Trafford Road Bridge control tower goes under the hammer: got a spare £50-100k?

Skyscraper apartment blocks are all the rage across the central areas of Manchester and Salford. They’ve given the city a dramatic skyline and a constant talking point with people debating the aesthetic, social and even political merits of tall buildings. 

The big question is how would anybody take advantage of the property

The towers have also given software company Adobe an excuse to deliver a very dodgy image.

A recent post stated in excitable prose: ‘Adobe have partnered with landscape photographer and creator Andrea Asteria to transform structural and architectural landscapes across the UK imagining what they could look like in the year 2100. 

‘Using Photoshop’s Generative Fill feature, which allows users to quickly create, add to, remove or replace images with simple text prompts, Andrea has reinvented the UK’s current skylines including Manchester.’ 

Asteria seems to have spent a good three or four minutes fiddling around with the software. His image doesn’t take into account any of the masterplans and real proposals for future Manchester skyscrapers. The designer has just slapped lots of towers in to make it look like a ‘Bladerunner’ backdrop. Some of these towers are recognisably variants of existing towers across the globe. 

Of course, residential towers come in all shapes and sizes and several don't reach anywhere near as tall as most recent city centre cloud-ticklers. These towers are often conversions. An example is St George’s church on Chester Road in Hulme which has been converted into apartments. The elegant tower of the 1828 building is now one long, thin, vertical house of nine storeys. 

Up for sale in 2015 it was described by the estate agent thus: “Accommodation over the nine floors is accessed via ornate spiral staircases and between the 5th and 8th floor you have the luxury of your own private lift. Boasting three/four bedrooms, three receptions rooms, a gym, sauna and roof terrace on the top of the clock tower, there are no other city centre properties that can match the character and amenities of this residence.”

For once a breathless description of being ‘a unique property’ was close to the mark. 

Meanwhile up in Westhoughton a beautifully reworked water tower has been transformed into a large and handsome residence and a landmark visible for miles around. 

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St George's church converted to flats looking moody Image: Confidentials
Westhoughton's transformed water tower Image: Wikimedia

Now there’s another chance to buy a real oddity, the Trafford Road Bridge Control Tower on the Salford side of the Ship Canal. 

This is a three-storey building that’s included in Heritage England’s Grade II listing for the whole of Trafford Road bridge. 

Trafford Bridge Control Tower 1
A listed tower seeking a new owner Image: Auction House North West

The control tower will be sold in an online auction on 6 September by Auction House North West with a guide price of £50-100k. 

The swing bridge was first used in 1894 when Manchester Ship Canal opened and it linked Salford Docks with Trafford Park Industrial Estate by road. There was another rail swing bridge a hundred metres to the west which has been relocated to Dock Nine, half a mile away. Both bridges were designed by the Ship Canal's main engineer Edward Leader Williams and the contractor was John Butler & Co. 

The Trafford Road swing bridge was the largest, heaviest, and widest of the swing bridges on the Ship Canal. It was 64m (211ft long) and allowed ships to pass to the docks at Pomona.

The opening of the bridge often delayed workers getting to the factories and warehouses in Trafford Park. Even when it wasn’t open it could be used as an excuse for tardiness. The bridge was permanently fixed in place in 1998 when the road was widened into a dual carriageway with the addition of an adjacent bridge to the east. 

Trafford Bridge Control Tower 2
What to do with it if you win the bid? Image: Auction House North West

The big question is how would anybody take advantage of this canalside and bijou property if they win it at auction. 

Would it become another tower house as with St George’s church or the Westhoughton water tower or maybe a tall, thin kiosk to sell burgers to passing United fans. Even better, what about a gnome museum to complement Gnome Island, 100 metres away? This sits on one of the piers which once supported that relocated swing railway bridge. The region is crying out for a gnome museum. Well, maybe. 

Either way the purchaser could perhaps use that Adobe programme to help conjure something, hopefully a little more realistically than that prediction of Manchester's skyline 100 years hence.  

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Gnome Island close to the control tower Image: Confidentials

Trafford Road Bridge Control Tower goes up for sale by online auction with Auction House North West on Wednesday 5 September. For more information, including viewing sessions and legal packs, contact the Auction House North West team on 01772 772450. 

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