The History of St Stephen’s

St. Stephen’s was opened as a Mission Church from St Michael’s parish in 1886.

During the week school was opened for the poor of the parish.

1894 Mission church was doing very well and extension was added.

By the turn of the Century fund raising had started to build a new church. The new church was opened on Saturday 22nd February and Consecrated 23rd April 1908 and in 1909 was made a separate parish.

Rev Urbane Moorhouse,(who had been Curate-in-charge for 8yrs) was made 1st Vicar of the new parish.

6 yrs later the country was at war. Many brave young men lost their lives during the Great war.

55 of them belonged to St. Stephen’s and are commemorated on a plaque in the church.

The people of Little Harwood were largely weavers during this period, although there were still many agricultural workers as the area was still surrounded by farmland.

Rev Moorhouse remained at St  Stephen’s until he died aged 65yrs  October1931.

1932 Rev. T.B.Heaton was appointed Vicar. During his time World war 2 started, 13 more men from the church were killed. Little Harwood had expanded during these early years with many houses being built in the parish including a Council estate. While still not being a wealthy parish the parishioners were much better off than when the church opened, largely due to them having received more education than previously.

1945 Rev Heaton left to go to Salmesbury parish church. Rev R Cross was appointed Vicar.

Rev Cross was very interested in education and worked tirelessly to expand the school. During his time another Council estate was built on land off Philip’s Rd. This had previously been Greenhead Farm land. Rev Cross left in 1953. He had guided  the Parish through the post war years and secured funding to extend the school.

1954 Rev. J.W.Dixon was appointed Vicar of St. Stephen’s.

St. Stephen’s, as many other churches at this time, was the centre of life in Little Harwood with something for everyone going on every day of the week. There were a lot more professional people living in Little Harwood, thanks to the improvement in education, during this period.

1960’s we welcomed the first people from the Commonwealth to the Parish.

Much of the farmland previously surrounding the area had now been turned over to industry with places like Mullards, Northrop and the Brewery providing work for people in the Parish. The Parish was to undergo the biggest change in it’s history during this period with people of faiths other than Christian now living in the parish and being educated in our school. Rev Dixon was made Canon Theologian. He remained Vicar till 1985. The Parish had undergone the biggest change in it’s history as many more people of Muslim faith now lived in the Parish.

1988 Rev. Angus A. Welsh was inducted as Vicar. He remained till 1996.

When Rev Welsh retired, the Parish  was joined with St. Michael’s and Holy Trinity Rev Stephen Locke, Vicar of St Michael’s was made Priest-in-charge with Mrs Alison Alp as Parish worker. This did not work for a variety of reasons.

Rev. Jim Percival was made Priest-in-charge of St. Stephen’s in 1999 he remained till 2003.

2004 St. Stephen’s was joined with St James with Rev. Stephen Tranter as Priest-in charge.

Rev. Tranter left in 2011.

2012 St. Stephen’s was made a United Benefice and Canon Docter Arun Andrew John was appointed. He was made Vicar of new United Benefice in 2013.

St. Stephen’s Parish has seen many changes since it started life as a Mission church in 1886.

Not least of them being the number of Muslims now living in the area and we are now the only Christian Church in the area, the Roman Catholic and Methodist churches having closed many years ago but we are working with our community now just as we did over 100yrs ago.