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Sports, leisure & the Arts Parsonage Gardens Conservation Area

History

The first recorded reference to the plot of land now known as Parsonage Gardens was in 1066 when, after the Norman Conquest, William granted tenancies to Albert Greslet, then Baron of Mamecestre. Along with the manor house this land was transferred to the La Warre family in 1309.

Thomas La Warre succeeded as the twelfth baron in 1398 and later became the parson of St Mary's, the parish church. The church, subsequently rebuilt, is now Manchester Cathedral. La Warre was responsible for elevating it to a collegiate church by procuring a licence in 1421 from King Henry V.

Extensive gardens were needed to cater for its pupils and consequently the area now known as Parsonage Gardens was cultivated to provide food.

In 1547 the college was dissolved. The wardens were provided with a college house in 1578 and in 1635 they were further provided with the two-acre parcel of land known as Parsonage Croft, now called Parsonage Gardens. Kite-shaped in plan, it is easily identified on old maps of Manchester.

During the 18th century the increase in population led to pressure for development, and a new church was built on the site of Parsonage Gardens and consecrated in 1756. This was St. Mary's Church, as building which reflected the cultural elegance and proportions of the period. The earlier Church of St Mary had also been dedicated to St Denys and St George at the same time that it became a collegiate church.

During the Victorian era many of the affluent congregation moved away from the city centre. Despite its architectural merit, the church was demolished in 1891 and Parsonage House, the residence of Thomas La Warre, was demolished in 1897. The site then became Parsonage Gardens, which has changed little up to the present day.

The names of streets in the immediate locality reflected the ownership of the land by the church: Parsonage Lane, St Mary's Parsonage, College Land and St Mary's Street linked the church with Deansgate.

The derivation of the name Deansgate is uncertain but it may suggest either 'way to the Dean', 'way to Denys' or possibly a gate or route used by the Deans of the College.

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