In about 1230, the vill of Salford, Lancashire, was created a free borough by charter granted by Ranulph de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester. The borough's government was in the hands of a borough-reeve and portmote court. The reeve was elected by the burgesses at large, while the head of the Molyneux family of Sefton presided over the court as hereditary steward of the Hundred of Salford.
In 1791 the first modern local government was established in the area, when the Manchester and Salford Police Act created commissioners to administer the two towns. In 1843 the inhabitant householders petitioned the Privy Council for a charter of incorporation under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 The charter was granted on 16 April 1844, and the Municipal Borough of Salford came into existence on 1 November.
The borough originally consisted of the township of Salford and the part of Broughton township south of the River Irwell. It was divided into four wards (Blackfriars, Crescent, St Stephen's and Trinity), with a town council consisting of a mayor, eight aldermen and twenty-four councillors. In 1853 the borough was extended to include the rest of Broughton and Pendleton township. The wards of the borough were redrawn and increased in number to sixteen. Salford township was divided into seven wards, Broughton into three and Pendleton into six. Each ward was represented by three councillors and one alderman, and the size of the council consequently increased to forty-eight councillors and sixteen aldermen. The names of the wards were as follows: Albert Park, Charlestown, Crescent, Grosvenor, Hope, Islington, Kersal, Ordsall, Regent, St Matthias's, St Paul's, St Thomas's, Seedley, Trafford, Trinity and Weaste.
Under the Local Government Act 1888 all municipal boroughs with a population of 50,000 or more were designated as "county boroughs" with the powers of both a municipal borough and a county council. In 1889, therefore, the town became the County Borough of Salford. Although independent of Lancashire County Council, Salford remained part of the county for certain purposes such as lieutenancy, shrievalty, custos rotulorum and administration of justice.