Fairfield Greater Manchester

Fairfield is a suburb of Droylsden in Tameside, Greater Manchester, England. Historically in Lancashire, it is just south of the Ashton Canal on the A635 road. In the 19th century, it was described as “a seat of cotton manufacture”. W. M. Christy and Sons established a mill that produced the first woven towels in England at Fairfield Mill.

Fairfield is the location of Fairfield High School for Girls and Fairfield railway station.

The community has been home to members of the Moravian Church for many years after Fairfield Moravian Church and Moravian Settlement were established in 1783.

Notable people from Fairfield include the artist Arthur Hardwick Marsh (1842-1909)

Also the merchant banker and art collector Robin Benson (1850–1929).

Drawing – John Singer Sargent

Charles Hindley 1796 – 1857 was an English cotton mill-owner and radical politician the first Moravian to be elected as an MP.

Turning into Fairfield Avenue from Ashton Old Road you’ll find Broadway sitting prettily on your right hand side. It was intended to be an extensive Garden Village but was abandoned at the outbreak of the First World War. The estate consists of 39 houses, built between 1914 and 1920 in a neo-Georgian style. These are a mixture of detached, semi-detached and terraces in a range of sizes.

Edgar Wood and James Henry Sellers were the architects responsible for the scheme.

Broadway is a small scale example of a garden suburb development and is composed of a mixture of detached, semi detached and terraced houses ranging in size and built in a reddish-orange brick with dark brick dressing and patterning. The properties appear to be generously proportioned and they share similarities in design and construction and a unifying scheme of decoration.

It is suggested that theimaginative exploitation of the levels and texture suggest that Woods was responsible for the layout, but the chaste Neo-Georgian character of the houses undoubtedly reflects the taste of Sellers’.

It forms a major part of the Fairfield Conservation Area.

Sneaking through the alley – lined with a Yorkshire Stone fence you enter the Moravian Settlement.

Engraving 1794

The Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Church is an international Protestant Christian group which originated from the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) during the 15th century. As a result of persecution, the group eventually re-established itself in Saxony in the early 18th century, and it is from there that followers first came to this country in the 1730s, with the intention to go on to carry out missionary work in America and the Caribbean. A decision was taken to establish the first Moravian Settlement in England at Fulneck in Yorkshire in 1744. The first Moravian settlement to be located in Tameside was in Dukinfield during the 1740s. It was there that they laid the foundation stone for their chapel at the top of Old Road in May 1751. By 1783, 40 years after their first arrival in Tameside, the lease on their land at Dukinfield expired, and negotiations for a new one proved difficult. This resulted in the purchase and removal of the community to a 54 acres site at Broad Oak Farm in Droylsden where they established a new settlement known as Fairfield.

As well as providing domestic accommodation, the buildings at Fairfield had industrial functions. During the late 18th and 19th centuries the Settlement would have been a hive of religious and industrial activity, which included the church, schools, domestic dwellings, inn, shop, bakery, laundry, farm, fire engine, night-watchman, inspector of weights and measures, an overseer of roads, physician, as well as handloom weaving and embroidery.

St Stephen RC – Droylsden

Chappell Road Droylsden Manchester M43

One fine sunny Monday morning I set out cycling to Ashton-under-Lyne to buy an enamel pie dish. Almost inevitably I was pushed and pulled in a variety of unforeseen directions, incautiously distracted and diverted serendipitously – towards Droylsden.

Idly pedalling down Greenside Lane looking this way and that I was drawn magnetically to a pitched roof tower, towering over the red brick semis. Rounding the corner I discovered the delightful St Stephen’s RC church, stood high and proud on a grassy corner, glowing golden in the March sunlight.

I leaned my bike against the presbytery wall and with the kindly bidding of a passing parishioner, I went inside. 

Thanks to Father Tierney for his time and permission to snap the interior. It was a calm space, the large open volume side lit by high octagonal honeycomb modular windows. The elegant plain pitched concrete gambrel roof beams a simple engineered solution.

The church and attached presbytery were built from designs by Greenhalgh & Williams in 1958-9, the church being consecrated on 12 May 1960. A reordering took place, probably in the 1960s or 70s, when the altar rails were removed and the altar moved forward. Probably at the same time, the font was brought into the church from the baptistery.

Taking Stock

The altar and apse beautifully restrained in colour form and choice of materials. The design and detailing on the pews so warm and understated.

I was loathe to leave.

The exterior does not disappoint, the repetition of modular window shapes, the integration of doors, brick and mixed stone facing.This is a building of elegant grandeur, well proportioned, happily at home in its setting.

I suggest you set out there soon.

Concord Suite – Droylsden

There is little or no reference to this fine building on the whole world wide web – the wise people of Wikipedia tell us –

The Concord Suite was built in the early 1970’s to house Droylsden Council. The word Concord comes from the town’s motto Concordia, meaning harmony

I’ve passed by for almost all of its life, marvelling at its white modular space age panels. The wide paved piazza frontage affords the lucky viewer a full appreciation of its futuristic whole, a giddy mix of brick, glass and concrete optimism. Civic architecture has never seemed so sunny.

The interior lighting is straight out of 2001, white organic and fully functioning – the upstairs function room is available for functions at the junction of Market Street and Ashton New Road.

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I saw The Fall there for the first time in 1978, suitably shambolic and suitably feisty.

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Renamed the Droylsden Centre on one side, it houses the regulation issue of charity shops and empty units. The main building is home to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, soon to relocate to a new build across the road. The Concord will then provide a home for the workers leaving the now demolished Tameside Council Offices in Ashton.

The tram stops here.

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