Didsbury Village North

Friday 21st October 2016

Description based on original stagger, timetable reflects current route.

Didsbury derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon Dyddi's burg, Early Didsbury map probably referring to a man known as Dyddi whose stronghold or township it was. In the 13th century Didsbury was variously referred to as Dydesbyre, Dydesbiri, Didsbury, or Dodesbury. A charter granted in about 1260 shows that a corn-grinding mill was operating in Didsbury but the earliest reference to Didsbury is in a document dating from 1235, recording a grant of land for the building of a chapel. In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart crossed the Mersey at Didsbury in the Jacobite march south from Manchester to Derby, and again in the subsequent retreat. During the Victorian expansion of Manchester, Didsbury developed as a prosperous settlement; a few mansions from the period still exist on Wilmslow Road between Didsbury Village and Parrs Wood to the east and Withington. The opening of the Midland Railway line in 1880 contributed greatly to the rapid growth in the population of Didsbury, with stations in the centre and at West Didsbury. On 28 April 1910, French pilot Louis Paulhan landed his Farman biplane in Barcicroft Fields, Pytha Fold Farm, on the borders of Withington, Burnage and Didsbury, at the end of the first flight from London to Manchester in under 24 hours, with one short overnight stop at Lichfield. Arriving at 5:30 am, Paulhan beat the British contender, Claude Grahame-White, winning a £10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail.

Tonight's stagger starts a little way along Didsbury Clock Tower - tribute to Dr John Milson Rhodes Botanist School Lane at the Botanist which is adjacent to the Didsbury Village tram stop, so very convenient if traveling by this mode of transport. Originally this was a new build Wetherspoons pub named after Dr. John Milson Rhodes (1847-1909) whose medical practise and social work for the poor was so well appreciated that the square clock tower on Wilmslow Road outside the former railway station, a grade II listed structure, was erected in his honour. Since being sold on by Wetherspoons it has been renamed Botanist, and inside it is everything you would expect from a corporate chain pub. Split over two levels and having a major food element, it fits well with the modern, young, vibrant image expected of a Didsbury outlet.

A little more on the Didsbury philanthropist Dr Rhodes, who was born at Broughton in Salford and after studying at Glasgow Dr John Milson Rhodes completed his studies at Manchester's Owen's College. While living in Didsbury he worked at Chorlton Workhouse (later Withington Hospital) and discovered to his horror, that the workhouse dietary system was in chaos. By 1909, his criticisms of the system meant that dietary regimes were based on a scientific basis, and this became the norm all over Britain. His most far-seeing innovation was the outdoor system as a way of dealing with severely affected individuals. He thus set up the Langho Colony for Epileptics in 1904, and his passion also led to the foundation of the David Lewis Epileptics Colony just outside of Wilmslow - an institution still going strong today. At just before 7.30, on September 25 of 1909 Dr Rhodes felt his limbs twitching uncontrollably. Two hours earlier, he had taken a full dose of strychnine, as he had done many times before, to enable him to cope with his work but on this evening, he sensed that the incurable heart condition with which he had lived for the past three years was going to get the better of him. He fixed himself a simple meal - salad and cheese with bread - and felt a little better. The twitching in his leg subsided, and with some relief, he resumed his work. Then, suddenly, just after 9pm, he was dead. How can we know so accurately about these final hours of his life? Because his nephew published the detail in the British Medical Journal for October 1909.

As you leave the Botanist Solita Didsbury notice the building across the road with the prominent balcony, this is our next destination, the Solita Didsbury. I have it in my mind this used to be a Spanish restaurant, but is now part of the Manchester based Solita Burger chain. I know that doesn't sound good on the real ale front initially, but there are tables set out immediately adjacent to the bar specifically for drinkers now that is an improvement. A Brightside beer, badged as Soli-Pa is the only offering, but Brightside are noted for their good beers so the pressure is on.

Turning right on School Lane we approach the traffic lights on Wilmslow Road and espy our next destination across the road, the Boardroom. Unfortunately all we will do is espy this destination as we won't be entering because real ale is off the menu.

We now have a short sojourn along Barlow Moor Road where, a few yards along, we will be popping our heads around the door of the Art of Tea, Saints and Scholars a café bar which does not have real ale but does have bottled conditioned beers from local microbreweries, (it is rumoured TicketyBrew has been seen).

As we make our way back to the traffic lights at the Wilmslow Road and Barlow Moor Road junction we need to check out OKitchen which used to be known as Didsbury Lounge and does not sell real ale (to our knowledge).

Back onto Wilmslow Road and turning north towards Manchester we will be popping our noses into the ivy-cladd cottage-like bistro Saints & Scholars (photo right). This is another Didsbury bar which didn't used to serve real ale until a year or two back, but is now selling, of all things, Bootleg beers. Due to its compact size, if we are a large group we might have to treat this as school canteens of old and have sittings.

Station Inn in 1959

Progressing a little further north along Wilmslow Road brings us to the Station, funnily enough, opposite the former rail station (and clock tower mentioned in connection to Dr Milson Rhodes). This Marston's pub is the antithesis of most Didsbury centre pubs on a Friday night, no yoofs chucking bottled alcho-pop down their necks like they are going for bust as a neknominate stunt. The Station is a bit like Dr Who's tardis, feet wide at the front but it goes back for what feels like miles! The front room and bar are always busy with local ale drinkers, but keep going back and you can eventually reach a (small) beer garden. A tranquil haven in a sea of shot-fuelled teenagers - don't let them know so we can keep it this way.

As mentioned, across the road from the Station was Didsbury station, opened on 1st January 1880 as part of the Manchester South District Railway connecting Manchester Central to Stockport Tiviot Dale. Didsbury Station in 1951 before being demolished A number of schemes had been proposed to create a line from Manchester to Didsbury from as early as 1864. The Manchester South District Railway passed into the hands of the Midland Railway who started to run express trains between Manchester Central and London St Pancras via Stockport Tiviot Dale. In July 1902 the Midland started using a cut-off line between Heaton Mersey and New Mills, and from this date half of the South District train services began to run to a new station at Cheadle Heath (where Morrisons is now located). By 1939 Didsbury station was being served by forty trains in each direction including two weekday morning express services that ran to London in just four hours. By the 1950s the service had gone into decline, being just sixteen trains a day in each direction by 1956. In 1960 British Railways began operating the Blue Pullman service between Manchester and London St Pancras but the service called at Cheadle Heath in preference to Didsbury. The very last train to call at Didsbury was the Last horse tram seen in Didsbury 1913 18:45 Manchester Central to London St Pancras service and Didsbury station closed on 2nd January 1967. The odd freight train continued to pass through the station, but on 17th August the line was disconnected at Chorlton Junction and lifted in 1970. The station buildings survived until 1981 when they were demolished and replaced by a small shopping precinct. Further deatails on the Disused Stations website.

Thankfully the railway trackbed was retained and now provides a route for the Chorlton to East Didsbury Metrolink line, currently only built as far as East Didsbury but with ambitions to extend to Stockport. The modern tram cars make quite a contrast to the tram shown left (though electric Corporation trams did fill some of the intervening time between this photo of 1913 and the opening of the Metro).

Leaving the Station we cross the busy Wilmslow road with care and a little further north towards Manchester we will find the Slug & Lettuce. Having returned to the real ale fold in mid-2014, according to the latest news we have, the place has now lost cask ale — Shame! Built on two levels with live jazz in the upstairs room every Tuesday Head of Steam and the bar downstairs. Door supervisors are often on duty on Friday evenings, so if intending to enter make sure you are not wearing trainers or jeans!

Moving south now (Ah! Can you feel the increase in temperature as we head towards the tropics!) and we encounter the Head of Steam (photo right). Previously known as the Sanctuary it has been in the hands of that North East stalwart Camerons of Hartlepool since February 2018. The pub has been pleasantly re-furbished with pine, wood floors and filaments lights being what hits the eye immediately. Whether required or not, it is worth a walk upstairs to the toilets to peruse the interesting photo montage made up of Camerons Brewery and Didsbury line trains. If anyone is feeling peckish, warning - don't linger as the Head of Steam only serves food until 9pm. Stoker's Arms Should we decide to be continental, there is an area outside set aside for street drinking.

Moving next door we come to the Stoker's Arms (formally O'Neill's an, I bet you've guessed it, Irish themed bar). Entering you find the previous cavernous room has been broken up by numerous wooden screens, so it is not as barn like as was. The décor is unashamedly Irish but thankfully not too over the top, more Irish-lite, with flags, photos and recipes on the walls. You can dine in here as well as partake of three cask ales - Moorhouse's Pendle Witches, Sharp's Doom Bar and guest beers. Comfortable and welcoming but can become boisterous on Friday nights. Time hastens on so we move five doors down to our final destination.

Before hurrying on to our last hostelry, Library in 1967 let us pause a while and cast our eyes across the road at Didsbury Library. At first glance there is nothing special, but it is what are known as Carnegie Libraries. It was Didsbury's most famous son Alderman Fletcher Moss who persuaded Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to pay for a library. Carnegie was a Scot (born in Dunfermline ) who emigrated to America and made his money in the iron and steel business based around Pittsburgh. The "Made in Allegheny" mark became almost as famous as our own "Made in Sheffield". He then became a great investor of education through Carnegie libraries. A total of 2,509 were built between 1883 and 1929, so Didsbury is not a one-off. The tally was 1,689 built in the United States, 660 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and the balance in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Malaysia and Fiji. Didsbury library is however Grade II listed, and was eventually opened using a golden key on May 15, 1915.

The Dog and Partridge Dog & Partridge in 1972 has been a multi-ale house for many years now. Although now a single room, it was originally several rooms ranged around the central bar. If looking for friends do remember to check out the area "round the back" where groups can lurk in obscurity, and don't forget the beer garden. Decorated in a modern interpretation of "traditional" that is bare floorboards and plenty of exposed brickwork. Three regular cask ales (Adnams Southwold Bitter, Taylor Landlord and Wells Bombardier) are always on, supplemented by up to three guests. Customers vary from a good mixed aged clientele at lunchtime, trending towards a young crowd in the evening.

So ends an interesting stroll around a few of the many bars in this suburb of Manchester. Why don't you try the stagger yourself and form your own opinions.

 

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Didsbury North

Timing

Pub Name

Address

Bus & Metro

Notes

7.30pm
Start point:

Botanist
1d School Lane
M20 6RD
Map
Didsbury Village
 

Then

Solita Didsbury
1 Ogden Street
M20 6RD
Map
Didsbury Village
 
Boardroom
704 Wilmslow Road
M20 2DW
Map
Didsbury Village
No Real Ale
Art of Tea
47 Barlow Moor Road
M20 6TW
Map
Didsbury Village
Bottle-conditioned beers
OKitchen (was Didsbury Lounge)
43 Barlow Moor Road
M20 6TW
Map
Didsbury Village
No Real Ale
Saints & Scholars
694 Wilmslow Road
M20 2DN
Map
Didsbury Village
 

8.30pm
Mid point:

Station
682 Wilmslow Road
M20 2DN
Map
Didsbury Village
 

Followed by:

Slug & Lettuce
651 Wilmslow Road
M20 6QZ
Map
Didsbury Village
No Real Ale
Head of Steam (was Sanctuary)
653 Wilmslow Road
M20 6QZ
Map
Didsbury Village
 
Stoker's Arms (was O'Neills)
655-657 Wilmslow Road
M20 6RA
Map
Didsbury Village
 

Finishing at:

Dog & Partridge
667 Wilmslow Road
M20 6RA
Map
Didsbury Village
 

 

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Updated 9 July 2018