Salford is steeped in a rich and intriguing history, setting it apart in a region that is already decorated for it’s past. Now, as we witness history in the making with the covid pandemic, Alexatours looks to the future.
Covid froze everything, including the guided tours of Alexa Fairclough, operator of Bricks & Water Heritage tours.
Mrs Fairclough is a Heritage Specialist and Lawyer, and qualified in Spring 2019 as an official Green Badge Guide, operating as ‘Alexatours’.
“I have always been interested in the cultural history of our region and this was instilled by my parents and grandparents fierce loyalty to our home cities.”
Formerly a civil servant, Alexa travelled all over the country dealing with developments affecting the historic environment. However, her young children needed support at home, so when Alexa was offered a job which was a mere 20 miles away from Manchester, working with historic buildings no less, she jumped at the chance.
“Both my husband’s and my own family come from Salford and Manchester so although I have studied, worked and lived out of the Northwest region, I have always come home.”
How did lockdown affect you personally and professionally?
Personally, it has been a bit of a nightmare. I have two young sons who have not been in school since
March and they are struggling not seeing and interacting with their friends.
I have had to cancel all my public tours and refund all my lovely clients; many of which are emailing me to see when they can rebook into tours again, which is so lovely.
I am fortunate enough to have another job which I adore. I am a heritage specialist with a local authority and I have been trying to juggle part-time work with keeping my small business afloat and homeschooling my boys.
How will tours be different post lockdown to tours pre lockdown?
In the past, tours would be both bookable online and on the day in cash and cost £10 per person. They would have included tours indoors and outdoors including museums, libraries public houses, cafes, hotels and churches. Given the Government advice tours are going to have to accord with the Covid-19 guidelines which we envisage will change regularly.
At the moment, some guides are touring private groups maximum six individuals per group or more if it’s just two family groups at £15 per person. Tours have had to be been reviewed so as to avoid going into buildings that are not able to open or to follow the indoor safety guidance.
Event prices have gone up slightly to allow us to cover our costs and overheads. Each tour takes hours of preparation and this includes research and marketing. Plus we still have our own professional fees to pay such as membership of the Institute of Tour Guiding.
With smaller numbers, we have to make a living. Private tours have to be booked directly and can be for fun or a family birthday or anniversary. My tours will have to have details of names and contacts for the Track and Trace system also. They will be bookable in advance (see Bridgewater Canal Guided Tours, Alexatours and Manchester Guided Tours on social media and websites).
What new tours are you researching?
Firstly I am redesigning my new website which I will be launching soon, Alexatours.co.uk. I have been doing a daily instablog on historical topics relating to the Northwest especially Salford and Manchester, many of them are interlaced families associated with both cities and further afield.
I do tours of all the towns and villages along or near to the Bridgewater Canal including Salford Quays as well as Old Salford along Chapel Street and the Crescent. At the moment, I’m particularly interested in the areas where my family come from – Kersal, Pendleton, Swinton, Broughton and Weaste.
Has there been more interest in local history and heritage during lockdown?
I would say there has. Not only has there been more programmes on television (especially on BBC iPlayer) and internet channels on social media about our environment natural, built and historical, we have been able to do our daily exercise walks and these have meant we are seeing the local areas through fresh eyes; no traffic congestion, clearer skies and less pollution; and, we are looking around more as the fast pace of daily life has been forced to slow down.
What makes Salford a rich place for tours?
Well it is so much more than ‘a dirty old town’ that’s for sure. I think it’s the people that make Salford and their warm-heartedness. Inhabited from as long as 10,000 year ago, the eight square miles that make up Salford City area is mainly green landscape which people just do not comprehend. There is a richness of flora and fauna as well as a place steeped in history from Neolithic times to modern day and everything in between.
True Salford was bigger than Manchester until 250 years ago, which was a mere hamlet, Salfordshire was a large hundred (an area of land created for military and judicial administration). It was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution as well as a place for radicals and revolutionaries of all ages and classes. The effect on Salford and the industrial revolution was phenomenal as it developed from a town to a major industrial metropolis which is still ever-changing today.
It’s decline led to creativity in music and art and the Salford people rallied together in good times and bad. The results of the regeneration of parts of the city have been amazing to the extent major businesses have made it their base.
It is also a place of firsts too including the first cut canal that started canalmania; the first free public library and the first street to be lit by gas. Plus there are too many famous Salfordian people here to mention, you’ll just have to join me for one of my talks or tours.