Didsbury today is the product of its
That chapel came under the jurisdiction of St Mary’s Church in Manchester. In 1352 the Bishop of Lichfield gave the little church a chaplain and licensed the regular offering of Mass there. The parish extended over all the Manor of Withington, from Chorlton to Heaton Norris and Reddish, and South to Didsbury and the Mersey. This is the importance of the location. It lasted well into the 18th Century.
There were four river fords between Stockport and the old Roman road between Stretford to the West and Stockport to the East. Millgate Lane, the oldest road in Didsbury, led to one leading to the roads heading for Congleton. This, and the one on the road to Cheadle were significant for troop movements in the Civil War and later for Bonnie Prince Charlie on his abortive march south to London and on his retreat again. These routes too made Didsbury a focal point for necessary river crossings for those connected with the early stages of industry in Manchester, and perhaps because of the river hazards, the location where the wealthy merchants chose to live out of town. Here was “establishment” centred on the church, a, still rural community and well served by people brought up in services from grooms to gardeners and most tradesmen .As a result, the end of the Napoleonic War saw growth in Didsbury.
The sandstone tower of the church built in the late 16th century held a goodly set of bells. There began a period of refurbishment and expansion of the church. The benefactor of not only the Free Church but St.James as well was James Heald, MP for Stockport and resident in Parrswood House, So was born the new training college for Wesleyan Ministers, the present day part of the Didsbury campus of the MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University), and much more. Two pubs had long since flanked the village green, centre for special occasions, an area known as the “gates of Hell” because of the temptation to drop in for drink rather than go to church. This was so used right up to the 14-18 Great War. A look inside the church reveals the Mosley Memorial and a reference to Ambrose Barlow of that once long established family. He was baptised at St.James but became a Catholic priest and in penal times administered to the recusants of South Lancashire until his death at the scaffold.
The plaques in St James reveal more of the people who gave a good deal of their lives to its benefit. There are others too not recorded. In all a veritable litany – their fortunes and their departures form a rich tapestry. Names like the Birleys, one of who still lived in the last of their family houses next to the Elms. It is now a thick copse much overgrown. Other names like the Bamfords, the Blands,(Lady Ann particularly) the Broomes (especially William and Ann) The
Howard Spring lived more modestly. There are many fine but smaller houses in Didsbury