Church History

Christ church was built in 1839 because the increase in population of the area meant the very small church of St Andrews, which was the parish church, was unable to accommodate the congregations. It was also in a very poor condition and by 1846 had been closed to public worship. When originally built, Christ Church was very much a preaching church with a tall pulpit in the centre of the church and as much seating as possible. In those days there were box pews in the Neath area and these were replaced pews in the late 1880s. Various changes were made over the years to the layout of these and the font was moved several times. In the mid 1960’s, the idea of a floor was brought forward to provide a hall in the lower section and worship area above. This plan was shelved until the early 1970s when the previous church hall was sold for the development of the Grafton Centre and that money used for the conversion. Much work has been carried out over the past 15 years to improve the facilities with the building of the new front extension area and offices, and further work on the lighting and main roof is planned. Click here for more information about the architecture of the church.

The parish, once rural, goes back over 800 years. The tiny Hamlet of Barnwell on the road to Newmarket was made famous by the building of the Augustinian Priory of St Giles and St Andrews which built for the parish the church of St Andrews, is now commonly known as The Abbey Church. Also in the parish was a Leper Hospital of which only the chapel remains and it is also the home to two large fairs, the Stourbridge Fair and the Midsummer Fair. In the early 1800s, two enclosure acts moved the parish into the domain of Cambridge and went through a rapid expansion in population, doubling every 10 years. The extent of the Parish from the river to the railway station, and also taking in what is known as New Town. At the time of the building of Christ Church, St Paul's on Hills Road was also established and soon became a new parish. From then on, various other parishes were formed, St Matthew's, St Barnabas, St Philips and St. Radegund’s Hall, later to become St Stephen's Church.

In 2002, when the Rev Michael Diamond announced his retirement the congregation anticipated that the Deanery Plan would come into effect whereby the Priest in Charge would be a half time post with the other half being part of Ridley Hall and using the parish as a training ground for the new vicars. However, St Andrews the Great were looking for another church graft following the success at Little Shelford and this was welcomed by the PCC. Work continued with meetings and joint services until in July 2004 Steve Midgley was appointed vicar as he and around 100 adults and 40 children moved from St Andrew the Great to graft onto the existing congregation.    

More recently, a curate from the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Arbury area of north Cambridge started a Sunday afternoon service at the school for the residents of the new Orchard Park estate. Chris Lowe an Associate Minister at Christ Church started to assist and took over the running of the services. Discussion between the two PCC’s and the Diocese led to a Mission Order establishing the Church of St. John’s Orchard Park. Several members of the Christ Church congregation moved with Chris and his family.