A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Didsbury (fn. 1) has the Mersey for its southern and western border. Along the river the surface lies open, but the interior is urban in character. The area is 1,552½ acres. (fn. 2) There was a population of 9,234 in 1901.
The principal roads are that on the western side from Manchester to Cheadle, with a modern branch to Northenden and Altrincham, and that through the centre and east from Stockport to Stretford. (fn. 3) The Midland Company's railway from Manchester to Stockport crosses the northern part of the township, and has two stations called Albert Park or Withington and Didsbury; the latter was opened in 1875.
Cattle fairs were formerly held on 30 April and 22 October. The village rush-bearing used to take place on 5 August. (fn. 4)
The most stirring event in the history of the old village was the passage of the Young Pretender in 1745; he crossed the Mersey there. (fn. 5)
A Roman coin has been found. (fn. 6)
Although the 'manor of DIDSBURY' is named in some deeds of the Longford family, it seems clear that there was no separate manor, Didsbury being held as a portion or hamlet of Withington. (fn. 7) It is named in a Mosley settlement of 1653, but not later. (fn. 8) The land descended to the Blands, whose improvidence resulted in the gradual dispersal of the whole. Among the chief purchasers were the Broome family, who acted as agents for the Blands and Barlows. (fn. 9) By an heiress the Broome estates passed to the Feildens; (fn. 10) in 1844 the principal landowner was the Reverend Robert Mosley Feilden, holding over a third part. (fn. 11)
The local name occurs as a surname, but the family do not seem to have been of long continuance. (fn. 12) The Byrons had lands in Didsbury, (fn. 13) Withington, and Heaton Norris, which were sold in 1546 to John Pycroft, mercer. (fn. 14) Sir Edward Warren, who died in 1558, held lands in Didsbury of Nicholas Longford, as of his manor of Hough, in socage, by a rent of 12d. (fn. 15) A messuage known as Broad Oak, with land in Didsbury Moor and Hough Moss in Withington was in 1576 secured to Thomas Rudd. (fn. 16) One Walker of Didsbury was a freeholder in 1600, (fn. 17) and the Goodyers and Twyfords also are named about the same time. (fn. 18) Richard and Robert Twyford in 1649 compounded for 'delinquency' in adhering to the forces raised against the Parliament, their fines amounting to £44 and £45 respectively. (fn. 19)
In 1789 the Broomes and Feildens together paid nearly a third of the land tax; the Reverend Mr. Bayley and William Bamford were the next considerable landowners. (fn. 20)
The college of Newark had a small rent from Didsbury, which was in 1549 sold by the Crown to Richard Venables. (fn. 21)
The mill of Didsbury is mentioned in a charter, granted about 1260, by which Sir Simon de Gousill released to Henry de Trafford and his men of Chorlton-with-Hardy all suit of the mill and liability for the maintenance and repair of the mill pool, and like services. (fn. 22)
The church of ST. JAMES (fn. 23) stands on high ground, to the south-west of the village, the land sloping down on the west side of the site towards the River Mersey. The view from the churchyard on that side, towards Cheshire, is very extensive.
The building consists of a chancel 27 ft. by 19 ft. with south vestry and organ chamber, nave 73 ft. 3 in. by 19 ft., with north and south aisles, and west tower 10 ft. by 11 ft. 3 in., these measurements all being internal. There is also a small building 12 ft. by 8 ft. 9 in., formerly a vestry, at the south-west of the south aisle, and the two eastern bays of the aisle have been extended 11 ft. southwards, so as to form a kind of transept or chapel, the outer wall being a continuation of that of the vestries.
Of the original building which stood on the site nothing is known, and so little ancient work remains in the present structure (or what may be ancient is so effectually concealed by modern plaster and paint) that nothing can be said of the development of the plan, and little as to the date of the older parts. The ancient chapel is said to have been entirely rebuilt of stone in 1620, and the building of that date is described as consisting of a chancel 24 ft. square, nave with north and south aisles 45 ft. long by 34 ft. 6 in. wide over all, and west tower. (fn. 24) It had two threelight windows on each side of the nave, with entrances north and south opposite to each other at the west end of both aisles. There was also a separate entrance on the south side of the chancel. A gallery was erected at the west end in 1751, and a short one on the south side in 1757. In 1770 the chancel was declared to be 'very old, ruinous, and decayed,' and was taken down and rebuilt on a large scale 'by taking in 8 ft. on the north and also 8 ft. on the south side thereof, so as to make the said intended new chancel of the same breadth or width with the nave or body of the said chapel.' Galleries and pews were erected in the new chancel, and at the same time the old pews in the body of the church were taken away and 'handsome and convenient pews or seats all of one decent, regular, and uniform order' put in their place. About twenty years after a north gallery was erected, and the south one extended to the chancel, but there seems to have been nothing done to the structure from this time till 1841, when a faculty was granted to pull down the north and south walls from the tower to the chancel, which were 3 ft. 6 in. thick, and rebuild them of a thickness of 2 ft. so as to obtain more room for seats. Only about half the length of the wall, beginning from the west, was thus dealt with, however; the walls beyond this point are still the original thickness. (fn. 25)
In 1855 the building underwent a thorough restoration, in the course of which the outside walls, with the exception of the tower, were cased in stone, new traceried windows inserted, the roof raised over the aisles (north and south galleries), the north and south doors at the west end of the have done away with and windows substituted, and a large entrance door made through the tower at the west end. By these alterations the building lost any traces that remained of its original appearance, and assumed more or less its present aspect. In 1871 a new chancel was added, the north and south galleries taken down, (fn. 26) and a second door opened out in the tower on the north side; and in 1895 the south aisle was extended and vestries and an organ chamber built on the south side of the chancel.
The walls are built of red sandstone and have plain parapets, the buttresses marking the ends of the old nave, the old chancel, and the present chancel being carried up as pinnacles. The chancel roof is slightly lower than that of the nave, and is separated from it externally by a stone gable surmounted by a cross. The nave roof is continued at a slightly lower pitch over the aisles, (fn. 27) and all the roofs are slated. A portion of the exterior walling on the south side between the vestry and the extension shows an old rubble facing, having apparently been left untouched in the restoration of the last century.
The nave consists of six bays, the two easternmost of which formed the 18th-century chancel. These have four-centred arches 13 ft. wide on octagonal piers and responds, which appear to be of later date than 1770. (fn. 28) As all the piers, arches, and walling of the nave are stuccoed and painted it is impossible to tell how much of the work belongs to the period of restoration and how much is original. The old chancel walls, however, seem to have been thinned and rebuilt a little in advance of those of the rest of the nave in one of the restorations (probably in 1855). The old nave arcade consists of four semicircular arches 9 ft. wide, resting on circular columns 16 in. in diameter, with square abaci and circular moulded bases, much cut away. The arches and columns have the appearance of 18th-century work, but may possibly belong to the previous century, and be part of the rebuilding of that date. (fn. 29) A portion of the old wall 3 ft. long behind the east responds of the old nave arcade still stands, and the former chancel arch divides the nave into two unequal parts. The windows to both north and south aisles are all modern, and are placed without regard to the position of the piers. They are mostly of three lights, with a singlelight window at the west end of each aisle. (fn. 30) The south-west vestry already referred to is built in front of the south doorway, and appears to be modern, never having been intended as a porch.
The tower is of three stages with a vice in the south-west angle, with diagonal buttresses of unequal projection on the west side. The two entrances on west and north sides are modern, and above the west door is a modern pointed window of four lights, lighting the ringers' chamber, the floor of which is on a level with the springing of the tower arch. The arch is filled with modern glazed wooden tracery, and below the floor with screen doors. Externally a string-course runs round the tower at about midheight above the west window, and the belfry stage has a two-light pointed window with stone louvres on each face, above which is a string-course. The original embattled parapet is on the old south vestry, the tower now finishing with a nondescript parapet of four semicircular arches on each side, with angle and intermediate pinnacles, erected in 1801. There is a clock dial in front of the parapet on the east side facing the village. On the north side of the tower are three stones in a line, the two first inscribed thus:—
The initials are those of Sir Edward Mosley, kt., and Ann Mosley (Sutton), second wife of his elder and deceased brother Rowland of Hough End Hall, who are called founders. 'E. M. Esq. Patron' is Edward Mosley, son of Rowland Mosley of Hough End, and afterwards first baronet, and 'Sir G. B. K. Baronet' is supposed to be Sir George Booth, of Dunham Massey (knighted 1595, baronet 1611), but this is uncertain. (fn. 31) The stones do not appear to be in their original positions, as when Owen visited the church only the first two are described as on the north side, the dated stone being then 'on the east.' The tower is said generally to have been built in 1620, but more probably an older tower was refaced in stone, as there appear to be traces of older work inside. (fn. 32)
The fittings are all modern. There is a chancel screen (1871), and a second screen separating the vestries and organ chamber from the south aisle. The present font, which stands at the west end of the north aisle, dates from 1881, but an older plaster font is preserved at the rectory. (fn. 33)
Between the windows of the south wall of the extension of the south aisle (sometimes called the Mosley Chapel) (fn. 34) is a fine marble and alabaster monument to Sir Nicholas Mosley, kt., 1612, sometime Lord Mayor of London, with three lower compartments containing the kneeling figures of his two wives and of three of his sons. Above is his own figure in mayoral robes. Over the figure of Sir Nicholas are his arms (Sable, a cheveron between three pickaxes argent, quartering Or a fesse between three eagles displayed sable), and below on either side over the figures of his wives two shields in oval frames, the first having the arms of Mosley impaling Gules, a chessrook argent, on a chief argent three roses gules, for Elizabeth Rookes, widow of — Hendley, his second wife, who survived him; the second, Mosley impaling Whitbroke, Argent a lion rampant gules, for Margaret Whitbroke, his first wife. There are four male figures in the lower central compartment, being probably those of Rowland Mosley (died 1616), son and heir of Sir Nicholas, with his eldest son; Anthony Mosley, and Sir Edward Mosley, the two latter still living when the monument was erected. (fn. 35)
At the east end of the north aisle is a mural tablet with good plaster ornament to Ann, Dowager Lady Bland (died 1734), erected by her son 'in memory of one of the best of women'; with a lozenge over bearing the arms of Bland, Argent on a bend sable three pheons of the field, impaling the quartered arms of Mosley, as on Sir Nicholas Mosley's monument; on an escutcheon of pretence the Mosley coat is repeated. There is also a mural monument on the west wall of the Mosley Chapel to Sir John Bland (died 1715). (fn. 36)
There are six bells all cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester 1727. (fn. 37)
The church plate consists of a small paten (4½ in. diam.) inscribed 'Given to the chappel of Didsbury in the parish of Manchester 1741'; a small chalice 4 in. high, inscribed 'Belongs to the chapel of Didsbury 1743'; a paten, 'the gift of Thomas Briarly of Heaton Norris to Didsbury Chapel April 10, 1748'; a large silver flagon, 'the gift of Joseph Boardman of Manchester to the Church of Didsbury A.D. 1753'; a chalice marked 'A.M.' with crest, a demilion rampant issuing from a coronet (supposed to be the gift of Ann Mosley); a chalice, 'the gift of Mrs. Frances Bayley to Didsbury Church 1813'; an almsdish of 1843, and two breadholders of 1845.
The registers begin in 1561, and have been transcribed (1561–1757) by Mr. H. T. Crofton and Rev. E. Abbey Tindall (vols. 8 and 9 Lancs. Parish Reg. Soc.). The entries from 1561 to 1600 have been apparently copied from previously existing loose sheets.
A chapel, it is believed, existed at Didsbury from the middle of the 13th century, (fn. 38) and the chapel yard was consecrated in 1352 in order to provide for the interment of those who died of the plague. (fn. 39) The chapelry, in later times at least, was considered to include Didsbury, Withington, Burnage, and Heaton Norris.
The chapel and its ornaments were confiscated by Edward VI, but the former were acquired by the inhabitants for 13s. 4d. (fn. 40) Unlike other chapels in the parish, after the Elizabethan reform it seems to have been served as a rule by a curate of its own. (fn. 41) A church library was founded and a few volumes still remain in the vestry. (fn. 42) A stock of £48 belonged to the chapel in 1650, (fn. 43) and had grown to £104 by 1720, (fn. 44) when the voluntary contributions amounted to £10 a year. (fn. 45)
The patronage, which legally belonged to the Warden and Fellows of Manchester College, was conceded to Dame Bland in 1726 on her undertaking to improve the endowment; (fn. 46) it has frequently changed hands, (fn. 47) and is now held by Mr. William Norris Heald. A district chapelry was assigned to it in 1839. (fn. 48) The incumbents have been styled rectors since 1850. The following is a list of them: (fn. 49)
|1605||Thomas Rycroft (fn. 50)|
|1612||John Davenport (fn. 51)|
|1647||Thomas Clayton, (fn. 52) M.A. (St. John's College, Camb.)|
|1650||Peter Ledsam (fn. 53)|
|oc.||1671–86||John Walker, M.A. (Magdalene College, Camb.)|
|1686||Peter Shaw, (fn. 54) B.A.|
|1700||Joshua Wakefield, (fn. 55) M.A. (Queens' College, Camb.)|
|1705||Roger Bolton, (fn. 56) M.A. (Jesus College, Camb.)|
|1709||David Dawson, B.A. (St. John's College, Camb.)|
|oc.||1716||James Leicester, B.A. (fn. 57) (St. John's College, Camb.)|
|1719||Thomas Wright, B.A. (fn. 58)|
|1721||Francis Hooper, M.A. (fn. 59) (Trinity College, Camb.)|
|1726||Robert Twyford, B.A. (fn. 60) (Brasenose College, Oxf.)|
|1747||William Twyford, B.A. (fn. 61) (St. John's College, Camb.)|
|1795||John Newton, M.A. (Queens' College, Camb.)|
|1807||John Gatliff, M.A. (fn. 62) (Brasenose College, Oxf.)|
|1840||William John Kidd (fn. 63)|
|1881||Charles Dunlop Smith, M.A. (fn. 64) (Wadham College, Oxf.)|
|1894||Edward Abbey Tindall, M.A. (CaiusCollege, Camb.)|
A school was established in 1685. (fn. 67)
The Wesleyan Methodists began services about 1824 in a room over a blacksmith's shop; a larger place was built about 1840. (fn. 68) In addition a college for the training of students preparing for the ministry was established in 1840–42; the chapel was intended for the people of the village as well as for the students. (fn. 69) The Wesleyans have now a church (St. Paul's) in Albert Park.