Happy 100th Birthday (Mr Salford Quays) Ben Wallsworth

 

Happy 100th Birthday to Ben Wallsworth, Salford born and bred. Born on this day in Ordsall in 1920.

As a 20-year old soldier at the start of the 2nd World War, he was with the British Army at the evacuation from Dunkirk. He helped knock out a German machine gun and then refused to abandon his own gun position as instructed, staying behind to defend his comrades from aerial attacks when they were trapped on the beaches for three days and nights. Ben shot down several German fighter planes. He was awarded the Military Medal by King George VI for his bravery.

An engineer by trade, he later worked for decades at Farmer Norton’s Engineering Company in Adelphi Street, where he was a strong trade unionist. He became a local councillor in 1957 and over the years represented Weaste, Langworthy and finally Blackfriars wards. His dad had worked at the docks.

By the early 1980s, it saddened Ben to see the derelict docks, empty warehouses and rusting cranes. Along with Les Hough and Roger Rees, he was one of the driving forces behind acquiring the land. Manchester Council wanted £3 million for it; Salford got them down to £1 million (all from a grant). People forget, that for the Council to spend such a huge sum was an incredible gamble. It was an industrial wasteland and “experts” scoffed – who on earth would want to come up north and invest in it when there was absolutely nothing there?

But Ben saw the potential. He knew people are always attracted to water. So his idea was not just for revitalising the area with businesses and offices, but also for shops, hotels, housing and leisure. He’d seen it done in Canada and Australia and believed it could be done in Salford. Within 10 years, £280 million worth of investment had come rolling in and much, much more was to come. Ben’s original vision helped turn the old docks into the modern Salford Quays and helped re-establish Salford’s reputation as a great city of business and enterprise.

More Salfordians now work at the Quays than at the old docks. Millions of people now visit his legacy at Salford Quays and MediaCityUK. Ben was Mayor of Salford in 2002-03. He retired as the longest-serving councillor (46 years) in 2005 and met with royalty again when the Queen gave him an MBE.

Last year he was awarded the Freedom of the City. Salford Mayor Paul Dennett, speaks for all Salfordians by putting it simply, “He is a living legend.” Happy 100th Birthday, sir.

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