The Fairfield Housing Estate

As a Mancunian and a person with a fondness for that northern city, I feel it would be accurate to say that the Fairfield district, surrounded as it is by Openshaw, Abbey Hey and Droylesden, may not be the first choice of a person looking for a desirable residence. The crime rate in the surrounding districts is amongst the highest in Manchester and there is a high concentration of depressed and depressing housing. Having said that, Fairfield has at least two unexpected high points.

The first is the Moravian Settlement (above). Entering this community is like stepping back into the 18th Century, when it was built. Still very much a self-contained village with cobbled streets, it provides a striking contrast to the neighbouring streets.

Just to the south of the Moravian Settlement, beyond their burial ground, lies the Fairfield Housing Estate built over an 8 year period by the partnership of Wood and Sellers.

Between 1913 and 1914, thirty-three houses were built and some seven years later a further 6 were added. This housing estate may not have the 18th century charm of the nearby Moravian Settlement but it still exudes a charm not commonly found in the area.

(Note the curved corner. In 1914 Wood employed the same feature in the design of his own house in Hale, Royd House.)

John Archer says of this community that: "The layout of the scheme, which is on a sloping site, is extremely ingenious and interesting.".... "The design of the houses, for which Sellers was probably responsible, has a uniform character with common door and window details, but the arrangement is such that there is no monotony.

There is a small court with a green in the centre, surrounded by houses. The blocks are linked at the angles and are well articulated. The frontage lines throughout the estate vary, and some of the set-backs are considerable, effectively breaking up the mass of the blocks. "

"The roads have wide grass verges, and many trees, poplars, rowans, silver-birches and sycamores grow in the verges and in the gardens. ... The retaining walls and garden walls are of rubble, built from a yellow sandstone which is commonly found in this part of Lancashire, approaching the Pennines. The paths also are of York-stone flags. These materials add the visual interest of vigorous texture and human scale to this carefully considered environment and the footpaths follow the natural paths of walkers, so that the verges have not been trodden down, indicating that reason as well as imagination determined its character."

"The chaste Neo-Georgian character of the houses undoubtedly reflects the taste of Sellers. Some are detached, others semi-detached or terraced. The houses vary in size. All are built of a pleasant reddish--orange common brick. The corners, porches and window rebates are defined by brickwork of a contrasting colour and texture adding emphasis and variation. Doors, windows and fanlights are all of neo-Georgian design. A standard colour scheme was used through-out the estate."

Whilst Archer feels that the signature on the houses is Seller's, the concept of the overall design seems to be Wood's.

"The precise authorship of the scheme is uncertain, but the imaginative exploitation of levels and texture suggest that Wood was responsible for the layout. ... The environment created is enjoyable and human and it clearly demonstrates the immense importance of layout."