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EYEWITNESS IN MANCHESTER NEWSLETTER FEATURE FROM DIDSBURY PAGE ONE (PAGE TWO)

Burton Road

Didsbury village

Library

Clocktower

Old Parsonage

Churchyard

The Didsbury and Ye Olde Cock inn

Fletcher Moss Gdns
DIDSBURY is one of Manchester's best known and most fashionable suburbs - home to professors, doctors, business people, Coronation Street cast members, footballers and many others. I visited Didsbury as a child and lived here for two and a half years as an adult.

Didsbury is situated about 5 miles south of the city centre, and extends across half the width of the south of the City of Manchester, from East Didsbury and Kingsway (A34), to West Didsbury and Princess Road (A5103). The meandering River Mersey lies to the south, to the north are the neighbouring suburbs of Withington and Burnage.

MORE ABOUT DIDSBURY WITH LOTS OF OLD PHOTOS IN THE EXCELLENT BOOK DIDSBURY IN PHOTOGRAPHS BY EX-HISTORY TEACHER ERNEST FRANCE (I referred to it while writing this feature)
Contact the author by writing to E. France 351 Parrs Wood Rd Didsbury M20 6JF

 

 

It's easy to get to Didsbury from the city centre, as there are lots of frequent and cheap buses from Piccadilly. You can also take the train to East Didsbury, and in a few years you'll be able to ride the Metrolink to Didsbury.

Let's start at East Didsbury and the Mersey bridge which takes us from the Stockport MBC district of Cheadle into the City of Manchester. Down by the river to the left used to be the Galleon outdoor swimming pool, where I went as a child - now it's an upmarket hotel and health club. To the right is Parrs Wood High, the City of Manchester's showcase comprehensive 11-18 school. The site is being transformed by a new leisure development currently under construction next to the school.
 

At the traffic lights, the ancient and winding Wilmslow Road meets the long and straight Kingsway dual carriageway, a city planning creation of the 1920's and 30's. A pleasant grassy triangle edged by trees marks the intersection of these two roads.

 

The new Parrs Wood development will transform a sleepy lay-by bus terminus into the gateway to a busy cinema and leisure complex. This already a busy intersection, I wonder what the traffic will be like when the complex opens later this year.

 

The northern corner of the triangle at Parrs Wood is marked by the clock tower of the former bus depot, demolished in the 80's to make way for Tesco supermarket, where we often go shopping.

Going under the railway bridge, with East Didsbury Station up the ramp, and we're heading towards Didsbury village.

 
From the bridge on Parrs Wood road over the disused railway line, there's a nice view over the rooftops towards St Paul's Chapel, built in 1877. The church was converted into offices, now headquarters of the prestigious PR company BDHBWA.
At the corner of School Lane and Parrs Wood Road stood the Capitol Theatre, actually a cinema, which opened in 1933. ITV's "Opportunity Knocks" presented by Hughie Green was broadcast from here in the 1960's, and it was subsequently used by Manchester Metropolitan University (formerly Manchester Polytechnic) for drama teaching. Manchester Poly drama graduates Julie Walters and Susan Cleaver will remember this building, as well as Didsbury. In 1999 the Capitol met its demise - demolished to make way for new apartments.

Subject: Didsbury article
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 16:53:06 +1100

Aidan Thanks for the for the long awaited article on Didsbury. There is no more important place to me.

As I have told you once before in a message long age I was born there in 1945 in Dundonald Road. I lived there until I was 8 with my Mum, sister and brother. We then moved to Moss Side.

Then in 1958 my Mum and I followed my sister and her husband to Australia, leaving my brother and his wife behind. They lived for a long time in Ventnor Rd.

"My" Didsbury, the one in my memory, is very different to the one in your article. I was only 12 when I left Manchester, so my memories are somewhat cloudy. I don't remember East or West bits just Didsbury. I visited Didsbury for the one and only time, since my leaving, in 1996.

Your article brings back memories of that visit rather than memories of an earlier time. My visit in 1996 coincided with the unveiling of a plaque on the war memorial outside the library, honoring those that died in the second world war, my dad being one of those. Apparently this was one of, or maybe the last memorial, for this oversight to be rectified

It is hard to imagine that my visit coincided with this event as I was not aware of it taking place. I was only made aware of it after meeting with an old friend of my sister who still lives in Dundonald Rd and who is involved in the activities of St James Church. I recorded the ceremony and was very pleased with the response to the occasion, what with the Lord Mayor and his wife being there and all the other dignitaries.

"My" Didsbury was really the bit between the corner of School Lane and Wilmslow Rd down to the Capitol Theatre. It includes Beaver Road School, the Girders, Didsbury Park (although I never knew it had a name, it was just "the park"), the railway line where we watched steam trains go by and the other picture house - the Bijou - it think ! - it was just the "Bug House" to us.

Much of our time was spent playing in the grounds of the Provincial Laundry, mainly in the old air raid shelters. I have fond memories of the old bicycle shop that was in the little lane that runs from School Lane along the old train line to Wilmslow Rd. It was run by a friend of my Mother called Helen Oldfield , I think.

In the area behind the shop she used to have a couple of pigs along with a few chickens. My brother and I used to push a cart around to the "posh" houses along Wilmslow Rd collecting kitchen scraps for them. It's funny to think that we also used to keep chickens in a shed in our tiny back yard in Dundonald Rd.

A couple of other "major" memories for me are Bonfire Night with our bonfire in the "entry" between Dundonald Rd and Countess St (Bonfire Night was banned over here years ago because of the danger of fires), the Didsbury Show every year down by the river (I know that the last show was in 1966 and the other is a single event which was the Coronation Party held in Countess St in 1953.

Didsbury was a real community then as was to be expected after coming through the war together, my gran and two aunts lived next door and another aunty lived over the back in Countess St.

So for me Didsbury is a very special place and will always be so. On my visit I stood outside of play ground of Beaver Rd school watching the little kids play and thinking back to my time there and then forced myself to move on because I thought I might be seen as a "dirty old man" watching little kids. It's a different world now.

Sorry to have rambled on for so long but before finishing I would like to thank you for the work you put into this site and the pleasure you must bring to so many people like me. Your site is No1 with me.

P.S. I intend writing to E France to try and get a copy of the "Didsbury" book. On my visit in 1996 I was given a soft cover book called "Looking Back at Withington & Didsbury" by Gay Sussex and Peter Helm published by Willow Publishing. The back cover lists many other areas of Manchester covered in this series. I don't know how old it is.

Regards Keith Barton Bray Park, Queensland, Oz.

It fascinates me that everyone has their own reality of a place or community in their head, and it can be quite different from another person's reality, especially if they lived there at a different time. Hopefully photographs of a place can bring these views together and create a shared sense of community. Sorry I couldn't recapture "your" Didsbury - I didn't even take any photos from that area, apart from the Capitol Theatre - but if I covered every location, the result would be a very thick book! Thanks for your very kind comments, which are much appreciated.

 

Further along Wilmslow Road is the Shirley Institute, a scientific research establishment set up in 1920 by the British Cotton Research Association.

In 1882 a meeting was held which led to the building of the Manchester Ship Canal. The grounds of the Shirley Institute are now the site of hi-tech office buildings.

 

The bend in Wilmslow Road between Didsbury Village and Parrs Wood was the ancient centre of Didsbury. Here we see the entrance to Fletcher Moss Park and next to it, the two famous pubs, the Didsbury and Ye Old Cock Inn, overlooking what used to be the village green.

The Eagle gateway leads to the Old Parsonage, built over three and a half centuries ago, and the former home of Alderman Fletcher Moss. The gateway was part of the Spread Eagle Hotel, Corporation Street, which he bought for ten pounds when it was demolished.
Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
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