Blog Posts

A very short history of Moss Side

Although Moss Side seems to have become synonymous with inner city crime in recent decades, the area actually has a much longer history than people guess. In fact, several Stone Age relics have been found in Moss Side, although very little has been written about these to date.[1] (Check back regularly for updates as our research continues)

There are very few records detailing Moss Side’s history until the 19th century, and this is partly because it was a rural, farming district. With the rapid growth of Manchester’s population and industry between the 18th and 20th centuries, the city grew in size and people were forced out into the local suburbs we know today as Moss Side, Chorlton, Didsbury and Withington among others.

A local board was formed in Moss Side in 1856 as the population swelled and people began to organise themselves within this new, larger community. The growth of the City of Manchester was so rapid in this period that it was only 40 years later, in 1894, that the local board became an urban district council. Enough of the farmland had given way to new homes and small businesses, and the city had crept so close to Moss Side that it was no longer considered a rural area. It seems inevitable, then, that Moss Side would officially become part of the City of Manchester in 1904, with the centralised local government replacing the Urban District Council of Moss Side.

The beginning of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Mary Barton describes Pepper Hill Farm, part of the township of Moss Side in the 19h century. ‘You cannot wonder,’ wrote Mrs Gaskell, ‘that these fields are popular places of resort at every holiday time.’[2] Pepper Hill Farm was taken down in 1900 and Westwood Street Recreation Ground now stands in its place.

1870c Farms & Cottages, Pepper Hill Farm, 'Mary Barton' fields, Moss SideWestwood street







St James’ Church was originally built in 1888 and its congregations have witnessed the many changes Moss Side has undertaken in the last 129 years. The church archives contain some fascinating mementos and we hope to use this blog to showcase some of our favourite items and provide more information about their history.

Follow along with us here and on our Facebook page as we delve into our history.




[1] A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911. Page 302.

[2] Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell, p3.