Harry Styles superfans flock to his hometown’s walking tour

HOLMES CHAPEL, England — Customers come from around the world to Simon Wakefield’s bakery in this village in northern England — and not just to sample his quality sausage rolls.

“We get lots and lots of fans,” he says, referring not only to W. Mandeville’s tasty product but also a notable ex-employee: Holmes Chapel’s most famous son and global pop megastar Harry Styles.

“People come in from all over the world,” the fourth-generation baker says as groups of young tourists crowd into the bakery to take selfies and buy pastries. “All over the U.K., but then Brazil, the U.S., Australia, Japan, everywhere.” 

A poster of Harry Styles inside the W. Mandeville bakery in Holmes Chapel, northern England, where the pop star once worked. NBC News

W. Mandeville is one of the stops lining the Harry Styles walking tour that began operating earlier this month in the singer’s hometown, which is about 20 miles from the northwestern city of Manchester. A local not-for-profit set up the tour after growing numbers of fans have flocked there in recent years, with all proceeds going into a fund for the village. 

The superfans, known as “Harries,” are led to the Twemlow viaduct — residents say Harry had his first kiss there — which is covered in colorful messages to Harry and has even spawned its own hashtag. They’re also taken through the village, where many line up at Wakefield’s craft bakery to pose for photos with a poster of the former-One Direction member as a teenager wearing an apron. Styles mentioned his Saturday job in his breakthrough interview on Britain’s talent show The X Factor. 

Harry Styles
Harry Styles performing live on TODAY in 2022. Nathan Congleton / TODAY

At the Holmes Chapel train station, a life-size cardboard cutout of the ‘As It Was’ singer greets fans, who can sign a message to their idol in a notebook. Those notebooks are later delivered to the star by his dad, Desmond, who lives locally. 

Station manager Graham Blake, 62, explains that Styles’ father gave the last five books of fan messages to his son as a birthday present. “He said ‘he’s got everything’ and people have put down these stories from the heart. He said ‘I’m going to wrap it up in a big red bow…because he does love his fans’,” Blake said of Desmond.

Fans on a guided tour of Harry Styles' hometown approach Twemlow viaduct in Holmes Chapel, northern England, where it is claimed he had his first kiss.
Fans on a guided tour of Harry Styles’ hometown approach Twemlow viaduct in Holmes Chapel, northern England, where it is claimed he had his first kiss.NBC News

On the first day of the tour, a dozen devoted Directioners follow their guides through the village and out through the lush green countryside. Styles superfan Suzanne Tinsley shows her fellow walkers the lyrics she has tattooed on her arms, including “Treat People With Kindness,” her favorite song.

“Harry Styles has got me through a lot, he means the world to me,” Tinsley explains. “I know people say ‘it’s just a pop star’, but when I feel like I can’t get through the day I just listen to Harry and he makes me feel better,” she said. “He makes me smile.”

Messages are inscribed on the walls of the Twemlow viaduct near Harry Styles' hometown.
Messages are inscribed on the walls of the Twemlow viaduct near Harry Styles’ hometown. NBC News

The walking tour runs weekly throughout the summer, with tickets priced at £20 British pounds, or roughly $25 U.S. dollars. Organizers say that demand has driven them to add additional weekend tours due to Taylor Swift fans in the area taking a detour during the UK leg of her tour. Swift and Styles dated between 2012 and 2013 and Harry even brought her home to see Holmes Chapel. 

Styles also returned in 2013 to film a documentary about his life “and ever since then, people have watched the documentary and thought ‘I want to see where this superstar grew up’,” explains 16-year-old Ben McCormick, one of the tour’s guides. “So people are coming, they’re spending money in local businesses, they’re interacting with all the people in the village,” he added. “It’s created a really positive environment that all of us here can get involved with.”

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