The Greater Manchester village that’s a step back in time – hidden behind a busy inner city road


It once had its own night-watchmen, a farm, a bakery, and its own fire service.

The Fairfield Moravian Settlement in Fairfield Square lies behind rows of terraced houses in Droylsden off the A635.

Standing on its cobblestone streets among its beautiful Georgian houses, you’ll feel as though you’ve slipped back in time.

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The village was founded in 1785 and was planned and built by its own people – the Moravians.

The religious group were among the earliest Protestants who rebelled against the Catholic Church.

Fleeing persecution in their homelands of the Czech Republic and Bohemia, they moved to England on their way to the New World.

Within the first two years of them settling in Tameside, they established 13 dwellings and of course their own church, which remains the neighbourhood’s focus after more than 200 years.

A unique corner of Greater Manchester

Up until around 1830, the area was entirely self-contained, with someone in charge of shop weights and measures, and someone in charge of roads and footpaths.

Education was of huge importance, with a Sunday school, their own boys’ and girls’ schools, and brother and sister houses – where they made bread and lace.

But, as men began to move away for work, Fairfield’s population dwindled.

Fairfield Moravian Church

The boys’ school eventually closed for good in 1890, while the girl’s school was taken over by the local authority and became Fairfield High School for girls, which remains open today.

Rows of houses were built in the 1900s and by the late 1960s, the remaining farm buildings were pulled down.

Still, most of what can be seen here today was built within the first 10 years of its creation, archivist Barbara Derbyshire says.

She moved to the settlement in 1965 aged 10, having lived on a nearby street.

The church remains a focus of the area

“In some ways, it was very similar – we got to know most people and where they lived. Other things were very different, “Barbara said of her childhood de ella.

“The lack of cars is the main thing. Hardly anyone had a car so there were no parking issues and it was safe to play in the street, as it was anywhere then.

“Except for on Sundays, it was very quiet outside and children weren’t encouraged to play out as we all went to Sunday school in the afternoon and then visited relations, so we didn’t have time on our hands.”

Echoes of the past: Fairfield Moravian Settlement

Barbara looks after the extensive collection of records at Fairfield, including diaries, account books and meeting minutes from the church and Sunday school, kept safely in the museum within the old college, and helps people who are researching the area.

Despite its changes, she says the area still has a strong sense of community, while moving with the times.

For decades this was a self-contained, self-sustaining faith community

Activities led by the church are still prominent, with heritage weekends and Christmas light switch-ons.

“There is still that village feel, we are still quite close-knit and people have always looked out for their neighbours,” she continued.

“Now we’re also using WhatsApp to help others in our community.

“Things have changed and life has evolved.

“Not everyone who lives in the settlement now attends church but most like to join in with activities and if they don’t, then that’s their choice.”

While the Moravians’ farm stretched for 60 acres back in the day and was visible for thousands around, the village’s distinctive look today attracts TV and film producers.

Fairfield Square, Droylsden being used for shooting of Man United’s Chevrolet kit video back in 2014

There is no watchman to make nightly rounds and cows are no longer led through the streets, but the settlement is accustomed to the sight of film crews shooting television dramas like Peaky Blinders.

Sherlock Holmes The Red Circle was also filmed there in the early 90s, and Manchester United even used the cobbled streets to launch their new strip in 2014.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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