First mentioned in an Assize Court record of 1240 the village of Lewynshulme, Leofwine’s Island, with the personal name, followed by the old Norse (holmr) meaning island raised on ground in a marshland.
It remained a rough mossy moorland, in 1655 there were only 25 persons paying rates, until the Turnpike Act of 1724 created a cotton trade route which would run from Manchester to Stockport and the South, although a bleach works had been established around 1690.
Cloth was dipped by the whitsters: as bleachers were then called, in the several streams of the neighbourhood and allowed to dry in the sun on the banks… With the coming of the nineteenth century – progress was more rapid and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution brought new industries to the township. In the first 50 years we find rapid development and an expanding population engaged in bleaching cloth, yarn winding hand-loom weaving and hatting in addition to the farming which remained, of course, the principal industry.
Soon the villagers would see the packhorses slowly moving through taking their cotton goods from Manchester to the rest of the country. The village would also become a refuge for French Huguenot who would settle just to the East, spinning and weaving cloths and sharing their skills with the locals.
By 1774 there were 56 families, with a total population of 280, living in the area bounded by Pink Bank Lane, Cringle (or Black) Brook, Slade Lane/Burnage Lane and the Nico ditch.
By 1820 it had reached over one thousand and by that time the three small hamlets of Tallyrand, Belmont and the area bounded by the Stockport Road, Chapel Street and Elbow Street, had come together to make one community.
The first church was built in 1860, St Peter’s was paid for by Charles Carill Worsley who also paid for the school of the same name. St Mark’s opened its doors in 1908 to serve the growing community of the Tallyrand or Back Levenshulme area but prior to this, from 1883, meetings had been held in the Old Mission Room. The number of worshippers grew too large for the space and so, in 1894 they moved into the New Church School Building, where they remained until the church itself was built.
In 1853, the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels was founded, Samuel Grimshaw, a native of Levenshulme who lived at Errwood Hall near Buxton, Derbyshire, donated 7820 square yards of land; originally part of the outbuildings of the Grimshaw Farm, together with an annual endowment of £25.
In 1871, eight Belgian Poor Clare Sisters settled in Levenshulme. Their monastery was built on the crossroads of Errwood Road and Nunnery Lane, Nunnery Lane later renamed Clare Road after their foundation, now the site of St Mary’s primary school.
The railway came in 1839, the London to Manchester line seeing the opening of the first Levenshulme station, others would follow, churches were erected, a cricket club was formed and shops began to appear along the Stockport Road which would soon see rail tracks laid for horses to pull coaches.
A local board was formed in 1865, Levenshulme District Council took over in 1881 and ran the village until its incorporation into Manchester in the first decade of the 20th century, a Mechanics Institute, Town Hall, Police Station and a Carnegie Library would follow.
The local council were proud that it’s by laws covering building were superior to those of other areas, it’s density was less and all terraced houses had small front gardens and comparatively large back yards. Despite the rapid building, it had one of the lowest death rates in the country.
Meanwhile the Stockport Road would split the village, The western becoming a residential suburb of Manchester; the eastern half seeing a print works, bleach works, dye works, and mattress works, as well as several farms.
Leisure followed, The Blue Bell public house claiming its origins back seven hundred years, the Midway Pub, now closed was built on the site of the Midway House which went back to the 1600’s. It was pulled down in 1903 to be replaced by the mock Tudor building that still stands today and can claim to holding the first meeting of the vegetarian society in 1852. There were a number of cinema’s, although none survive today and for a time an Ice Rink and a film studio.
The success of the village was marked by the fact that it had a branch of the Marks and Spencer, Penny Bazaar from 1915-1938.
Sir Norman Foster, born in Reddish and raised in Levenshulme, must be the most successful public figure that Levenshulme has ever produced. As a child he lived on The Crescent in Levenshulme and attended local schools. After leaving school at 16 he worked in the Manchester City Treasurers Office and following National Service in the RAF, in 1956 he attended Manchester School of Architecture and City Planning and graduated in 1961. He attended Yale University on a fellowship, returned to the UK in 1962 and set up an architectural practice.