Often referred to as Manchester’s ideal suburb, birthplace of the idea of the Ship Canal and residence of philanthropist Fletcher Moss, today it is a thriving residential area and centre of cafe society.
Geographically the old village owes its existence to moorland rising out of a swamp formed from centuries of silt from the River Mersey which turned the swamp into drier land.
There is no mention of Didsbury in the Domesday book but being close to a fording point of the River Mersey, its name may well have derived from Saxon times, a didd was a fortified place of a Saxon thane, it would have lay on the boundary between the Saxon south and the Viking north.
Church of St James
Didsbury grew up around the moorland with the highest point looking over the Mersey valley and it is almost certain that a church stood on the site during Saxon Times.
The first mention of the chapel as it was then, comes from the records of the Lancashire Assizes in 1236 and during the Black Death in the 1300’s the Bishop of Lichfield gave permission for the churchyard to be consecrated for burials.
The chapel served a wide area of what is now South Manchester, covering Chorlton, Withington, Rusholme, Burnage, Levenshulme, Reddish and the Heatons.
Transferred to the Diocese of Chester in 1541 during the Reformation, it became the chapel of worship for many of Manchester’s most notable families, the place of Baptism of Edward Barlow and of the Mosley’s who rebuilt the church after it was destroyed by fire in 1619.
Today the church contains a monument to the Mosley’s Sir Nicholas, Lord of the Manor of Manchester in his Lord Mayor of London robes, together with his two wives and four of his sons.
The church; it became the parish church of Didsbury in 1850, that we see today owes its design to Didsbury Victorian Philanthropists who re-designed it in the popular Gothic style of the time which included cladding the brick building in stone
The original village grew up around the church and the two inn’s close by on the green, The Cock and The Ring o’ Bells, an area later referred to as the ‘gates of hell’ due to the temptation to stop for a drink at one of the pubs flanking the village green.
On the 28th January, 1793, locals congregated on the village green to burn an effigy of Tom Paine, author of The Rights of Man, a book defending the French Revolution. Scared by events in France and wanting to proclaim their loyalty to the state, soldiers and townsfolk performed a mock trial and execution amongst much merriment and drinking.
Alderman Fletcher Moss, described the hamlet as it was at the end of the 18th century in idyllic terms as a collection of half-timbered, thatched cottages, a smithy and handloom-weavers’ houses, as well as the church and two inns fronting on to the village green.
NIneteenth century Didsbury and beyond
As Manchester grew, the pleasant village began to attract some of its wealthy and the settlement extended North along Barlow Moor Road, Hugh Birley, Samuel Taylor and George Robinson were among those who chose to live there.
From 619 inhabitants in 1801, there were 1,829 in 1861 and 9,234 by 1901.
By the 1930’s Didsbury was being praised as being Manchester’s ideal suburb and while houses and roads have encroached on its village status, today it still retains the village atmosphere and still considered one of the most pleasant places to live within Manchester. home to independent shops and restaurants as well as the better known chains.