Freedom honour for Salford champion
Former Salford councillor Ben Wallsworth is to be given the Freedom of the City in a special ceremony on Wednesday 30 October, five months ahead of his 100th birthday.
Mr Wallsworth, 99, spent 44 years as a local councillor and is best known for creating Worsley Greenway and the transformation of the former docks into Salford Quays.
He was also a leading light in the creation of the Red Rose Forest project, which was launched in 1991 in the Croal-Irwell river valley, to plant a million trees across Greater Manchester and received the MBE for his contribution in 2001.
He was chair of the planning committee when Salford City Council used a derelict land grant to buy part of the former docks for £1 million in 1983. Within 10 years private and public investment in the area totalled around £280 million and has continued to grow ever since.
City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “Ben served his country in World War Two and his home city from the late 1950s until his retirement at the age of 84 and this is our opportunity to honour his incredible, lifelong contribution.
“Millions of people now live, work and visit his legacy at Salford Quays and MediaCityUK every year. Ben’s vision was to create something new from a huge, disused site and the transformation of Salford Docks which he helped to kickstart has been described as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the UK.
“Equally important to Ben, who grew up in inner city Ordsall, was protecting and enhancing Salford’s green spaces. His idea to create Worsley Greenway continues to protect open land between Monton and Worsley from development to this day, a legacy Salford City Council is fighting to retain.”
An engineer by trade, Mr Wallsworth joined the Territorial Army at 19 but signed up with the Royal Army Service Corps when it became apparent World War Two was about to start.
His regiment fought through France towards Belgium and back to the beaches of Dunkirk where he spent his 20th birthday. He refused to abandon his Lewis *** en route as instructed and used it to defend his unit from aerial attacks when they were trapped on the beaches for three days and nights. He also took the *** aboard the ship which rescued them and it was used to protect the boat when it was attacked by German planes.
Mr Wallsworth was awarded the Military Medal in July 1940 for his bravery but didn't receive home leave until 1942. Ironically, the day after he came home for Christmas Salford and Manchester were bombed.
Mr Wallsworth was elected to Salford Council on 9 May 1957 and, apart from three years between 1968 and 1971, served until his retirement on 10 June 2004. He represented Labour in Weaste, Langworthy and Blackfriars wards, leading on planning in the 1970s. He was also a prominent trade unionist and served as branch secretary for the Amalgamated Engineering Union for many years. He was Mayor of Salford from 2002 to 2003 and is thought to be the only holder of that office to also hold a Military Medal.
He was presented with the Military Medal by King George V in 1940 and the MBE by King George’s daughter Queen Elizabeth in 2001.