Once a small cluster of rural hamlets (Chorlton, Hardy, Martledge and Barlow Moor) Chorlton dates back to the Anglo-Saxon ninth century. It later became known for its farmers and market gardeners, who used the Bridgewater Canal at Stretford to ship their produce into the city.*
It was the opening of Chorlton-cum-Hardy railway station in 1880 (with a stop win the Manchester to London line) that led to a new and growing middle-class population, attracted by a rural location that was still handy for Manchester centre. Much of Chorlton’s housing dates back to the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras, with clay for bricks dug from pits at Martledge. The Corporation Tramway came in the early 1900s and there was a further rapid expansion through the twentieth century, with Chorltonville, the Merseybank and Nell Lane estates being built. There was even (briefly) a passenger airport at Chorlton (Alexandra Park Aerodrome, now Hough End Fields).
Nowadays, Chorlton is one of the city’s most desirable places to live, with good housing and excellent schools. Public transport access to central Manchester is fast and convenient, and there’s still countryside on our doorsteps, with a nature reserve, two water parks and miles of traffic-free pathways through woodland, meadows and along the River Mersey.
There’s a village green and a number of High Streets, including Beech, Barlow Moor, Wilbraham and Manchester Roads (though no actual ‘streets’, ironically). Together, they form a vibrant independent retail, food and drink scene, led by destination outlets like Unicorn Grocery, Barbakan Delicatessen and The Creameries. The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre, which opened in 2011, complements a cultural scene which also boasts an annual Arts and Book Festivals.
While Chorlton may be seen as a relatively successful district centre, it faces stiff challenges, with high rent and rates, a poor-quality street scene and external competition, as well as the challenges of covid. More widely, the parts of the area suffer from significant, chronic and entrenched deprivation. Many long term residents feel that investment in Chorlton has not benefited them. There is a lack of affordable housing; with the rocketing of buying or renting a home locking out many local people who would otherwise want to stay in the area.
*For more on Chorlton’s history, we recommend The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy by Andrew Simpson, which is available from Chorlton Bookshop.