Trafford is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England, with an estimated population of 233,300 in 2015. It covers 41 square miles (106 km2) and includes the areas of Old Trafford, Stretford, Urmston, Altrincham, Partington and Sale. The borough was formed in 1974 as a merger of the metropolitan boroughs of Altrincham, Sale, and Stretford, the urban districts of Bowdon, Hale and Urmston and part of Bucklow Rural District. The River Mersey flows through the borough, separating North Trafford from South Trafford, and the historic counties of Lancashire and Cheshire.
There is evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Roman activity in the area, two castles – one of them a Scheduled Ancient Monument – and over 200 listed buildings. In the late 19th century, the population rapidly expanded with the arrival of the railway. Trafford is the home of Manchester United F.C., The Trafford Centre and Lancashire County Cricket Club and since 2002 the Imperial War Museum North.
Trafford has a strong economy with low levels of unemployment and contains both Trafford Park industrial estate and the Trafford Centre, a large out-of-town shopping centre. Apart from the City of Manchester, Trafford is the only borough in Greater Manchester to be above the national average for weekly income. Socially, the area includes both working class areas like Old Trafford and Stretford and middle class ones such as Bowdon and Hale. In Parliament, Trafford is represented by three constituencies: Stretford and Urmston, Altrincham and Sale West, and Wythenshawe and Sale East, which mainly covers neighbouring Manchester.
The choice of the name Trafford for the borough was a "compromise between Altrincham, Stretford and Sale", and "seemed to have wide support". A Liberal councillor for the Municipal Borough of Sale suggested "Crossford ... whilst "Watlingford" was suggested by councillors in Hale, after the supposed name of an ancient Roman road in the district. Those names were rejected in favour of Trafford, because of the district's "famous sports venue, a major employer as well as historic associations", referring to Old Trafford (cricket and football), Trafford Park and the de Trafford baronets respectively.
As a place name, Trafford is an Anglo-French version of Stratford, deriving from the Old English words stræt (a street, more specifically a Roman road) and ford (a river crossing). The Metropolitan Borough of Trafford has existed since 1974, but the area it covers has a long history. Neolithic arrowheads have been discovered in Altrincham and Sale, and there is evidence of Bronze Age habitation in Timperley. Fragments of Roman pottery have been found in Urmston, and Roman coins have been found in Sale. The Roman road between the legionary fortresses at Chester (Deva Victrix) and York (Eboracum) crosses Trafford, passing through Stretford, Sale, and Altrincham. The settlements in Trafford have been based largely around agriculture, although Altrincham was founded as a market town in the mid 13th century. Although the Industrial Revolution affected Trafford, the area did not experience the same rate of growth as the rest of Greater Manchester. A 100% increase in population in the Trafford area between 1841 and 1861 was a direct result of an influx due to the construction of the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway, which allowed residents to commute more easily from Trafford into Manchester. The area developed its own centres of industry in Broadheath (founded in 1885) and Trafford Park (founded in 1897). They have since declined, although Trafford Park still employs 40–50,000 people. Today, Trafford is mostly a commuter area. The borough was formed on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972 as one of the ten metropolitan districts of Greater Manchester.
The metropolitan boroughs of the City of Salford and the City of Manchester border Trafford to the north and east respectively; the Cheshire East area of Cheshire lies to the south. The geology of South Trafford is Keuper marl with some Keuper waterstone and sandstone, whilst the geology of North Trafford is Bunter sandstone. The River Mersey runs east to west through the area, separating North Trafford from South Trafford; other rivers in Trafford include the Bollin, the River Irwell, Sinderland Brook, and Crofts Bank Brook. The Bridgewater Canal, opened in 1761 and completed in 1776, follows a course through Trafford roughly north to south and passes through Stretford, Sale, and Altrincham. The Manchester Ship Canal, opened in 1894, forms part of Trafford's northern and western boundaries with Salford.
Trafford is generally flat, with most of the land lying between 66 feet (20 m) and 98 feet (30 m) above sea level, apart from Bowdon Hill in South Trafford which rises 200 feet (60 m) above sea level. The lowest point in Trafford, near Warburton, is 36 feet (11 m) above sea level. There are areas of mossland in low-lying areas: Warburton Moss, Dunham Moss, and Hale Moss. Greenspace accounts for 51.8% of Trafford's total area, domestic buildings and gardens comprise 25.6%, the rest is made up of roads and non-domestic buildings.