We know about saints like Wilfrid because a lot of people were helped by what they did. In his case someone called Aedde, or Eddius Stephanus did write down Wilfrid’s life story soon after his death in 709 a.d. You can find it in the Penguin Classic book called Lives of the Saints, translated by F.J.Webb. Most of God’s saints are ordinary people, with hearts of gold and feet of clay! Our story begins with the unknown Christians who started the church here and ends … with you and me! Here are some of the true incidents along the way.
The church is first mentioned in 1086, when the village is described as “devastated”. We do not know whether St.Wilfrid himself founded the church, though it seems unlikely. It is possible that he passed this way on his travels, though there are better routes between Yorkshire and the Midlands. Possibly some of his followers established it soon after his death (early Saxon carved crosses have been found in nearby Gatley/Cheadle), but more likely it was the initiative of some unknown lord of the manor a couple of hundred years after his death.
In the troubles of the English civil war Thomas Mallory the rector was thrown out of his job for about 20 years, but stayed in Northenden. He must have carried on helping people where he could. In 1662 he got the job back. The man who took his place was Henry Dunster. He died here, and was remembered for his love of God’s word, and his very watchful care of the people. You can read about it on his gravestone, near the east end of the church, outside. He died in 1661.
Samuel Peploe was rector here for about fifty years. (He had a few other jobs at the same time) We have a record of an argument he had with a farmer about a tree. When he died in 1782 he left a lot of money so that poor people in Northenden could have food to eat.
Edward Johnson was rector when the old church building nearly fell down in 1873. They had to replace it, and when that job was finished he was made bishop of Calcutta, helping British and Indian people know God better.
During the Great War of 1914 – 19 the rector was called Lowry Hamilton. He went to be with the soldiers fighting in France, and wrote back about their bravery. He shared a lot of the terrible things that happened to them.
All these stories have been about rectors. People wrote things down about them, but I know other stories about God’s people today. One is about a lady who was very ill herself, but still bothered to welcome newcomers into Northenden, and cook a meal for them when they arrived.
In all sorts of ways God still works in people’s lives. You don’t meet him only in the Bible.
There is a more detailed history of the church available if you want to see it.