Twelve years ago not many people in the world would have heard of Holmes Chapel – a large village nestled in the middle of the East Cheshire countryside.
But that was before a certain person appeared on the seventh series of a little-known talent show called the X Factor, almost making the village famous overnight as it was launched into global stardom.
Yet there is much more to this part of the county than Harry Styles – though many villagers are undoubtedly proud of their favorite son.
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Holmes Chapel is home to around 6,000 people, which is expected to grow to over 7,000 due to a number of new developments in the area.
Known as the Hulme Church in its early days, the village started out as a farming community, but with the construction of rail links, including the train station, and eventually the M6 nearby, the population grew from around 400 in the 1800s to thousands today.
The parish council describes it as a “thriving community”, praising its range of local businesses and amenities as well as the surrounding countryside which can be explored via the many walking trails, including along the Dane River at the northern limit.
He adds: “Although population growth has been significant, Holmes Chapel has retained its village character. It includes an active social community with many local groups and societies welcoming young and old.
One of the businesses that evokes this traditional village character is the iconic W Mandeville bakery, known locally as Mandeville’s.
The company has served customers for 121 years, having been established in 1900.
More recently, it has often been referred to as “Harry’s Bakery”, as this was where Harry Styles worked before he left for The X Factor.
“I gave him some free time to go to the X Factor auditions. He asked me and I said ‘yes you can have some free time,” said owner Simon Wakefield.
“He came back a bit, but got to the point where he had to ‘hide’, so to speak, when it all ‘boomed’ for him.”
The bakery is clearly proud of its former employee and everything he has accomplished, with a prominent display at the side of the store with a large image of the ex-One Direction member, happily holding a loaf of bread. .
Below the image is the phrase: “People come from miles and miles to artisan baking and Harry Styles. “
When Simon was first greeted by all the publicity he described Harry as a “big boy” who was “very popular with customers when he worked at the counter”.
Needless to say, the bakery has become a bit of a place of pilgrimage among young Directioners.
Simon said: “It has generated a lot of interest. We have fans, especially during the holidays, who like to come and see and connect with where he’s from.”
But the bakery has long been dear to the hearts of locals and is a popular choice for sixth graders looking for their lunch.
When asked what makes him special in the village, he said: “We have managed to keep a lot of traditions, although things are going a little faster than before.
“From our point of view, we try to maintain these traditions, being a small family business. People want to help the village stay where it is.
In the center of the village stands the Church of Saint-Luc, immediately visible to drivers going up the hill towards the infamous double mini-roundabout.
The church was consecrated around 1430, although there has been a church on site since the 13th century.
And most people are familiar with the many shops and businesses that line the nearby The Square as well as the London Road shopping district.
But behind St Luke’s on Church View is a small cafe and cozy B&B called The Cobbles Tea Room – one of the village’s hidden gems.
“People must want to come to us, we have people who have lived in the village for years and say they didn’t know we were here,” said Chief Joan Swain.
Owned by Jan and Peter Taylor, the quaint, family-run restaurant, which prides itself on serving home-cooked food, is popular with locals who know it – one customer, after tipping quite generously, said: “It’s worth it. barely every time. “
When asked what they liked about Holmes Chapel, Jim Marshall, who works from the home, praised the spirit of the community, which prevailed during the pandemic.
“All companies do their own thing, so we don’t have to worry too much about competing with each other,” she said.
“You get to know the people who come here, we have customers who as soon as they walk in the door we can say ‘as usual’ and they will say ‘yes’.”
Further and just off the main road is The Vic Club sports bar and social club, which has been in existence for over 80 years.
And further afield is Fortune City Cantonese restaurant, a favorite of many celebrities including, you guessed it, Harry Styles.
For parents, the village also has two primary schools as well as the Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School and the Sixth Form, frequented by famous faces including former footballer Dean Ashton and, you guessed it (again), Harry Styles. .
And not to mention the pubs and bars, with both the famous George and Dragon and the Red Lion a stone’s throw from each other, with the Bottle Bank, based in the old NatWest building, right in the middle.
Some people will also remember the old AP Club across from the station, which was remodeled a few years ago and turned into the Holmes Chapel Community Center.
Jim Dobson, Director of The George, said: “The main thing about Holmes Chapel is the community vibe. There are good restaurants, good pubs, very good schools and good connections to places like Manchester.
“It is a lovely rural area with lovely walks and a lovely stream. Many pubs are also very dog friendly and the village caters to all demographics of ages.”
Having worked at the pub for six years, Jim said the area is growing in popularity and not just because of Styles’ fandom.
He said: “I think being that it’s in such a good location, right next to the M6, you get a lot of people and cars because of its location. I think that’s also why it’s there. more and more noticed.
“It’s such a lovely place, very clean, very friendly and there isn’t much we don’t have here.”