Norris, Henry Handley (DNB00)

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NORRIS, HENRY HANDLEY (1771–1850), theologian, son of Henry Handley Norris of Hackney, by Grace, daughter of the Rev. T. Hest of Warton, Lancashire, was born at Hackney on 14 Jan. 1771. Educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. 1797, M.A. 1806, he was admitted ad eundem at the university of Oxford on 23 Jan. 1817. In 1806 a chapel of ease was built by subscription in Hackney parish, and dedicated to St. John of Jerusalem. Norris liberally contributed to the cost, and in 1809, on becoming the perpetual curate of the chapel, made over to trustees a fee-farm rent of 21l. a year as an endowment, and erected at his own expense a minister's residence in Well Street. In 1831 the perpetual curacy became a rectory, and in this incumbency Norris remained till his death. His influence in the religious world was far-reaching. He came to be known as the head of the high church party, and Hackney was regarded as the rival and counterpoise of the evangelical school in Clapham. The statement has been made, but is probably not true, that during Lord Liverpool's long premiership every see that fell vacant was offered to Norris, with the request that if he would not take it himself, he would recommend some one else; and this rumour secured for him the title of the Bishop-maker. From 1793 to 1834, as a member of the committee of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, he largely ruled its proceedings; but in 1834 there was a revolt against his management, and he was left in a minority. He became a prebendary of Llandaff on 22 Nov. 1816, and a prebendary of St. Paul's on 4 Nov. 1825. In May 1842 the parishioners of St. John's presented Mrs. Norris with a portrait of her husband after thirty years' service in the church. Inheriting from his father an ample fortune, he was able to aid many students in their university and professional careers. Norris died at Grove Street, Hackney, on 4 Dec. 1850.

On 19 June 1805 he married Henrietta Catherine, daughter of David Powell, by whom he had a son, Henry, born on 28 Feb. 1810, formerly of Swancliffe Park, Oxfordshire.

Norris's best known work is ‘A Practical Exposition of the Tendency and Proceedings of the British and Foreign Bible Society, in a Correspondence between the Rev. H. H. Norris and J. W. Freshfield, Esq.,’ 1813; with an Appendix, 1814; 2nd edit. 1814. This correspondence arose from an attempt made by Freshfield to form an Auxiliary Bible Society in Hackney, to which Norris strongly objected. A pamphlet war ensued, and among the controversialists were Robert Aspland [q. v.] (1813) and William Dealtry [q. v.] (1815). His other writings were: 1. ‘A Respectful Letter to the Earl of Liverpool, occasioned by the Speech imputed to his Lordship at the Isle of Thanet Bible Society Meeting,’ 1822. 2. ‘A Vindication of a Respectful Letter to the Earl of Liverpool,’ 1823. These two works also gave rise to rejoinders by Schofield in 1822 and Paterson in 1823. 3. ‘The Origin, Progress, and Existing Circumstances of the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews,’ 1825. 4. ‘The Principles of the Jesuits developed in a Collection of Extracts from their own Authors,’ 1839. 5. ‘A Pastor's Legacy: or Instructions for Confirmation,’ 1851.

[Overton's English Church, 1894, pp. 35–8, 347; Churton's Memoir of Joshua Watson, 1861, i. 54, ii. 20, 325; Churton's Christian Sincerity: Sermon on death of H. H. Norris, 1851; T. Mozley's Reminiscences, 1882, i. 335–40; Lysons's Environs of London, 1811, ii. 307; Robinson's Hackney, 1843, ii. 119, 171–7, 265.]

G. C. B.