Sports, leisure and the Arts Didsbury St James Conservation Area

Didsbury St James and its buildings today

The greatest concentration of listed buildings in Manchester, outside the city centre, is to be found in this conservation area. The Church of St. James, which replaced an earlier church, is the oldest building, with parts of it, including the tower, dating from 1620. It is a red sandstone building with Perpendicular-style windows, emphasising their verticality with very tall mullions.

An unusual feature adorns the parapet of the tower, where large open hoops and pinnacles replace the more usual parapet battlements.

Alderman Fletcher Moss, who lived at the Old Parsonage, turned the house into an art gallery for his private collection. It has since become the South Manchester Enterprise Centre. Moss also built the entrance archway in 1876, a folly composed of fragments taken from demolished buildings in Manchester. Now part of the Metropolitan University of Manchester, the original house at the Didsbury School of Education, Wilmslow Road, was a large residence built in the Classical style around 1790. It became a Wesleyan theological college in 1842. The main facade is constructed in sandstone ashlar with a three-storey projecting central portion and two-storey side ranges. It is characterized by two-storey high pilasters and rusticated stonework on the ground floor.

The former Methodist Church of St Paul, now the Open College, is a Gothic-style yellow sandstone building with a tall steeple and windows in the spire. The green slate roof is steeply pitched with contrasting red ridge tiles. It was formerly associated with the Wesleyan Theological College, but in recent years has been converted to offices for the Open College with an extension to the side.

The Towers is one of the largest and most significant houses in Manchester. Designed by one of the city's most notable architects, Thomas Worthington, it is in the French Chateau style, built of red brick with yellow sandstone dressings and blue slate roofs. The roofline is punctuated with chimneys, steeply pitched and gabled dormer windows, an octagonal turret, an octagonal oriel window and a square tower over the entrance bay. There are Gothic enrichments, including finials and carved grotesques. Since it became used for institutional purposes in 1920 the building has been extended.

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