I think it’s fair to say that most of us in England are pretty obsessed with home ownership and house prices. How many of us have actually shopped on the Moor without stopping to check out how house prices are faring and, when on holiday, resisted the tug of children’s hands, desperate for an ice cream, as we lingered outside the local estate agents picturing our imaginary moves to Devon or Cornwall. But would we actually ever want to leave our cosy, leafy, suburb?
The Heatons, of course, has always been a desirable area to live in. The Victorians certainly thought so when, with the coming of the railways, they built their grand villas along Heaton Moor Road and Didsbury Road. But it was between the wars, when Britain experienced a period of deflation and house prices generally fell, that those lucky enough to avoid the effects of the recession by holding down stable, middle income jobs could contemplate the luxury of private home ownership.
Local builders Costello and Hammond constructed most of the distinctive 1930s housing which is a feature of Heaton Moor and Heaton Chapel. In their sales literature they focused on many of the same reasons why people buy into life in The Heatons today: outstanding schools, the quality of local shops, the availability of recreational facilities and accessibility by train, feature strongly.
With Heaton Chapel Station already established, builders were keen to see Heaton Moor develop as a key dormer suburb to which businessmen from Manchester and Stockport could escape quickly and easily after a hard day at the office. Targeting a clearly identified social group they were quick to stress the benefits of buying a home, ‘… in ideal surroundings in one of the very best residential suburbs situated between Manchester and Stockport, far away from the noise and nerve strain of both these towns, yet within easy reach of both of them’.
However, their sales literature was more than just bare facts about the area. Without the benefit of colourful brochures and virtual tours, the sellers adopted a romantic, poetic style to paint a picture of The Heatons as a rural idyll; a place in which to settle and enjoy a particular quality of life.
- Costello would have his buyers believe, ‘… there is a ‘something’ about the district that is irresistible. It may be its assurance of charm, the freshness of the air, or its settled, peaceful look. Whatever it be, it suggests a new standard of home life. It confirms your sudden conviction that this is the place of your desire.’
- H. Hammond focused on the health benefits of the area, ‘within close proximity to the open country, free from anything suggestive of overcrowding, which gives to this attractive spot an inestimable value for those who desire bracing breezes and rural amenities … for those who desire a healthy district where happiness and contentment are assured, we would strongly recommend this particular locality for permanent residence.’
So, is it possible that two local builders, with a vision of a stable community, where people would settle and stay, contributed to the distinctive nature of the suburbs we know today? Their vision certainly had its roots in those inter-war years when the nation was obsessed with health and fitness and many were looking to escape the confines of heavily urbanised areas and seek a better quality of life in more semi-rural surroundings.
Whatever their motivation they added ‘a something’ to the area which has contributed to the establishment of a close knit community with its own definite identity. In T. Costello’s words of 80 years ago, ‘a charming district where people are justly proud to live … where no resident need spend one unpleasant or lonely hour.’
Quotations taken from, (Green, Frank,’ Manchester and District Old and New’ [London Souvenir Magazines, 1935]).