Whatever happened to Heyhead?

by Lib Dem team on 1 June, 2021

This is a story about the village of Heyhead (or Hey Head), what happened to it and what now remains.

Here it is – the village of Heyhead. Long gone now, but you can see Woodhouse Farm and Shadowmoss nearby – both live on in Wythenshawe road and area names today.


Heyhead had a church and a war memorial. As Manchester Airport expanded, the village shrank and then vanished altogether. The chapel was demolished but the airport maintained a small graveyard/memorial garden on the site. Plaques named the fallen.

A lady who grew up in Heyhead and now lives in Gatley has visited the memorial garden every year at Remembrance Sunday and laid a wreath.

Until 2020, when she couldn’t find how to access it any more, or even tell if it still existed.

Look at these maps of the same area side-by-side and you can see the problem. Where the village – and the church – used to be there’s now an enormous car park


Here’s an aerial view of Heyhead from 1946, courtesy of Britainfromabove.


Here’s what the village of Heyhead looks like today – it’s changed a little!


It turns out that the construction of this new car park stopped the lady laying her wreath in 2020 – the area was fenced off.

But there’s some good news. The memorial garden is still there – at the eastern end of the car park. It’s now accessible again, and given what surrounds it, it’s a little enclave of peace.


I spoke to the Airport about it and here’s what they told me:

Post war the natural eastward expansion of the Manchester Airport site gradually displaced the village of Heyhead. Although the few houses and Chapel disappeared a memorial garden containing plaques from within the chapel was created.

When we were  granted consent for a realigned Ringway Road / extended T3 apron in the 2000’s we included a proposal to relocate the memorial gardens to a site between the proposed road and the foot/cycle bridge over the rail line.

Through the Manchester Airport Chaplaincy Team we had gathered information about a number of individuals who we knew still ‘used’ the site, contacted them and in consultation came up with a design for a relocated memorial garden.

Clearly the scheme never came to fruition.

In the last few years, with the permission for the consent for the new multi-storey Car Park, we faced the same issue. So once more we embarked on a bit of investigative work with the Chaplaincy to see if we could find interested people. The previously agreed solution was no longer possible so we explored other options.

One was to create a new memorial garden at St. Mark’s URC in Woodhouse Park (they had absorbed the Parish boundaries of Heyhead).

However this solution could not be achieved and so the only option was to retain the memorial garden ‘in situ’ and do the best we could to avoid it being overly dominated by the new car park. A lot of time, care and planning were invested to ensure a good outcome

If you’re at the airport and have some time, why not take a look. I try to imagine the Cheshire village that once stood on this spot, and the lives that were lived there.



A Cheadle resident took some photos of Heyhead in the 1970s and has generously passed them onto me. They give more of a feel for this now-vanished place.

Heyhead chapel
Heyhead Chapel
Inside Heyhead Chapel
Hey head farm, Heyhead
Houses, Heyhead
Houses, Heyhead
War memorial, Heyhead
Woodhouse Lane, Heyhead

23 Responses

  1. Phillip Gould-Bourn says:

    A most interesting story.

  2. Phillip Gould-Bourn says:

    I know that I am a Luddite, but I don’t know how to view these images Iain.

    • Iain Roberts says:

      Hi Phillip – the images should just be there, nothing special needed. It may be a temporary problem with the website being slow, so try again today and let me know if it’s still a problem.

  3. Phillip Gould-Bourn says:

    Somewhere in my collection I have a postcard to The Plough Inn, Heyhead. I placed the pub on the left hand side Ringway Road coming from Moss Nook, after the school. Then the right turn into Woodhouse Lane would find the Chapel on the left.

  4. John Hartley says:

    Iain shows one map of the area. The online tithe maps at the Cheshire Archives website allws you to call up Ordnance Survey and other maps from various periods. You can look at the whole of Cheshire – so I found it interesting to look up my home area in Gatley and view it over it over time. Here’s the link – https://maps.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps/

    The memorial commemorates four men who died during World War 2 and ten from the Great War. I researched one of them, Leonard Bracegirdle, as part of my project over the last 20 years or so, to research the lives and deaths of every man from the Great War commemorated on the civic war memorials in the borough of Stockport. I’ll make a separate post telling his story.

    • John Hartley says:

      NAME: Leonard Bracegirdle

      RANK: Private

      NUMBER: 3232

      UNIT: 1/7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment

      DATE OF DEATH: 6 or 7 August 1915

      CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: Helles Memorial, Turkey

      AGE: 20


      Born in 1895, the son of Joseph and Bracegirdle, Leonard lived all his life in Heyhead (now absorbed into Manchester Airport) and, no doubt, worked in the family market garden business.

      His service number suggests that he enlisted towards the end of 1914 or in early 1915 and will have gone on active service to Gallipoli as part of a draft of replacements for casualties in the early weeks of the campaign, most notable the attack on 4 June.

      There is a doubt about the date of his death. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records it as 6 August, yet the post-War Army records show it as the day after, as does the local press. The Battalion’s War Diary for this period is now missing from its file at the National Archives so it is no longer possible to check the detail of the two days to see if there is any list of casualties.

      On 1 August, the Battalion started a tour of duty in the trenches, relieving the 1/5th Battalion. In turn, they came back on the 4th and Leonard and his mates went back in to reserve. On the 6th reinforcements were sent forward to assist the 1/5th Battalion in consolidating a captured trench. Later in the day, “A” and “D” Companies took part in an attack on a section of the Turkish trenches, supporting the Worcester Regiment. The Battalion History recounts that “A” Company “went over the top like one man.”D” which was to move to the right of “A” then lined up along the fire step and followed. Our men passed into a tornado of fire”. It cannot be discounted that this is when Leonard was killed.

      However, the next day saw the Battalion take part in a major attack which became known officially as the Battle of the Vineyard. Leonard’s body was never found and identified.

      Some months later, the Cheshire Daily Echo published an “In Memoriam” notice for Leonard who was “Sadly missed by Amy, 28 Campbell Street, Reddish.” Her identity is unknown and it was, probably, she who arranged for his name to be inscribed on the Stockport War Memorial. He is also remembered on the Heyhead Memorial and the one inside St Wilfrid’s Church, in Northenden.

      The Heyhead memorial also commemorates E Bracegirdle. I’ve not researched this guy but it’d be a good bet that he was Leonard’s brother

  5. Robert Cohen says:

    That is so interesting. Thank you.

    As I have travelled around the north west for work, I am still saddened by the number of names on war memorials in small villages (and smaller places like Heyhead) as the percentages of young men who lost their lives were relatively high.

    I am on some local facebook groups regularly showing the past in photographs of Stockport and manchester.

    • John Hartley says:

      Robert – the two memorials “on the patch” are relatively uncommon and, as such, I find them socially interesting.

      Gatley’s memorial has more names commemorated for World War 2 than the Great War. That is actually very unusual but, of course, represents, the growth of Gatley from village to suburb in the period between 1920 and 1945.

      Cheadle’s is unusual in that it commemorates a number of civilians killed during WW2 air raids. One of them is Agnes Bennison. Her daughter, Kathleen, is also remembered. Agnes was the sister of Thomas Worthington who is remembered on the WW1 section of the memorial. Thomas was killed in fighting at Gallipoli in 1915. His story is very dear to me. During my research, I realised that, due to a probable administrative error, his death had never been officially recorded by the War Graves Commission. It took some considerable work to actually discover the evidence that proved his death and, with the help of our then MP, Mark Hunter, we were able to persuade the Commission to recognise him. Worthington’s name is now engraved on the Helles Memorial to the Missing on the Gallipoli peninsula (he has no known grave). His full story is on this link,as an article I wrote for that website.

  6. Shelley says:

    Interesting reading, John

  7. Bob Day (Revd.) says:

    When Heyhead Congregational Church closed and was sold by the church to the airport part of the money went to buying the old dentist surgery that was located in a house on Stoneacre Road next to St. Mark’s United Reformed Church in Woodhouse Park. Local people worked hard and with a lot of fun and energy to develop the house and garden as the Woodhouse Park Family Centre. The initiative of the church in collaboration with their neighbours resulted in a very well used and respected local facility and play area that is still operating today. So developments can sometimes lead to renewal in other places and provide local people with real opportunities. All that is required is an evaluation of what is needed and vision to create something new.
    Revd. Bob Day (Minister of St.Mark’s URC 1991-1996)

  8. Anne says:

    I remember well the Heyhead Sunday school and church. Harvest festivals were well attended by the local agricultural community. Heyhead had a shop and off licence run by Mr Fullalove.

  9. Francis Galloway says:

    Heyhead holds a lot of memories for me as did the local farming and Market gardening community.my sister and I attended Sunday school there around 1955 and usually included a visit to Fullaloves for a bag of sweets for the walk home.There was a youth club mid-week where you could listen to music or play your own instruments or sing with the choir, my mate’s brother used to practice playing drums and his mother would sing and accompany choir practice on the piano.My parents house overlooked the land between us and the cottages opposite the chapel and I still remember the sound of the little tractor unit being driven in and around the greenhouses….at 14 I got a job at Williams Dairy top of Ringway rd and I delivered milk all around Heyhead including most of the cottages on Woodhouse Lane so I got to know most of the occupants including the two old ladies who used to make up the bouquets and flowers for the Whit walk parade from the Chapel. The last time I saw the Chapel before it was demolished was when it was opened up for one last time for my brothers funeral service and the vicar very kindly gave everyone an original bible from the chapel.

  10. Arthur L Jones says:

    I attended Hey Head Congregational Church in late ’50’s and early 60’s and well remember the Youth Club – when we relayed the floor with the help of Mr Brown and Mr Pratt. The Youth choir; the days of restricted opening hours at Fullalove; Colin Brown, Jean Davenport, Anne Bracegirdle, Gillian Wilson, Peter and Janet Brown; more names still coming to ome. I lived on Thornsgreen Road. I remem er Mr Wrights market garden as you walked up Woodhouse Lane – he used to grow flowers and sell them to you if you were a member of the church.

  11. Kathy Simpson says:

    Thank you for posting this. My Dad grew up in Heyhead and I have wonderful childhood memories of visiting my Nana and Grandad and going for sweets at Fullaloves. So sad to see what it’s become.
    One of the names on the 1914 – 1918 memorial was my Grandad’s half brother.

  12. Emma Turner says:

    This article is of particular interest to me as currently researching my family history. My father and late grandparents grew up on Trenchard Drive. I came across a census that shows more family members (Warburtons) living in a Hey Head and I was baffled as to where this area was. My family too have market gardening roots and this did seem a popular trade in this area.
    Many thanks

  13. Thomas says:

    Hi I currently live on Trenchard in one of the terrace houses, which were formerly called, model cottages, just wondered if you in your research, even came across the date they were built?

  14. Jennifer Greenwood says:

    Hi…..so many memories our family, Eileen and Fred Greenwood and my three sisters moved into Dentdale Walk Woodhouse Park in 1953. Our house overlooked the Market gardens and on our left was Woodhouse Lane. Our family were close friends of Will and Annie Wright…And dog Peggy. We helped in the garden,….with the chickens and mum helped Mrs.Wright in the House. I remember mum bought Annie an electric iron….she amazed with it but always wore her long rubber boots ….so she said to prevent her getting an
    electric shock,when using it.
    Barbara and I attended Hey Head Congregational church and loved it…Sunday school…beetle nights… concerts. Rev. Williams….was the minister at the time. Barbara became a May Queen. Mr. Bracegirdle used to come for afternoon tea on Sundays sometimes..I think he was an elder of the church. But he used to tell on us…like when he found out we had gone for a walk up towards the airport …and seen a couple of us smoking.The beautiful harvest festivals we had. In 1960 our family left to come to Australia….I am now 78…and have such beautiful memories of my time around Woodhouse Lane…Hey Head..the Fullaloves. I really think it shaped me has a person…belonging to such lovely people.
    I also attended Moss Nook secondary school…brand new…and loved that..especially going to listen to the Halle Orchestra and Sir.John Barbarolli with the school.
    Jennifer Greenwood Mcleod.


  15. Alan Taylor says:

    Hello Jennifer
    I am of a slightly younger generation being born in 1962, but I remember Bernard Fullalove and the shop at the end of woodhouse lane.
    Lovely memories

  16. NIck Wright says:

    My father was the pilot of the Dakota that crashes at HeyHead in March 1951. It is possible that someone will remember this – I should like to know more. Unpublished notes I have suggest that both pilots were alive immediately after the accident and died while they were being removed from the fuselage by a policeman.

  17. Anne says:

    I have a newspaper clipping from the Manchester Evening News of Tuesday March 27th 1951. It reports that a preliminary investigation suggested that the likely cause of the crash was engine failure on take off. Bundles of newspapers and wreckage were littered over a field near Ringway Airport as the Dakota was on its way to Belfast with the morning newspapers. It says that the crash happened at 12:33am The pilot was Mr Wright and the navigator Mr Appleby.

  18. Stephen says:

    I lived at 8 Hallman lane for many years in the 80s with my family, my father worked for the airport fire brigade so rented the house from the airport. i have many memories from there and miss it greatly to this day. i knew alot of the people that lived there and remember the church was abandoned. me and my brother being very young visited the grave that was down a path from the church surrounded by the car park, and i remember is was cracked down the middle.
    we had great fun growing up running loose in the fields before the airport covered them in tarmac. seriously, some of the best memories of my life were made there. and as a parting gesture as a child, i kissed the house and said thankyou, the day we had to leave.

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