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....in Heaton Norris there is not any psonage or viccarage nor any spiritual benefices.... And the said towneshippe is distant from the pishe Church of Manchester seaven statute myles and some od poles and from Diddesbury Chappell wch is the nearest unto Heaton Norris aforesaid is three statute myles and odd poles ; and wee thinke it fitt and convenient there should be a Chappell built in the middle betweixt them for the advancemt of God's glory and the ease of the people thereabouts and that Heaton Norris and Reddishe bee joyned together in one pishe, wch will make a sufficient congregacon and are distant from any Church or Chappell wth in theire owne County three statute myles.
Parliamentary Commission: Lancashire and Cheshire church surveys (1649-1655)
Note: Before the Chapel there was no Heaton Chapel, just Heaton Norris
Following the abrupt death of Charles I in 1649, all the churches in the land were visited, and much damage was done in removing "popish" ornamentation - but note was made of areas of need.
Cromwell died in 1658, and Charles II came to the throne in 1660. Perhaps Charles II was not disposed to carrying out recommendations of Cromwells men, or perhaps there was too much other work - whatever the cause, no action was taken on the report on the Parliamentary Commissioners for this area.
The Church's parliament - The Houses of Convocation - were suspended by George I in 1717, and the stage was set for a period of general stagnation in the church, ending in a period of rebirth.
John and Charles Wesley experienced their conversion in 1738, and as ordained ministers in the Church of England, set about spreading the good news of the Christian gospel throughout the land, meeting considerable opposition, but also considerable success. The first Methodist chapel was formed almost immediately, the earliest chapels being owned by Wesley himself.
There are no records to indicate who actually built St Thomas, when they built it and furnished it as a church, or what happened to this building until consecration. We know that Wesley visited Stockport in 1745. Did his preaching have some effect locally?
A Mr Collier, feeling the need for a Church in Heaton Norris, set to work collecting the money and support.
He had borrowed some money from a Mr Whittaker against a mortgage of land, and in 1758 these two gentlemen conveyed a part of this land to Messrs J Sidebotham and T Johnson for the sum of five shillings. At this time there was a building on the land furnished as a Church.
In the same year, Mr Sidebotham, with other gentlemen partitioned the Bishop of Chester for this Church to be licenced for worship.
The signatories to the petition were: J Sidebotham, C Hobson, J Hobson, J Hooley, S Chorlton, T Hulme, J Hollingpriest, N Jenkinson, P Elcock, I Downs, John Lees, James Lees, T Linney, W Wood, E Worthington, J Broadurst, J Rudd, S Beswick, S Collier, J Shore, G Booth, R Crowther, W Brelsford, and C Sidebotham.
At least three of these gentlemen were subsequently chapel-wardens.
It is of interest to note that the church owes its origin to a general subscription rather than an important landowners sponsorship, and that the building appears to have been built and furnished as a church some years before its consecration.
The early building was of a very simple style, described in the Stockport Advertiser in 1874 thus:
The site was a field known as Yarn Croft of 1,712 square yards. The building was plain brick, with three rounded windows on the North side...
Note- the original text is "North East", using the geographical North, but throughout this history text the convention of calling the side of the church with the Chancel (the part of the church with the altar) the EAST side is followed and renaming the other sides accordingly
...and three on the South side, and a small projecting chancel, which served as a place for the communion table, which was lit by means of a long round-headed window, with two long rectangular windows on each side.
At the West side there was a small belfry of wood from which the little bell sounded its softening summons to the house of prayer. The gallery at the West end was approached by a flight of stone steps outside (and) lit by two large square windows resembling those of a cottage of the period. The windows throughout the church were all plain diamond-shaped glass.
There was a door at the South end of the church.... [it is unclear from this whether the door was in the West end of the church or the South wall] ...giving access to the South aisle, the aisle on the North side being approached at the North side of the building.
The interior of the building was very plain, the roof being flat and plastered. There was a large clumsy-looking iron stove which warmed the building in Winter.
The reading desk, clerks desk, and pulpit were in three tiers, one above another, surmounted by a large octagonal sounding board, suspended from the ceiling by a chain. These were on the South side of the church at the bottom of the aisle.
The Vestry was a small box of wood, placed near the pulpit. In the communion recess were two very good large oil paintings of Moses and Aaron in their ecclesiastical garments. A little aisle across the West end connected the two aisles together.
The musical instruments included a bass and treble violin, a bassoon, fie and flute, and several men and women singers. The building measured 17 yards by 13 yards outside the walls.
The population of the town (which covered a larger area than our present parish) was less than 800 - the original church would seat 300. The community was somewhat scattered, comprised mostly of farms and crofts. North America was still a British colony, and Australia had not been mapped. A Mr Watt was developing his steam engine and various spinning machines were also being developed. These developments were to have a great effect on our parish.
In 1765 the Bishop of Chester (Edmund Keane) was in this area. After confirming over 9000 persons in Manchester, he consecrated a chapel in Manchester (St Paul's) on the Sunday and then, on Monday 29th July 1765, called at Heaton Norris...
An extract from
The Sentence of Consecration
In the name of God. Amen.
Whereas for the ease and convenience of the Inhabitants of the township of Heaton Norris within the parish of Manchester County of Lancaster and Diocese of Chester and of the inhabitants of other Townships and places in that neighbourhood who by reason of the distance of their several habitations from their said Mother Church of Manchester could not without great inconvenience in the Winter Season especially repair to the same to hear Divine Service:
This Chapel or Edifice for a Chapel was erected by the voluntary Contributions of several pious and well disposed persons on part of a Close or field called the Yarn Croft within Heaton Norris aforesaid heretofore belonging to Thomas Collier of Heaton Norris aforesaid Yeoman who by Deed bearing date 28th October 1758 granted the same and the chapel yard to Thomas Johnson of Manchester aforesaid Merchant since deceased and John Sidebotham of Levenshulme in the Parish of Manchester aforesaid Yeoman and their heirs and assigns In Trust and to the intent and purpose that they might be consecrated set apart and devoted to the Worship and Service of God according to the usage of the Church of England.
And whereas this same Chapel being finished and furnished and adorned with a Communion Table, Font, Pulpit, Reading Desk and other necessaries for Divine Worship the said John Sidebotham the survivor of the said trustees for himself and his heirs hath solemnly renounced and receded from all Right Title and Interest which he heretofore had in the same and the Ground inclosed or fenced about it and surrendered all such right title and interestunto us for the uses heretofore mentioned and (together with the principal inhabitants of Heaton Norris aforesaid and other neighboring inhabitants who have been contributors to the said Chapel or edifice) is become a Petitioner to us to separate this Chapel from all common and prophane uses and consecrate it to sacred and divine uses.
And also to separate the parcel of ground inclosed or fenced about it and intended for a Chapel Yard from the former and common uses and to convert and consecrate it into a Yard Cemetary or place of burial for the dead.
WE, Edmund, by divine permission Bishop of Chester favourably inclining to this their pious request and by our Ordinary and Episcopal Authority:
Proceeding to the separation dedication and consecration of this Chapel as it is furnished and adorned....
...And first of all most humbly calling on the only High God, Father Son and Holy Ghost for his divine Assistance do for ever separate this Chapel containing in length without the walls 17 yards and in breadth also without the walls 13 yards or thereabouts from all and every common and prophane use and give up devote and dedicate it to the Worship of God and celebration of Divine Offices only.
And we do consecrate this Chapel for a Chapel of Ease under the parish Church of Manchester aforesaid by the name of the Chapel of Saint Thomas in Heaton Norris and declare that the same shall from thenceforth be so called and decominated and do openly pronounce decree and declare the same to have been and to be so consecrated and that it ought so to remain for Ever hereafter.
- - -
The consecration then made allowance for double fees to be charged for funerals weddings and so on, the normal fee to go to the Chapel and the same again to be paid to the Manchester Parish Church
We have no indication of the origin of the dedication to St Thomas, and there is no early source to indicate a dedication to St Thomas the Apostle but the other Saints Thomas are usually defined by additional names (eg Thomas Aquinas). The current Church Noticeboard bears a dedication to St Thomas the Apostle. It must be noted that there are many churches in the nearby area dedicated to St Thomas, causing some confusion when researching some of the records. Within the current boundaries of Stockport there are three St Thomas churches, and two St Thomas primary schools. This text describes St Thomas Heaton Norris, now known as St Thomas, Heaton Chapel.