The idyllic Greater Manchester street nobody wants to leave

Amid the mansions in one of Greater Manchester's leafiest suburbs sits a row of pristine white cottages with a little-known history. The picturesque properties that make up The Crescent, in Worsley, were once home to the workers who kickstarted the Industrial Revolution. When the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater commissioned a canal to transport coal from his mines to central Manchester's industrial heartlands, he realised those working on the ambitious project would need places to live.

Linked to the duke's collieries by an underground tunnel at Worsley Delph, the construction of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761 is said to have increased the pace and momentum of the Industrial Revolution, shaping the future of Manchester and the world. Hundreds of years on, the canal is a haven for walkers and wildlife. Worsley has also shed its industrial roots, evolving into an affluent village home to a thriving community of families and professionals.

But while the village around it has changed considerably, the pretty cottages along The Crescent have stood the test of time. Will Doyle moved into his Grade II-listed home in 2021 while his partner was expecting their baby son.

The Crescent in WorsleyThe Crescent in Worsley

"As soon as this came up for sale, we came up to look straight away," he explained. "The house is lovely and it's a nice to place to live. "It's next to the green and there are loads of amenities.

We go to Worsley Woods every day. We don't ever intend to move." Although he has fallen in love with his new home, Mr Doyle said that living in a listed building does come with its challenges.

"It was a nightmare to buy," he added. "When we moved in, someone had got rid of all the original features and we had to restore them. Everything needs lots of extra permissions.

Will Doyle and his young son outside their home on The CrescentWill Doyle and his young son outside their home on The Crescent

"The history is really nice though. I always tell people that my house is older than the United States."

Martin Farnworth grew up in Worsley but moved away from the area before he and his wife bought their home on The Crescent 10 years ago. "We've been here ever since," said the 71-year-old. "It's great. "I walk my dog every day on the green.

It's a good community. "The only thing we have not got is a shop. There used to be a newsagents across the bridge but it closed six months ago.

"It was a good hub. I used to go and get a paper in the morning and meet loads of people."

Martin FarnworthMartin Farnworth

However, Mr Farnworth says that one of the downsides to life on the street is the gridlocked traffic that clogs up Worsley Road on a daily basis. "There are always queues back down here towards the motorway," he explained. "Rush hour is bad.

"It goes from the roundabout all the way up past the school. They keep trying to alter the roundabout at the bottom but it never seems to work." Steve Thorley moved into his cottage, which he says dates back to 1765, about 15 years ago after relocating from Blackpool.

"I just liked the history of the place, the amenities and links to the motorway network," he explained. "The Trafford[2] Centre is just down the road. "We're far enough out that it's quiet but we can be in town in 15 minutes on a good day. I've got a couple of dogs and we have the canal on one side and the woods on the other.

Steve ThorleySteve Thorley

"It's perfect, I love it here.

We all look out for each other on The Crescent. "There's a good community. People who tend to come here don't leave.

"If there's one gripe, it's that the the public transport network is not brilliant. We have a car so we're okay but for people without one, it's probably quite a struggle. Francis Egerton, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, decided to build the Bridgewater Canal as a cost-effective way of getting his wares to the expanding city.

Taking coal by road or via the Mersey and Irwell did not make economic sense.

The picturesque cottages are just off Worsley RoadThe picturesque cottages are just off Worsley Road

The duke's land agent, John Gilbert, recognised that it was possible to connect the canal to the mines directly via an underground canal. The pair drew up plans, obtained an Act of Parliament to allow its construction, then set engineer James Brindley to the task of building a canal. A tunnel was built at Worsley Delph in the 1750s and at the height of the operation a million tons of coal a year passed through it.

Eventually, 47 miles of subterranean tunnels were constructed with specially designed boats being loaded at the coal face to transport their cargo to Manchester. The network was the first industrial canal system in the UK and heralded the age of industrialisation throughout the country. After the canal was built, Worsley grew from being a small village into an important town based upon cotton manufacture, iron-working, brick-making and extensive coal mining.

The Bridgewater Canal in WorsleyThe Bridgewater Canal in Worsley

Today, it is a desirable suburb home to some of Greater Manchester's wealthiest residents.

At the heart of the village, imposing mock-Tudor homes overlook the idyllic Worsley Green - a stone's throw from The Crescent. Lorna Walker and her husband Ian live in what they believe to be an old coaching house on The Crescent. Having grown up in the village, Mrs Walker remembers Worsley[3] Road when it was a quiet, cobbled street.

After living in south London for a time, she returned to the area to live in her grandmother's old home about 40 years ago.

The homes were built during the 1760sThe homes were built during the 1760s

"It used to be very quiet but when they built the motorway it changed everything," said Mrs Walker. "It was devastating for the village." When the M60[4] was built during the late 1960s, it split Worsley Woods in half. But that's not the only change that Mrs Walker has seen over the past four decades.

"We used to have a butchers, a beautiful grocery store, a chemist, a hardware store," she recalled. "We had everything. Now it's all restaurants and estate agents." Mr Walker is another who is fed up with the regular standstill traffic outside his door.

Queuing traffic in Worsley RoadQueuing traffic in Worsley Road

"The biggest problem is the traffic," he said. "From about six in the morning until ten, the traffic is queuing towards the motorway.

"If there's an accident on the motorway the traffic can be queuing most of the day. It queues again when United are home." Despite that, the couple said they do not see themselves moving any time soon.

"It's a small cottage but it's big enough for us," said Mr Walker. "I would prefer to live in one of these than a more modern house.

"They all have to be painted white, they can't be any other colour.

We get tourists coming to take photographs but when you live here you don't really think about it like that."


  1. ^ 'My caring, happy daughter died... it's like a nightmare' (
  2. ^ Trafford (
  3. ^ Worsley (
  4. ^ M60 (