The history of the Christian faith in the area of Hazel Grove goes back many centuries – certainly long before the first recorded reference to a preaching cross in the year 1005. It was many years later, in 1485, that a private chapel was built for the local inhabitants of Norbury (situated on ‘Chapel Fields’, in present-day terms between Darley Road and the Brookside Garden Centre). By the early nineteenth century the chapel had seen better days; an inspector from Chester reported that it was ‘… a wretched building, little better than a stable’.
The decision was made to build a parish church closer to the centre of the village. Norbury Church was consecrated on 2 July 1834 by the Bishop of Chester, John Bird Sumner (who went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1848), the service being followed by a VIP lunch in the Red Lion Inn nearby. At this stage the church was still part of the parish of Stockport and only became a parish church in its own right in 1843.
Over the years the village of Norbury had become part of the township of Bullock Smithy but in 1836 it was decided to ‘annihilate the name of Bullock Smithy and restore the proper name of Hazel Grove’. There is no direct evidence that Hazel Grove ever was the ‘proper name’ but the name change was accompanied by much local celebration anyway.
The man who had guided Norbury Church through the building of the new church and its upgrading to be a parish church was Revd William Worsley, who served Norbury for 43 years, arriving at Norbury Chapel as a young man of 23 and retiring through ill health at the age of 66 in 1874!
In 1878 the parish boundary was extended to its present size, increasing the number of people in the parish from 800 to 3,000. In 1921, the lych gate by the A6 was constructed, replacing the old arched iron gate; and by 1925 a new chancel had been built, containing a memorial to men from Hazel Grove who had died fighting in the Great War (World War I). So it was that the church building itself came to look as it does today.
Extending the church
There had been discussions about building a church hall as early as the 1930s, and fundraising was undertaken (a three-day bazaar raising £3,000, a great deal of money in those days). However, the project lapsed through disagreement as to where to build it. It wasn’t until 1985 that the hall was finally built and dedicated at a service led by the Bishop of Chester, Michael Baughan. A further extension was built in 1999 and Norbury’s rooms continue to be used by church and community groups every day of the week.
However the story of Norbury Parish Church is much more than ‘bricks and mortar’ and lunches at the (now defunct) Red Lion. For 177 years the community of faith meeting at Norbury has worshipped the risen Lord and witnessed to the greatness of His love; it has done so as enormous changes have transformed both church and society. In 1834 the Church of England was still largely ‘the church of the nation’, whereas in recent years, churches of all denominations have been increasingly pushed to the margins in what is currently a predominantly secular society.
In 1834 William Worsley could not have imagined such a thing as a ‘website’; just one aspect of the vast and accelerating change society continues to undergo in a technological age. As a community of faith, we at Norbury seek to continue to witness to the love of Jesus, which we believe to be the same yesterday, today and forever.