Superlative Walks

Urban and rural trails, each with something very special

Manchester - Cotton Fields

Hebden Bridge - Stoodley Pike

Hebden Bridge - Crown Point

Chester - Grosvenor Park

Chester - River Dee

Manchester - Ancoats

Ashton Memorial - Lancaster

Bridgewater Canal, Manchester

Castlefield, Manchester

Lancaster Canal and Lancaster Castle

St George's Hall, Liverpool

Burnley Roofs

Burnley Chimneys

Preston Avenham Park


When designing the routes for the walks described on this site, the presence or proximity of superlatives was never the main factor. But for each walk, the background research threw up a number of claims, assertions and rumours that places visited and/or facts from their past were actually, or almost, superlative. As the concept of “superlative walks” emerged, on our second walk, across Manchester, much debate ensued as to what could be properly said to be a “superlative” and which instances should be rejected.

A few definitions – “of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme”

Oxford dictionary: “Of the highest quality or degree”

Collins: “a thing that excels all others or is of the highest quality”

Merriam-Webster: “an extreme or unsurpassed level or extent, Surpassing all others, of very high quality”

Our definition

These definitions suggest that a feature or fact can only be truly superlative if it is is “highest” or “unsurpassed.” Comparatively good – in second place or almost the best – will not do. Nor do we accept assertions that an item is “one of the best.”

Does a superlative have to be “best” or, as some of the definitions suggest “highest?”  Could something be superlative if it is the very lowest or worst. In our view, a “worst” feature has to be remarkable, significant or of interest. A banal fact or commonplace lowest score will not do. Nor will a claim based on relativity – “first heavily industrialised” because how is “heavily” defined?

As these are local walks in the UK, what is the smallest geographical area of comparison to enable a fact to be superlative?  Biggest in the world would clearly suffice. We also accept highest in Europe or the UK or even England. But something which is unsurpassed only in the place in question – best in Manchester – is of only parochial superlative interest and doesn’t pass our test.

What about assertions of superlatives based on a matter of opinion or conjecture – “thought to be the best” or “grandest” according to learned opinion? We only accept such claims if they are made by an undisputed authority on the topic – e.g. Pevsner.

Time is also a factor. Something which was the first ever can still be said to be superlative but something which was once, but is no longer, the best or highest, no longer cuts the proverbial mustard.

Temporary claims to fame – the best in its time – are not accepted. Nor are winners of something in just one or a few years. And things which were once superlative but which no longer exist, they no longer exist and so cannot be superlative.

Let the debate begin

What follows is a list, for each walk on the site, of superlatives claimed, showing which have been accepted by us and which rejected. We do not (yet) claim to be an undisputed authority on superlativeness and would welcome opinions and challenge, as well as suggestions, from our reader(s).


Accepted superlatives

Altrincham FC has a history of giant-killing in the FA Cup, holding the record of knocking out more Football League sides than any other club that has spent its entire history playing in non-League football. To date the club has recorded seventeen victories against Football League clubs. 

The Vegetarian Society. Established in 1847, it is the oldest vegetarian organisation in the world. 

The Bridgewater Canal is sometimes described as England’s first canal.  Named after its owner, Francis Egerton the third Duke of Bridgewater, who built the canal to transport coal from his mines at Worsley to the industrial areas of Manchester, the Bridgewater Canal was the forerunner of canal networks. Opened on 17th July 1761, the Bridgewater Canal has a special place in history as the first canal in Britain to be built without following an existing watercourse, and so became a model for those that followed it. NB this superlative has also been “claimed” for the Worsley Superlative Walk.

Helen M E Allingham, 1848-1926 a Watercolour Artist lived in Altrincham 1849-1862. She was  elected first woman member, Royal Watercolour Society in 1875.



Burnley superlatives

Accepted superlatives

The town is the first place in the UK where regular rainfall measurements were taken by Richard Towneley. He began in January 1677 and published records of monthly rainfall for 15 years from that time. He wrote that at Towneley there was twice the quantity of rain that fell in Paris.

Burnley were one of the founder members of the Football League in 1888. They are one of only three teams to have won all top four professional divisions of English football, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Preston North End. Only Preston North End have occupied the same ground continuously for longer.

Burnley were the first team in the world to build a training ground next to the stadium, while every other team still trained in their own stadium. In May 1988, Burnley played Wolves in the final of the Football League Trophy. A capacity crowd of 80,000 people packed Wembley was a record for a match between two teams from English football’s fourth tier. This is believed to be the highest attendance in world football for a lower league cup final. Wolves won 2–0. In 2007–08, Gifton Noel-Williams’ three goals against Barnsley made him the first substitute in a league game to inspire victory with a hat-trick.

Burnley Cricket Club play on a ground next to the football stadium. It was a founder member of the Lancashire League in 1892 and has won the League Championship 15 times. One of its prominent former players is James Anderson, who went on to play for Lancashire and England, becoming England’s leading wicket taker in Test matches.

In Plumbe Street is the Burnley Miners’ Club which hosts the improbable superlative as the world’s leading consumer of the French liqueur, Benedictine – over 1000 bottles per year.. It became popular with soldiers from East Lancashire, who were based for a time near the abbey where the drink is made in Normandy, in 1918. The local drink Bene’n’ot – combining the liqueur and hot water – is a popular local conclusion to a night out.

At 127 miles, excluding branches, the Leeds-Liverpool is Britain’s longest single canal, built between 1770 and 1816.

Rejected superlatives

The second half of the 19th century saw Burnley develop into the most important cotton-weaving town in the world.



Accepted superlatives

Buxton is a spa town with the highest elevation of any market town in England.

Buxton Cricket Club was founded in 1853. This is the location of the only county cricket match to be stopped due to snow on the pitch in June 1975.

The Devonshire Dome is architecturally stunning and with its 44-column, colonnade supporting the 560 ton roof, it is one of Buxton’s most famous landmarks. Measuring over 150 feet in diameter, the dome is bigger than St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and is the largest unsupported dome in Europe. 

The building became known as the Devonshire Royal Hospital in 1934. The Devonshire Royal was the last of the eight hydropathic hospitals in England when it closed in 2000.

The Old Hall Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in the town. According to the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal (1994): “In the national context, the survival of a building which accommodated both Mary, Queen of Scots and much of the Elizabethan nobility is of considerable note. Its importance in architectural terms is further enhanced as it is believed to be the earliest known British building of cross-axial form.”

The Natural Baths were opened in 1854 and re-developed as an arcade in 1987, featuring a barrel vaulted stained glass canopy – the largest stained glass window in Britain – designed by Brian Clarke.

Rejected superlatives

In 2013, the Academy of Urbanism named Buxton as one of the three most attractive towns in Britain.


Accepted superlatives

On the sandstone outcrop towards the centre of the park is the Roman shrine to the goddess Minerva. It is now the only monument of its kind in Western Europe that remains in its original location. C5

The University of Chester was originally founded as Chester Diocesan Training College in 1839.  It was the UK’s first purpose-built teacher training college. C9

The City Walls encircle the bounds of the medieval city and constitute the most complete city walls in Britain, the full circuit measuring nearly 2 miles (3 km). C12

The Rows are unique in Britain. They consist of buildings with shops or dwellings on the lowest two storeys. The shops or dwellings on the ground floor are often lower than the street and are entered by steps, which sometimes lead to a crypt-like vault. Those on the first floor are entered behind a continuous walkway, often with a sloping shelf between the walkway and the railings overlooking the street. Much of the architecture of central Chester looks medieval, and some of it is, but by far the greatest part of it, including most of the black-and-white buildings, is Victorian. C15

The Amphitheatre is the largest so far uncovered in Britain, and dates from the 1st century, when the Roman fort of Deva Victrix was founded. C16

Rejected superlatives

Grosvenor Park consists of 20 acres of land overlooking the River Dee. It is regarded as one of the finest and most complete examples of Victorian parks in the North West. C2

Grosvenor Bridge is a single-span stone arch road was designed by Thomas Harrison and opened on 17 October 1832. The first traffic passed over it in November 1833. At the time of its construction, the bridge was the longest single-span arch bridge in the world, a title that it retained for 30 years. C6

The elaborately carved canopies of the choir stalls are considered to be one of the finest in the country. C14

Eastgate and Eastgate Clock stand on the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix. It is a prominent landmark and is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. C18


Accepted superlatives

Opened in 1879, Southern Cemetery, Manchester City Council is the largest municipal cemetery in the UK and the second largest in Europe.

A grade II listed monument in the form of a white marble Celtic cross commemorates Sir John Alcock, who piloted the first non-stop trans-Atlantic aircraft flight from Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland in June 1919. 

Sir Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United F.C. is buried in the cemetery, alongside his wife Lady Jean Busby. Under his management, Manchester United were the first English team to win the European Cup.

Rejected superlatives

Pevsner in 1969 described Longford Hall asthe only surviving example of the Italianate style of architecture in the Manchester district’. 

John Rylands was a shy and humble man but his business acumen created a company that was considered the ‘monarch of the cotton industry in England’. From modest beginnings, he created a company that was worth 0.19 per cent of GNP by 1888, employing 15,000 people in his 17 mills and factories and producing 35 tons of cloth a day.

Dobcross Donkeys

Accepted superlatives

Industrial tycoon Henry Platt was born in Dobcross in 1770  He built carding machines in the village, and went on to form Platt Brothers, which was the largest textile machinery manufacturing business in the world.

Eventually we reach the entrance to the Standedge canal tunnel.  Opened in 1811, it is the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain (three superlatives in one from Thomas Telford’s tunnel that took 16 years to complete at a cost of £123,804).  As it was built without a towpath, horse-drawn boats had to be ‘legged’ through, with the horse walked over the hill to  be reunited with the boats at Marsden.  Parts of the tunnel are brick-lined, others are bare stone. The last commercial boat passed through in 1921, and commercial navigation was ended by Act of Parliament (promptly, in 1944).  Restoration began in 1981, and it was re-opened in 2001 – four years longer to restore than it took to build.

Rejected superlatives

Standedge railway tunnels.  The first was built in 1848, followed by a second in 1871.  In 1894, a third, twin-tracked tunnel was opened and remains in use today. At 3 miles 60 yards it is the fifth longest rail tunnel in Britain.  

Dove Stone

Dove Stone Superlatives

Accepted superlatives

The first industrial looms were designed and built in Saddleworth.  

The world’s first rock climbers’ sit harness was invented in Saddleworth in the 1970s, variations of it now forming the basis of almost all the world’s climbing sit harnesses.

Chew Reservoir is in the upper Chew Valley and at 1,600 feet (488 metres) above sea level was the highest reservoir in the British Isles when it was built in 1914.

At the northern end of Dove Stone Moss, the Ashway Stone is a memorial to James Platt.  In 1857, one of Oldham’s recently elected Liberal MPs, James Platt, was shot dead by his close friend and relative, Josiah Radcliffe, the mayor of Oldham. Radcliffe’s gun had discharged accidentally after he stumbled while they were out with a shooting party on the moors, hitting Platt in the lower leg.  Doctors were summoned, but Platt died just over an hour later, having suffered extensive blood loss. With his older brother John, Platt was a partner in the largest machine-making firm in the world, Platt Bros. & Co., which manufactured machinery for the textile industry in Britain and overseas.

Rejected superlatives

Dove Stone’s dam is possibly the last large dam to be built in Britain with a conventional puddle clay core.


Accepted superlatives

The first superlative can be seen before the walk itself,  if arriving by train, from a look down to the  left from Dinting Arches, the huge viaduct four minutes after Broadbottom Station, and from the road, car travellers will see it and the arches ahead of them at the Green Lane traffic lights.

Dinting Vale Mill was once the largest calico printing works in the world.  In the 1840s it was opened by Edmund Potter and his brother. Edmund was co-founder of the Whitworth Art Gallery and grandfather of the children’s author Beatrix Potter.

Hadfield Station is the last station remaining on the former trans-Pennine  Woodhead line to Sheffield.  After Hadfield the line has been converted to a cycle and walking trail.  The train line used to pass through the tunnel “Woodhead 1” which was one of the world’s longest railway tunnels when it opened in 1845. Passenger services ended in 1970 and the last train passed through in 1981. 

Hadfield is also the birthplace of Hilary Mantel, the only woman to have won the Booker Prize twice.

The A57 was designed as a toll road by Thomas Telford to improve communications east of Glossop, which was expanding as an industrial town. It was originally called the Sheffield to Glossop Turnpike and run by a turnpike trust, the Sheffield and Glossop Trust. An act of parliament to build the road was passed in 1818, and construction was financed by the Duke of Norfolk and the Duke of Devonshire. The road opened in 1821, having cost £18,625 to build. Upon opening, it was the highest turnpike road in England. The road was immediately popular and increased toll collections of traffic heading to Glossop. Tolls were abolished on the road in June 1870. 

On High Street West is the ground of Glossop North End AFC. Glossop is one of the smallest towns  in England to have had a Football League club: it still is the smallest town whose team has played in the English top flight. At the turn of the 20th century, Glossop played in the Football League First Division, the highest level of English football at the time.

Rejected superlatives

The local secondary school, Glossopdale Community College. Due for demolition and re-building in Hadfield in 2017, its new slogan has been adopted by Superlative Walks for its clarity and brevity: “Best by all.”

The original Howardtwon mill was built in the 1780s and in 1819 it was taken over by the Wood family who were great benefactors to the town. The buildings once stretched for over a quarter of a mile and employed 1,500 workers. Glossop was one of the earliest industrial settlements which relied on water power to drive the early machines.


Accepted superlatives

The Halifax Bank was founded as a building society in 1853. By 1913 It had developed into the UK’s largest building society and continued to grow and prosper and maintained this position within the UK until 1997 when it was demutualised. It is still headquartered in Halifax. 

Halifax is also home to Suma Wholefoods, the largest independent wholefood wholesaler in the United Kingdom AND the country’s largest common ownership co-operative, specialising in vegetarian, fairly traded, organic, ethical, ecological and natural products.

The Piece Hall, a Grade 1 listed building, is the only remaining cloth hall in Britain, where pieces of woollen cloth were traded. 

Wainhouse Tower is a folly; at 275 feet (84 m), it is the tallest structure in Calderdale and the tallest folly in the world, and was erected in the four years between 1871 and 1875.

Dean Clough Mill, located beside the Victorian Gothic Revival North Bridge, was built in the 1840s–60s for Crossley’s Carpets, owned by John Crossley and was once the largest carpet factory in the world at ½ mile in length.

Rejected superlatives

Anne Lister was a well-off Yorkshire landowner, diarist, mountaineer and traveller. Throughout her life she kept diaries which chronicled the details of her daily life, including her lesbian relationships, her financial concerns, her industrial activities and her work improving Shibden Hall. Her diaries contain more than 4,000,000 words and about a sixth of them—those concerning the intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships—were written in code. The code, derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek, was deciphered in the 1980s. Lister is often called “the first modern lesbian” for her clear self-knowledge and openly lesbian lifestyle.

Hebden Bridge

Accepted superlatives

Hebden Bridge has attracted praise for its eco-friendly policies, banning all plastic shopping bags, thus becoming the largest community in Europe to do so.

As of 2004, Hebden Bridge had the highest number of lesbians per head in the UK.

Built in 1764, it is the oldest Methodist chapel still in continued use, (H24)

Rejected superlatives

Hebden Bridge has a high density of independent shops for a UK town of its size.

In a national survey by the New Economics Foundation in 2010, Hebden Bridge was ranked sixth on a diversity scale.

The town hosts the Hebden Bridge Blues Festival during the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May. Established in 2011, the festival was voted the Best British Blues Festival in both the 2012 and 2013 British Blues Awards, ahead of over 40 other festivals on each occasion.

The April 2005 issue of the British Airways flight magazine said that Hebden Bridge was the fourth most “funky” town in the world. Online dictionaries define funky as “modern and stylish in an unconventional and stylish way”, “fashionable in an unusual and noticeable way” and “stylish, exciting, cool.” More funky than Hebden Bridge, according to BA, were Daylesford, Australia; Tiradentes, Brazil and Burlington, Vermont.

The building through the archway to the left is Whitehall, built in 1578.  For many generations it was owned by the Bentley family, one of whom – Sir Richard Bentley (1661 – 1741) is still said by many experts to be the most brilliant classical scholar England has ever produced. (H23)


Accepted superlatives

 The Huddersfield station cat, Felix, joined the staff as a nine week old kitten in 2011. Since then she has patrolled the station to keep it free from rodents, and even has her own cat-flap to bypass the ticket barriers. In 2016 Felix was promoted to Senior Pest Controller and has her own hi-vis jacket and name badge. She has over 95,000 followers on Facebook. This is the greatest number of followers for any station cat’s Facebook page.

The rare records shop Vinyl Tap took a record amount for a seven-inch UK picture sleeve version of the punk band XTC’s Science Friction. The owner says says: “Apparently the band weren’t happy with it so it was withdrawn from sale. In 2009, we sold it for £4,500 to a Japanese guy. The 12-inch version is very common, but the seven-inch version with a picture sleeve is incredibly rare.”

The development of the Lawrence Batley theatre was supported by Lawrence Batley, a local businessman who founded “Batley’s Cash and Carry”. He claimed to be the first to use the phrase and the concept of “cash and carry”.

Queensgate Market has, on its exterior wall a ceramic relief, by sculptor, Fritz Steller. 1969. “Articulation in Movement” – the world’s largest ceramic sculpture.

Spring Grove Junior and Infant School on Water Street was claimed, in a book written by its head teacher, Trevor Burgin, to be the first school in England in which immigrants made up more than half the total pupils.

Rejected superlatives

 The Huddersfield station frontage was described by John Betjeman as the ‘most splendid in England’ and by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘one of the best early railway stations in England’.

The building now occupied by the Lawrence Batley Theatre was built in 1819, as the Queen Street Wesleyan Chapel. For a time, it was the largest Methodist mission in the world.

Conacher and Co. started trading in 1854, building and maintaining organs. When the new Springwood Organ Works was in 1873, it was said to be “the largest and best equipped in England”.


Accepted superlatives

The Iron Bridge, opened in 1781, was the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron.

At the end of the 19th century, Maw & Co was the largest tile factory in the world.

Rejected superlatives

Jackfield “New” Bridge: The original bridge (1909) was one of the first reinforced concrete bridges to have been made.

The Bedlam Furnaces, originally built between 1757 and 1759 by the Madeley Wood Furnace Co, were among the first blast furnaces to be specifically designed for coke as fuel, rather than charcoal.

The Iron Bridge is Britain’s best-known industrial monument.

The first railway in Shropshire and second in Great Britain was built here – by 1605, the lord of the manor of Broseley, James Clifford, had constructed a wooden railway (usually termed a wagonway) from his coal mines to the river at Jackfield. It has recently been suggested that this is older than the Wollaton Wagonway which is generally thought to be the earliest such wagonway.


Accepted superlatives

The Ashton Memorial was built of Portland Stone and Cornish granite, in 1907-9 at a cost of over £80,000, damaged by fire in 1962 and restored in 1985-7. Pevsner says that it is “the grandest monument in England” (LA8)

On the far side of Dorrington Road is a single terrace of about 100 small stone houses, which is the longest continuous terrace of houses in Europe. (LA14)

Rejected superlatives

Ruxton became jealous of Kerr’s supposed infidelity and, on 15 September 1935, he strangled Isabella with his bare hands. To prevent their housemaid, Mary Jane Rogerson, from discovering his crime he strangled her too. Ruxton then dismembered and mutilated both bodies. Various body parts were found over 100 miles north of Lancaster in Dumfriesshire, wrapped in newspapers, one of which was a special edition of the Sunday Graphic sold only in the Lancaster area. When initially questioned, Ruxton denied he had ever been to Scotland. However, on his way back from Scotland disposing of the evidence, his car had knocked over a cyclist in Kendal, and he was stopped by a police officer in Milnthorpe, who noted the registration number.The bodies were identified using the fledgeling techniques of fingerprint identification, forensic anthropology and forensic entomology to identify the age of maggots and thus the approximate date of death. This was one of the first cases where such forensic evidence was successfully used to convict a criminal in the UK. (LA1)

The Dell is one of the sites in the Park used each Summer since 1986 by Lancaster’s Duke’s Playhouse to stage open-air promenade theatre performances, the largest outdoor theatre event of its kind in the UK. (LA5)

Lancaster has a reputation as the court that sentenced more people to death than any other in England. (LA22)

Many buildings along St. George’s Quay date from the 18th and 19th century, a period when the port became one of the busiest in the UK; the fourth most important in the UK’s slave trade. (LA25)

On the left, before the junction with Great John Street, which is the Western side of Dalton Square, is a shop whose sign says it was “GL Robertson, Photographic Dealer”  “established as Vince and Co in 1796” and “the World’s oldest business serving photographers.”(LA33)


Accepted superlatives

Lichfield was the birthplace of Samuel Johnson, the writer of the first authoritative Dictionary of the English Language.

Lichfield Cathedral is the only English medieval cathedral to have three spires – known locally as the ‘Ladies of the Vale’ – it is considered to be one of the most elegant in the country.

Louis Paulhan was, in 1910,  the first aviator to complete a flight from London to Manchester.  En route he refuelled and spent the night in Lichfield, at the George Hotel.

Edward Wightman was, in 1612, the last person burned at the stake for heresy in England.



Accepted superlatives

The lake was used for training by Captain Matthew Webb before he became the first man to swim the English Channel in 1875, and was used for the “World Professional Mile Championship”, a long-distance swimming event, in the 1880s.

When completed in 1841, the Summit Tunnel was the longest railway tunnel in the world.

Sybil “Queenie” Fenton Newall was born in Hare Hill House, on 17 October 1854. She was an archer who won the gold medal at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. She was 53 years old at the time and is still the oldest female gold medal winner at the Olympic Games.

The Rochdale Canal was the first canal to cross the Pennines between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Because of its width, the canal was more successful than the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and became the main highway of commerce between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Rejected superlatives

Just over a mile to the north of Littleborough Station is the Summit Tunnel, one of the oldest railway tunnels  in the world, built between 1838 and 1841.


Accepted superlatives

Albert Dock (1846) has the largest group of Grade I listed buildings in the UK.(L3)

With no structural wood, it was the first non-combustible warehouse system in the world. (L3)

On the left, the Bluecoat Chambers (formerly the Blue Coat School) is Liverpool’s oldest surviving building, built in 1716 by Bryan Blundell, a sea captain, as a charity school for over 100 poor children. (L15)

This sandstone cathedral may look old but was completed in 1978, 74 years after work first began. Until his death in 1960, architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott continued to tinker with the design. The completed church is nothing like the original plan yet is surprisingly simple, the soaring, vaulted ceilings creating a genuine sense of awe. At 189 metres, it is the longest cathedral in the world. (L32)

Liverpool’s Chinatown is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe.(L33)

The arch at the gateway is the largest, multiple-span arch of its kind outside of China. (L33)

Rejected superlative claims

Billy Fury (1940 – 1983), was an internationally successful singer from the late-1950s to the mid-1960s.] He equalled The Beatles‘ record of 24 hits in the 1960s. (L4)

The Museum of Liverpool is part of a development which has been dogged by controversy. It opened in 2011 and was swiftly nominated for the “Carbuncle Cup,” given annually by the magazine Building Design to “the ugliest building in the UK, completed in the last 12 months”.The three blocks at Mann Island, with 400 flats above ground-level shops and galleries attracted similar derision. The wedge-shaped black granite constructions were nominated for the Carbuncle Cup a year after their neighbour. Neither of these Liverpool buildings won the Cup.  The 2011 award went to Media City, Salford and the 2012 winner was the Cutty Sark Renovation in Greenwich. But Liverpool had won the Cup in 2009, with the Ferry Terminal Building. (L5)

Previously known as The Paradise Project, Liverpool ONE opened in 2008, as the largest open air shopping centre in the United Kingdom and the 10th largest overall. (L10)

Pevsner described St George’s Hall as one of the finest neo-Grecian buildings in the world. (L22)

The original Lime Street Station was completed in 1837. In 1867 the present northern arched train shed was added. With a span of 200-foot, it was the largest in the world. (L23)

The current Adelphi building (1911-4), was regarded as the country’s most luxurious hotel outside London. (L24)

Work began on Sir Edward Lutyens’ elaborate design for the Catholic cathedral in 1933. He intended it to build the second largest church in the world, but spiralling costs caused his project to be abandoned, with only the crypt built. Sir Frederick Gibberd finished the job in 1962-7 with a simpler scheme. (L26)

Liverpool Woolton

Liverpool Woolton superlatives

Accepted superlatives

The best-selling band in history, the Beatles have sold more than 800 million physical and digital albums as of 2013. They have had more number-one albums on the UK charts, fifteen, and sold more singles in the UK, 21.9 million, than any other act. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Beatles as the best artist of all time. They ranked number one on Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 artists, released in 2008 to celebrate the US singles chart’s 50th anniversary. As of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with twenty. The Recording Industry Association of America certifies that the Beatles have sold 178 million units in the US, more than any other artist. They were collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the twentieth century’s 100 most influential people.

Buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church, Woolton is Bob Paisley, footballer and manager of  Liverpool FC, from 1974 to 1983. Paisley was the first person to manage three European Cup-winning sides. He also won an unprecedented six Manager of the Year Awards.

Rejected superlatives

Lennon identified “Strawberry Fields Forever” as his highest achievement as a member of the Beatles. While the song initially divided and confused music critics and the group’s fans, it is one of the Beatles’ most influential works in the psychedelic rock genre.

Paul McCartney is one of the most successful composers and performers of all time. More than 2,200 artists have covered his Beatles song “Yesterday”, making it one of the most covered songs in popular music history. Wings’ 1977 release “Mull of Kintyre” is one of the all-time best-selling singles in the UK. In 1997, McCartney was Knighted for services to music.


Accepted superlatives

This Gothic church is the widest in England, the present building being built in 1422-1458 out of Collyhurst sandstone. (M27)

It became an industrial area after the Bridgewater Canal was opened in 1764 and nearby, at what is now Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, the world’s first railway station opened in 1830. (M49)

Rejected superlatives

The mills of Ancoats, now an “Urban Village,” were the world’s first heavily industrialised suburb, built between 1790 and 1820. (M8)

The nineteenth century industrial “golden age” is often romanticised but living and working conditions were atrocious, with child labour, poverty and disease. Ancoats had the highest death rate in Manchester which in turn had the highest death rate in England. (M8)

On the left of Bengal Street is Murray’s Mills. Through a mesh fence you can see the Murray’s complex of tall mill buildings, a small mill lodge and some domestic scale buildings. These are the oldest surviving mills in the region, built in 1798. (M10)

Across George Leigh Street, to the right, is the five storey, rectangular block of Victoria Square. This was built in 1897 as a major slum replacement scheme, Manchester’s first municipal housing, with 235 two room and 48 single room flats. (M12)

In November 2010 the area was awarded the Great Neighbourhood of the Year Award 2011 for Britain and Ireland at the Academy of Urbanism Awards in London. (M15)

In May 1785, this was the site of the Manchester Arms pub, from which James Sadler made three trips in a hydrogen balloon, just two years after the Montgolfier Brothers’ flight in Paris, 3000 people paid the pub owner 3 shillings each to watch the take-off. The first flight lasted two hours and ended near Bury in a heap of manure.  Sadler escaped with only minor injuries. (M21)

The Old Wellington is Manchester’s oldest pub, dating back to 1550. (M28)

To the left is the grand classical Edwardian exterior of the Royal Exchange. The current building was built in 1806-9 and extended in 1847-9. For a time, the Exchange controlled about 80% of the world’s cotton trade (so it was the largest in the World, but only for a time.) (M30)

The brick, granite and terracotta Midland Hotel was built in 1898-1903, by the Midland Railway Company (whose Central Station – now the Manchester Central exhibition centre – is to the rear). At the time it was Manchester’s finest hotel. (M42)

By 1903 Manchester was the fourth largest port in the country. (M54)

Manchester HOME

Accepted superlatives

Cornerhouse was the first UK public gallery to commission work from Damien Hirst.

The university gives us many superlatives: it was established and granted a Royal Charter in 1880 becoming England’s first civic university. Manchester is the largest single-site university in the UK, with the biggest student community; a series of computing firsts: the first stored program computer; the first floating point machine; the first transistor computer and the first computer to use virtual memory. The new material Graphene (a 2-dimensional solid) was created at Manchester University.

The Arthur Lewis Building, is named after Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915 – 1991) a Saint Lucian economist well-known for his contributions in the field of economic development. In 1979 he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. When he joined Manchester University in 1948, he became Britain’s first black professor.

Rejected superlatives

MMU receives approximately 52,000 applications every year, making it the second most applied-to university in the UK after the University of Manchester. It is the fifth largest university in the UK in terms of student numbers.

Manchester Statues

Accepted superlatives 

William Gladstone (1901), a British Liberal politician who was Prime Minister four times, and was Britain’s oldest Prime Minister, resigning for the final time when he was 84 years old.  MS30

The Jubilee Fountain (1897) commemorates Queen Victoria’s 60th year, and replaces an earlier structure placed here to commemorate the opening of the Thirlmere Aqueduct bringing fresh water from the Lake District to Manchester along the longest gravity-fed aqueduct in the country at 96 miles, taking a day to reach the city at 4 mph. MS30

Just inside the door is the world’s oldest remaining table football game. MS36

Winston Churchill said that Turing made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany. MS40

Rejected superlatives 

His (Brotherton’s) wife Martha wrote the first widely used vegetarian cookbook from 1812. MS19 

This is  the biggest court complex to be built in the UK since 1882. MS20

At the far end, across Mount Street, is what was the first purpose-built Inland Revenue building in the city, with the lion and unicorn above the door, symbols of Crown authority. MS32

Marple Bridge

Superlatives Accepted  

 Marple Aqueduct.  

This is the highest canal aqueduct in England and the highest masonry-arch aqueduct in Britain. The difference in water levels in the river and canal is some 90 feet (27.4m) (exceeded only by the Pontcysyllte aqueduct in Wales (also on a Superlative Walk). The aqueduct is formed by an iron trough carried on stone columns, where the difference is 126 feet (38.4m)). It contains some 8,000 cubic yards (6,000 m³) of masonry. The three semi-circular arches are about 78 feet (23.8m) above water level, with spans of approximately 60 feet (18.3m) at 72 feet (22m) centres. The lower parts are of red sandstone from the nearby Hyde Bank quarry. The upper parts are of white stone from a quarry at Chapel Milton. The abutments widen in well-proportioned curves and batter, or diminish, upwards in the same manner. The skilful use of architectural features, such as the circular piercing of the spandrels, string courses, arch rings and pilasters of ashlar stone, oval piers and stone of different type and colour have created a graceful structure, which is superlative in its class.(Wikipedia)

Superlatives Rejected 

Bottom’s Mill, (also known as Mellor Mill) was built by Samuel Oldknow between 1790 and 1792 and was burnt out in 1892.  It was the largest cotton mill of its time and the template for the architecturally impressive mills that spread through the region. 

Rejected because: 

  1. it does not exist any more. 
  2. Historic Superlatives are a source of much debate and contention in the editorial group

Marple Flight of locks: “One of the steepest flights of locks in Great Britain.” 

Rejected because this is clearly not a unique superlative. 



Accepted superlatives 

The Brine Pool

Nantwich Outdoor Brine Swimming Pool is the only inland outdoor brine pool in the UK.  The outdoor pool first opened to the public on 1st July 1935 and the pool water temperature is now maintained at 74 degrees F and through solar gain is usually much warmer.

There is also an indoor pool open all year round.

The only other UK inland brine swimming pool is in Walsall (indoor and smaller than the pool at Nantwich).

Rejected superlatives 

Worm charming

Each year the world worm charming championships are held at Willaston Primary School in the village of Willaston, approximately two miles east of Nantwich. It began in 1980. Contestants furiously tap at the ground to get at some worms. After the contest the worms are released the same day.

New Mills


The UK’s first community owned and funded hydro-electric scheme. Torrs Hydro, is a cooperative set up for the benefit of the community that funded the project through grants, a bank loan and the sale of shares.  The scheme sold £125,000 of shares and this money enabled them  to build Archie, a  reverse Archimedean screw. 

Rejected Superlatives

Swizzles Sweets, founded in 1928 is one of the longest running sweet factories in the world.



Accepted superlative

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (Traphont Ddŵr Pontcysyllte) is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham County Borough in north east Wales. Completed in 1805, it is the longest and highest aqueduct in Great Britain, a Grade I Listed Building and a World Heritage Site. The viaduct carries a water passage for a single canal narrow boat as well as a towpath for pedestrians.

When the bridge was built, it linked the villages of Froncysyllte, at the southern end of the bridge in the Cysyllte township of Llangollen parish and Trevor (Trefor in Welsh), at the northern end of the bridge in the Trefor Isaf township, also of Llangollen parish.

The name Pontcysyllte is in the Welsh language and means “Cysyllte Bridge”. The township of Cysyllte existed for centuries before the bridge was built. For most of its history, the aqueduct was known as Pont y Cysyllte (“Bridge of Cysyllte”).

The aqueduct was built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, it is 307m long (1007 ft), 3.7m wide (11.10 ft) and 1.60m (5.25 ft) deep. It consists of a cast iron trough supported 126 ft (38 m) above the river on iron arched ribs carried on eighteen hollow masonry piers (pillars). Each of the nineteen spans is 53 ft (16 m) wide.


Accepted superlatives


Preston houses the main campus of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and is home to Preston North End FC, the first English league champions in 1889, when they did not lose a match and won the FA Cup without conceding a goal.


In 1948 the UK’s first roll-on roll-off service started from here, serving Larne using the SS Empire Cedric a former tank carrier.

St Walburge’s spire, rising to 309 feet (94 m) is the dominant landmark in Preston. After Salisbury and Norwich Cathedrals, it is the third tallest spire in the UK, and is the tallest on a parish church.

Preston Bus Station has capacity for 80 buses, 40 along each side of the building. It is the largest bus station in the UK and second in Western Europe, after Helsinki.



Rejected superlatives


Preston, on the north of the River Ribble in Lancashire, became England’s 50th city in 2002. Preston held this superlative for just 10 years. Chelmsford was granted City status in 2012.

The dock, away from the river, opened in 1892, when it was named Prince Albert Edward dock. At that time it was the largest enclosed dock in Europe, covering 40 acres. In the 1960s the dock dealt with the largest volume of container and ferry traffic in the UK.


Accepted superlatives

In 1806 Lee & Philips’ factory and a portion of Chapel Street were lit by gas – the first use of gas lighting in the world.

The Salford Museum and Art Gallery was opened in 1850 as the UK’s first free public library. The building was a mansion house known as Lark Hill, which had been built in the 1790s.

Joseph Brotherton was Salford’s first MP. His wife Martha wrote the first widely used vegetarian cookbook in 1812.

Joule House, named after James Prescot Joule, who lived and worked here. Joule was a noted physicist who established the principle of the mechanical equivalent of heat. His name has been given to the unit of energy, the joule.

Coronation Street is a soap opera created by Granada Television and shown on ITV since 9 December 1960.  On 17 September 2010, it became the world’s longest-running television soap opera. The writer, Tony Warren, had to alter the initial title of “Florizel Street”. The story goes that Agnes, the Granada tea-lady said it sounded like disinfectant. He then thought of Jubilee but there was already a series with that name, so he came up with Coronation Street, inspired by the real street of that name in Salford. The houses in the real Coronation Street are well-preserved and larger than those in the fictional street, original constructed at the Granada Studios complex in Water Street, Manchester, just half a mile away.

The Manchester Ship Canal is a 36-mile-long (58 km) inland waterway linking Manchester to the Irish Sea. Major landmarks along its route include the Barton Swing Bridge the only swing aqueduct in the world, and Trafford Park the world’s first planned industrial estate and still the largest in Europe. Sadly, neither of these superlatives are visited on this walk. Construction began in 1887; it took six years and cost £15 million (equivalent to about £1.65 billion in 2011). When the ship canal opened in January 1894 it was the largest river navigation canal in the world, and enabled the newly created Port of Manchester to become Britain’s third busiest port despite the city being about 40 miles (64 km) inland.

Rejected superlatives

Peel Park was the first of three public parks to be opened on 22 August 1846, for the people of Manchester and Salford, paid for by public subscription followed by Queen’s Park in Harpurhey and Philips Park in Bradford, Manchester. Peel Park, named in honour of Sir Robert Peel, is now said to be possibly the world’s first Public Park, although it may not even be the first public park in England as Derby Arboretum, which was given to Derby Town Council on 16 September 1840, claims this title.



Accepted superlatives

The The Leeds Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in the country.

Sir Fred Hoyle, born in Gilstead in 1915, was a British astronomer who formulated the theory of  stellar nucleosynthesis. He also held controversial stances on other scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the “Big Bang” theory, a term coined by him on BBC radio, and his promotion of panspermia as the origin of life on Earth.

Shipley Glen Tramway is the oldest funicular tramway still running in the UK.


Accepted superlatives

The viaduct is the largest brick structure in western Europe, designed by George Watson Buck for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway and completed in 1840. The viaduct is 33.85 metres high. At the time of its construction it was the largest viaduct in the world.

Wayoh and Turton

Accepted superlatives

When constructed in 1832 the Entwistle Dam was the highest in Britain. It rises 108 feet from the base.

Rejected superlatives

Turton Football Club, formed in 1871, was the first football club in the North West of England, as featured in the National Football Museum.


Accepted superlatives

Opened on 17th July 1761, the Bridgewater Canal was the first canal in Britain to be built without following an existing watercourse, and so became a model for those that followed it. W1

The building with the two black and white gables facing across the canal contains Britain’s oldest inland waterway dry dock. W21

Rejected superlatives


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