estates Company and set about developing it as an "industrial estate" – then a radically new concept.
The Companies who came to Trafford Park
Trafford Park was the industrial home of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (the CWS), a Rochdale-born organisation , which had a major food packing factory and a flour mill there – they had purchased land at Trafford Wharf in 1903. Within the next few years, over 40 companies had relocated to Trafford Park, and it was, from the outset, a major economic success story for Manchester and its working people.
The British Westinghouse Electric Company had also purchased large tracts of land in the Park in 1899 and began manufacturing turbines and generators there in by 1903. A large housing estate was also built by the company to house its workers. At that time Westinghouse employed half of the 12,000 people working within Trafford Park. In 1919 Westinghouse renamed the company Metropolitan Vickers – it was here that Alcock and Brown met each other and talked the company into building and supplying the Vickers Vimy Aeroplane which they flew across the Atlantic in 1919.
Some of Trafford Park’s earliest constructions were wooden grain silos built by the Hovis Flour Mill (now Rank Hovis McDougal) to receive the corn from America and Canada which would feed the population of Manchester. These silos were also destroyed in the 1940 blitz and were subsequently replaced by concrete silos just near to Dock 9 on the adjacent Ship Canal. The Hovis company, had opened the mill in 1914; their brown loaf became synonymous with good quality and "natural" baking. Kemp’s Biscuits were also produced there from 1923. With widespread laying-off of textile workers in the two decades after the Great War of 1914-18, Manchester came to depend more than ever on its distribution infrastructure.
In 1938 the Kellogg company opened a major industrial complex at Barton Dock, and massively increased the importation of maize and grain products into the region – their factory uses Trafford Park as its European headquarters, and still makes Corn Flakes there to this day. After 1945, Brook Bond moved their tea packaging factory at the canal side in Ordsall.
Many foreign businesses were attracted to Trafford. By 1933, over 300 American firms had bases in Trafford Park. The Ford Motor Company moved to the Park in 1910 and by 1913 was in production of the Model T Ford Car, before its relocation to Dagenham in 1931- they returned to Trafford during World War II to build Rolls Royce aircraft engines. The Guiness Company began brewing in the Park, and even went so far as to sink artesian wells to obtain clean water for their products. ICI built its first purpose-built factory for the mass production of penicillin. Rank-Hovis still have major production facilities in the Park.
The Fall & Rise of Trafford Park
By the outbreak of the Second World War, Trafford Park had so grown as to acquire the status of a borough in its own right. At its peak (around 1945), the Park employed over 75,000 workers. Trafford Park has continued to grow throughout the years, and has offset many of the worst effects of depression on employment in Manchester. Many new service industries have moved in as well as light engineering and cleaner hi-tech industries.
The decline of the Manchester Ship Canal and the closure of the Port of Manchester in the 1960s and 1970s reflected the depression in the Park’s fortunes. However, in recent years there has been a complete turnaround, as the M62 and M60 motorways now fulfil a similar function; the Park has once again found itself connected to the rest of the world. Today there is a distinct sense of revival to Trafford Park.
As shown in many of my Quays images, the prestigious award winning Lowry Centre has been built on the site of the old derelict docks; the Imperial War Museum North now stands defiantly facing the Lowry; the Trafford Centre retail and leisure park built at Dumplington – all signs of regeneration and new life back to the former deer park at Trafford.
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