A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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From the 12th century until after 1550 Burwell had two churches in use, standing close together near the south end of the village street. St. Andrew's on the east was appropriated by 1280. St. Mary's to the south-west remained a rectory until its appropriation, possibly the last in the country, in 1544, and was thereafter a vicarage.
In the mid 12th century the advowson of St. Andrew's church belonged to Robert son of Humphrey. Probably 1170 × 1173 he gave it by exchange to Stoke by Clare priory (Suff.), a cell of Bec (Eure), (fn. 1) to which successive bishops of Norwich confirmed it until c. 1200, assigning to the priory a pension of £3 from the rector whom it presented. (fn. 2) Probably after 1200 the church passed to the hospital at Fordham, whose prior Robert agreed, 1205 × 1227, to pay Stoke priory that pension of £2-3, (fn. 3) which remained due to it until after 1300. (fn. 4) In 1246 Herbert le Fraunceys confirmed to Fordham, by 1227 a Gilbertine priory, the advowson of St. Andrew's, as part of his wife Amice's inheritance. (fn. 5) Possibly after 1254 and certainly before 1279 Fordham priory had appropriated the church, taxed at 12 marks in 1254 and £12 in 1291, with its 36 a. of glebe. (fn. 6) No vicarage was ordained (fn. 7) and St. Andrew's may for a time have been served by canons from Fordham. By the 16th century, however, it had a priest to celebrate mass for its parishioners. About 1535 the priory's rectory lessee was to house him in a chamber at the farmstead, and allow him 53s. 4d. yearly with two cartloads, of barley and of hay. (fn. 8) The church remained in regular use, some villagers still describing themselves as its parishioners into the 1530s, (fn. 9) until the mid 16th century, when 2 a. and rents, partly arising from that parish, sold by the Crown in 1548 and 1571, had been let to maintain lights in it, sometimes before its rood. (fn. 10) In 1552 it was well equipped for services, having two silver gilt chalices with patens and six sets of vestments. (fn. 11) A former monk of Ramsey was serving St. Andrew's c. 1555, (fn. 12) but no minister was recorded in 1560. (fn. 13)
A Crown lease of the dissolved priory's Burwell land in 1562 still required payment of the priest's pension, (fn. 14) apparently rendered in 1603 to the vicar of St. Mary's. (fn. 15) In 1575 a villager, who hoped for burial in St. Andrew's churchyard, unfenced and grazed by cattle by 1582, was doubtful whether that church would be maintained. (fn. 16) In 1611 it was in decay through the lay rector's neglect. (fn. 17) Lee Cotton's offer, in his will of 1613, to bequeathe £100 to endow a godly man to read service in it weekly, preach monthly, and keep a school in it, provided the parishioners should within three years repair it so as to be fit for worship, (fn. 18) was apparently not taken up. By the 1720s, when demolition was proposed, the church was ruinous, (fn. 19) its parish being effectively combined with St. Mary's; one pair of churchwardens apparently represented both in 1694. (fn. 20) The parishes had perhaps been previously divided according to manorial tenure: in 1569 the lord of Tiptofts, the second largest manor, thought that he had St. Andrew's advowson, (fn. 21) while Lee Cotton considered Tiptofts tenants peculiarly responsible for its fabric. (fn. 22) After the purchase of St. Andrew's impropriate rectory in 1646 for Cambridge university, already holding St. Mary's, all St. Andrew's rights to tithe besides its rectorial glebe, reckoned at c. 41 a. of arable, were combined with St. Mary's. The 6½ a. of closes on which a large barn survived in 1710, still called in 1850 the Priory closes, (fn. 23) presumably represented the site of St. Andrew's rectory homestead. The two rectories, although formally distinguished until the 1760s as St. Mary's parsonage and St. Andrew's priory or little parson age, were regularly leased beneficially, (fn. 24) and also sublet, together. (fn. 25)
St. Mary's was presumably the church whose advowson Aelfgar had given by the 990s with his Burwell estate to Ramsey abbey, (fn. 26) which retained it until its dissolution in 1540. About 1115 Everard, priest of Burwell, gave to the abbey his church and its lands with eight titheable fields assigned to him, apparently from the abbot's demesne (aula). (fn. 27) The abbey may initially have appointed vicars: it complained, 1160 × 1180, that a former vicar, who had quitted the church twenty years before, was seeking to reclaim it from the abbey and its clerk who then held it. (fn. 28) About 1185 Ramsey accepted a judgement that it should allow to that clerk, as farmer or rector, the tithes of its Burwell demesne in return for a pension, usually of £2, still rendered to it by the rector in 1540. (fn. 29) St. Mary's rectory, to which Ramsey regularly presented until the 1530s, (fn. 30) was endowed by the 1220s with a free yardland, although in 1279 it supposedly had only 18 a. of glebe. (fn. 31) It was wealthier than St. Andrew's, being taxed in 1254 at 40, and in 1291 at 80 marks. In 1535 it was assessed at 76 marks. It had presumably the larger share of the tithes, said in 1340 to produce two thirds of its total benefice income. (fn. 32)
In 1544 Sir Edward North, just before relinquishing Ramseys manor, agreed for £600 to grant the advowson of St. Mary's to Cambridge university and arranged its appropriation, effected at once, to the university. The patronage of the vicarage then established was assigned to North's heirs, who were to present one of two Cambridge students named by the university, unconditionally within two weeks of notification. (fn. 33) Accordingly Sir Edward's descendants, the lords North of Kirtling, and after 1734 their heirs male, then earls of Guilford, continued to present on the university's nomination until at least the 1850s. (fn. 34) From 1884, however, the heir general, the then Lord North, being a convert to Roman Catholicism, the university claimed to present on its own authority. (fn. 35) By the mid 19th century its candidates were selected by voting in Congregation. (fn. 36) That branch of the lords North expired in the male line in 1941; by 1970 their rights in the patronage were vested in Mrs. D. A. Bowlby, a sister of the last lord. (fn. 37) The appropriation required the university to provide an annual sermon at Burwell, (fn. 38) perhaps already preached on Mid Lent Sunday by 1598 when William Pamplyn left £10 to fund a distribution to the poor on that day. (fn. 39) By the 1830s the vice-chancellor was to give out 13s. 4d. (fn. 40) at that Sunday, when, at least between the 1740s and the 1920s, he drove in state to preach there; by 1900, however, the sermon was given by an ordained deputy. (fn. 41)
From the 1640s the university had, with all the tithes, a rectorial glebe comprising 17 a. of closes and c. 83 a. of arable, including 42 a. attached by 1600 to St. Mary's parsonage. (fn. 42) Probably by 1320, (fn. 43) the rector's house had occupied the site, beside Parsonage Lane north-west of High Town, of the university's Parsonage Farm. (fn. 44) The existing house, dating from c. 1600, (fn. 45) is built of clunch and tiled, mostly twostoreyed with attics. It incorporates thick clunch walls, probably medieval, at its east end, where it rises into a three-storeyed block with mullioned windows in its two gables. To its northwest a two-storeyed hall with a matching screen was inserted in the mid 17th century in the angle between that block and a projecting original porch and stair turret facing north. Three windows in the main east-west range along the lane retain, like the turret, clunch jambs and mullions; some doorways have four-centred heads. To the west the house abuts onto a long clunchwalled two-storeyed tithe barn, one of two mentioned in 1628. (fn. 46) Parts of it collapsed in 1955, including much of the upper walls added after 1500 above thicker late medieval walling. The upper floor has six 16th-century woodenmullioned three-light windows. Inside, a clunch plinth supports chamfered wallposts carrying crossbeams. The roof of the upper storey has tiebeams and crownposts. East of the house is another long range of early 16th-century outbuildings, originally two-storeyed, partly timber-framed, and jettied to the north. Its central section was remodelled in one storey after 1750, the eastern part being also reduced in height. It also has arched two- and fourcentred doorways, and on the upper floor a row of mullioned timber windows, once almost continuous. The 16th-century improvements to those outbuildings could have been intended to provide space for storing merchandise and for large-scale craft production.
In the early 19th century the rectory lessees, the Dunns and Balls, no longer inhabited the parsonage house, but let it to labourers, or sometimes put it in repair for younger sons. (fn. 47) The university sold Parsonage farm's 53 a., including the 32 a. allotted in 1817 at inclosure for most of its rectorial glebe arable, (fn. 48) along with the house, to the county council in 1922. Parsonage Farm, left to decay in the occupation of smallholders was sold by the council c. 1960 (fn. 49) and bought in 1972 for a commune including 6-12 adults. Besides practising organic husbandry, including goat-keeping, they made scientific instruments in the barns, which they restored, into the 1990s. (fn. 50)
About 1800 the university, though claiming tithe from the whole parish, did not exercise its rights over Burwell's fens, since their only produce, sedge, was worth too little to cover the cost of collection. When from the 1810s parts of the fens began to be cultivated, largely as grass fields, its demands for tithe from them were challenged c. 1828 by landowners claiming exemption by prescription, and again in 1835-6. (fn. 51) The tithes, recently partly taken in kind, partly compounded for by the farmers, were all commuted in 1841 for a rentcharge of £1,635. Only the 536 a. of fen along the eastern edge whose owners had compounded for tithe in the 1830s were adjudged subject to tithe, the rest, c. 2,518 a., being declared exempt. Another 36 a., once allotted for intercommon, near the north-eastern border had their rentcharge assigned to E. S. Martin, presumably holding the impropriation of Exning (Suff.). (fn. 52)
In 1544 the vicar of St. Mary's received no endowment in land, but was merely given a £20 stipend payable by the university. (fn. 53) That stipend was worth only £14 net c. 1600, when its original value was almost restored by augmentation. (fn. 54) The stipend was increased to £35 or more from the 1650s (fn. 55) and to £80 from 1770. Between 1802 and 1816 it was raised in rapid stages to £300, (fn. 56) remaining at that level until 1921. (fn. 57) Queen Anne's Bounty gave augmentations of £600 in 1806, and £180, mostly invested in land, in 1865. (fn. 58) At inclosure, when the vicar only received in 1817 small common-right allotments, the university ceded c. 14 a. of its glebe for him. (fn. 59) Of the vicar's glebe, 30 a. by 1827, yielding until c. 1850 £35, and 1870-90 c. £50 in rent, (fn. 60) half was sold in 1921, the rest by 1927. (fn. 61) In 1921-2 the university replaced the stipend with a capital endowment of £5,000, later augmented, matched by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to produce together the same income as before. (fn. 62)
From the 1540s the university reserved part of the rectory mansion house for the vicar to dwell in. (fn. 63) Not until 1652 did it build a house for him, apparently taking materials from a chapel, perhaps at Reach. The house presumably stood on the 4-a. site east of St. Mary's church, called in 1866 Vicarage close, occupied by the modern vicarage. (fn. 64) The house had four hearths in 1674. (fn. 65) In 1826 the university rebuilt it as a large greybrick house, improved in 1841, (fn. 66) with seven bedrooms. It continued to own and maintain that house, which vicars inhabited rent free, until it was ceded to the living, after renovations, in 1922. (fn. 67) The house was still the vicar's residence in 1993.
Rectors of St. Mary's were recorded from the late 12th century, (fn. 68) one c. 1185 perhaps already a pluralist. (fn. 69) From the 13th century Ramsey usually gave the wealthy living to well connected clergy, including c. 1225 William Bottisham, archdeacon of Nottingham, (fn. 70) by 1279 Fulk Lovel (d. 1285), archdeacon of Colchester, of a minor baronial family, (fn. 71) and by 1298 John Langton, the king's chancellor. (fn. 72) They were pluralists, as was John of the Chamber, a queen's clerk, rector from 1325, (fn. 73) and presumably absentees. Chamber's successor, a king's clerk from Burwell, named by the Crown in 1349, who procured papal privileges for villagers, was in office until 1382. (fn. 74) His successor, 1382-92, an Irish clerk, probably let the rectory while studying at Cambridge. (fn. 75) From the 1390s Ramsey mostly presented pluralist graduates, often theologians, and including, 1513-14, Thomas Wolsey. Although probably nonresident, the rectors were sometimes benefactors to Burwell. (fn. 76) One, buried in St. Mary's chancel in 1492, left money for St Andrew's church fabric, for the poor, and for local road repairs. (fn. 77) Parish priests acting under them were occasionally recorded from 1350. (fn. 78) One such priest in 1504 directed his executors to buy for St. Mary's church a set of vestments for priest, deacon, and subdeacon. (fn. 79) In 1552 that church had four such triple sets of vestments, of velvet and damask, besides two sets of three copes, and other copes for children, perhaps choir or altar boys; (fn. 80)
An anchoress was enclosed at Burwell c. 1230. (fn. 81) Probably c. 1350 John 'Piers' son' Haukyn of Burwell gave 60 a. freehold to support a chantry at St. Mary's altar in her church there. That land was forfeited to the Crown in 1361 after its chaplain had apparently transferred the land, allegedly without licence, to the Cambridge Corpus Christi guild, and again by 1372. (fn. 82) In 1492, when Burwell had a guild of the Holy Trinity, a rector left 5 marks towards building the guildhall. (fn. 83) Along with c. 12 a. given for obits and lights, including the sepulchre light, and 2 a. left in 1496 by Thomas Forster for a light before the crucifix, successively sold in 1553, 1566, and 1571, the guildhall was confiscated by the Crown in 1553. It was then sold to Sir Robert Chester, from whom the parish at once bought it back. (fn. 84) It was used for various parish purposes until the 1850s. (fn. 85) As it then stood at the old north-east side of St. Mary's churchyard, it consisted of a two-storeyed building, largely timber-framed, gabled towards the north. On the ground floor a passage 5 ft. wide, serving as a lychgate to the churchyard, with cusped windows looking into it separated two rooms, one then a kitchen. The jettied first floor of three bays contained a long hall, above which were garrets with dormers in the tiled roof. Dilapidated by 1859, (fn. 86) it was demolished in 1860. (fn. 87) Its name was sometimes used in the 20th century for the boys' school built nearby. (fn. 88)
Despite the terms of the appropriation, the university did not initially choose graduates as vicars. (fn. 89) A vicar resident in 1560 was no preacher. (fn. 90) In 1603 a graduate vicar claimed 600 communicants. (fn. 91) Under Robert Metcalfe, vicar from 1618 and Regius Professor of Hebrew, (fn. 92) sleeping in church and playing games during service were occasionally reported. (fn. 93) In the late 1640s Metcalfe employed curates who apparently received from the university double his vicarial stipend. (fn. 94) About 1647 some puritan parishioners, who accused one curate, besides being inaudible, of teaching salvation through works, not faith in Christ, collected over 150 signatures to a petition to the university to replace him with a 'godly' minister. Another 130 villagers, headed by Isaac Barrow, the rectory lessee, defended the curate as 'painful in his calling', claiming that a parliamentary committee had acquitted him of scandalous charges over his former conduct. (fn. 95) He had left by 1650. Two of three vicars, one favouring the Book of Common Prayer, appointed in the 1650s quickly resigned. (fn. 96) From the 1660s, with an improved stipend, the vicars, regularly Cambridge graduates and not usually pluralists until 1734, served for longer periods. (fn. 97) In the 1660s and 1670s the university also sent Bachelors of Divinity to preach at Burwell up to ten times a year. (fn. 98) In 1676 the vicar claimed c. 500 potential communicants: 120 had attended at Easter. (fn. 99)
After 1734 one vicar, who combined Burwell with a Suffolk living, was apparently nonresident, usually employing curates. The musical Henry Turner, his successor 1772-1808, though also from 1782 rector of Newmarket, (fn. 100) was seldom absent from Burwell, where he held two services each Sunday, besides the usual quarterly sacraments, attended c. 1806 by 30-40 communicants. (fn. 101) His successor, J. J. Baines, 1808-54, a 'high and dry' churchman, likewise serving, with much formality, in person, and catechizing the parish youth weekly, with printed aids, claimed 72 communicants by 1820. (fn. 102) In the 1830s his hostility to dissent led to controversy in the parish. (fn. 103) J. W. Cockshott, vicar 1857-85, (fn. 104) not only established three church schools and substantially restored St. Mary's church, (fn. 105) but procured a curate to serve North Street who by 1862 held services in a public house clubroom. In 1863 Cockshott raised £1,050 to erect on the east of North Street a mission church, dedicated to St. Andrew, seating 300. It was built of red brick dressed in ashlar, to a Gothic design, including trefoilheaded triple lancet windows, by R. R. Rowe. (fn. 106) The university long helped provide a salary of £120 for curates serving that church until c. 1907, but thereafter lost for lack of a house. (fn. 107) By the 1860s Cockshott had organized a surpliced church choir that participated in local choral festivals. (fn. 108) In 1873 the renewed seating in St. Mary's church could hold over 700, including 450 free sittings. Cockshott, who preached twice each Sunday and held weekly communions for the half of 148 communicants regularly attending, then claimed 700-800 church-goers, two fifths of the population. (fn. 109) His successor N. A. B. Borton, who served until 1920, (fn. 110) still had c. 150 communicants in 1897. (fn. 111) About 1920 the new St. Andrew's had only monthly communions. (fn. 112) It again had curates in the 1920s, (fn. 113) but thereafter one vicar had to manage the whole parish. Four, two still Cambridge men, served between 1944 and 1975. (fn. 114) By 1987 the new St. Andrew's had only two services monthly for its small congregation, and it was closed and sold for conversion to offices in 1990, when St. Mary's had c. 80 communicants. (fn. 115) Burwell still had its own resident vicar in the 1990s. (fn. 116)
The demolished medieval church of ST. ANDREW, so named by c. 1170, (fn. 117) stood on a slight rise in a rectangular churchyard east of the street opposite the north end of the enlarged St. Mary's churchyard. All that remained above ground in 1743, when the plan of its chancel and aisled nave could be traced, was its west end including the base of a round tower, presumably 12th-century or earlier, which in 1552 had contained three bells, and the south aisle's south and gabled west walls. The three visible bays of the south wall had apparently once contained two-light windows. When Henry Turner pulled down the ruins in 1772, he found medieval stone coffins. (fn. 118) Many bones were dug up there in 1952. (fn. 119) Carved medieval stonework found in 1859 when the church girls' school was built on the site, was placed in the vicarage garden, some being incorporated in 1863 in the modern St. Andrew's church. (fn. 120)
The surviving church of ST. MARY, so named by c. 1225, (fn. 121) in an originally smaller churchyard to the south-west, is built externally of fieldstones, largely dressed in limestone, the interior mostly of clunch ashlar. It comprises a chancel, an aisled and clerestoried nave with north and south porches, and a west tower with a one-storeyed southern annexe. (fn. 122) The earliest surviving parts are the 12th-century lower stages, almost 40 ft. high, of the west tower, slightly elongated east-west. In the upper part of that portion's thick walls are narrow roundheaded windows in deep splays, almost all blocked; they include single-light ones, two on the north side, below the 12th-century string course, and larger, mostly paired, windows with shafted jambs above it. The north face has, besides massive corner buttresses, a gabled central pilaster and on the north-west another 12thcentury angle buttress, rising to carved capitals. The original lower portion may represent the defensible soller block of a dwelling house, with two storeys of chambers above storage space: its hall range possibly stood on the tower's unarticulated south side before the church's south aisle was extended after 1300 partly to clasp the tower there. That aisle's west end with its one three-light window with quatrefoil tracery probably derives from a 14th-century aisled nave. That section was later separated from the rest of the aisle by a half-arch.
The remainder of the church was rebuilt c. 1450-70, probably to designs supplied, as was believed locally c. 1860, by Reginald Ely (d. 1471), master mason c. 1445-60 of King's College chapel. The north aisle was begun by 1454, and the south aisle was being glazed c. 1460. (fn. 123) In 1467 John Higham, rector 1439-67, bequeathed funds for completing the chancel, newly begun, where an angel corbel bears his arms. (fn. 124) John Benet, lessee of Ramseys manor demesne, paid c. 1464 for the wall over the chancel arch and the carpentry of the nave roof. (fn. 125) As then rebuilt the light and spacious church has a nave and aisles of five bays, with a clerestory of two windows to a bay, and a three-bayed chancel, all embattled and with external stepped buttresses. Above the wide bays of the nave arcade the uprights of two tiers of cusped stone panelling rise into the mullions of the three-light windows of the almost continuous clerestory, separated by stone shafts carrying the roof, alternate ones rising from the apexes of the arcade arches. The transomed three-light aisle windows have mouchettes and quatrefoils in their upper tracery. Stone panelling above the chancel arch, surrounding a rose window, has in its middle tier, between niches, square panels, alternately of star-pattern bearing shields and of radiating encircled mouchettes. The ornate chancel has at the sides four-light transomed windows and to the east an elaborate one of five lights. That and many aisle windows contain the cusped lobes, grouped in fours, typical of Ely's work at King's College. Internally the chancel windows are separated by all tall niches with spired and crocketed canopies. The chancel has in its south-east angle sedilia with a corbelled piscina. A stair from its north side leads to a crypt below its east end, with two windows and containing in its east wall a recess with a stone altar slab, in its south wall a medieval fireplace. Perhaps meant to house a recluse, the crypt was known c. 1861, when the stair was reopened, as the 'monk's hole'. (fn. 126) The north and south porches, also both 15thcentury, the latter reconstructed after 1860, open into the aisles' westernmost bays; they are of similar design, both buttressed with two-light side-windows. The more elaborate north porch has a fan vault. Above the central niche of the five over its outer archway stands an image of St. George slaying the dragon. Probably in the 1470s, when William Sygar left money for making the bell tower, (fn. 127) the tower was heightened by three more stages, (fn. 128) with two-light belfry windows in the lowest of them. The upper two stages, with an embattled crown, are octagonal, with pinnacles rising on alternate faces. The tower then received stepped angle buttresses, except on the south-east, and a stair turret at the south-west. A new west doorway and four-light west window were inserted in its older lower stages. A room with narrow windows, suitable for a sacristy, was added beyond the old aisle west wall, over which a window was placed. Its east doorway retains a 15th-century door of oak planks with iron hinges.
The low-pitched roofs in the chancel, nave, and aisles, all presumably of the 1460s and to similar designs, rest in the chancel and north aisle on stone angel corbels. Their moulded tiebeams are supported by curved braces on wallposts, the spandrels traceried. The chancel wallposts are carved with men holding books. All the roofs have cornices, carved with religious emblems and scenes, especially at the nave east end, or with grotesques, including fabulous or heraldic beasts. The octagonal 15th-century font was covered in 1743 by an ornate wooden spire, probably removed c. 1822. Under the chancel arch survive the traceried panels of the lower half of the five-bayed 15th-century screen, apparently complete in 1743, but cut down by 1850. (fn. 129) The roodbeam settings are visible above, along with the upper doorway of the roodstair on the north side. In the chancel much 15thcentury woodwork, traceried and buttressed, has been incorporated in later wall panelling and choirstalls. A worn painting of St. Christopher remains near the nave north door. John Lawrence or Wardeboys, the last abbot of Ramsey 1507-39, who died in 1542, requesting burial in St. Mary's, Burwell, (fn. 130) is probably commemorated by the brass of a cassocked and surpliced priest under a triple canopy, which survives in the chancel. Despite the breaking of many 'superstitious' windows by William Dowsing in 1644, (fn. 131) glass with the arms of Lancaster and Tiptoft probably survived in the church in the late 17th century. (fn. 132)
Large monuments installed at the chancel east end in the early 1610s destroyed two niches there. In the south-east corner was that for making which Lee Cotton (d. 1613) left £40; (fn. 133) his armoured effigy lay on a panelled tombchest under a canopy borne by three Doric columns. In the north-east corner figures of the lay rector, Thomas Gerard (d. 1613), also armoured, and his wife Alice (d. 1609), (fn. 134) knelt between similar columns supporting an entablature. Dame Anne Russell (d. 1717) had hanging tablets with inscriptions in black marble amid scrolly surrounds erected on the chancel south wall for her husband Sir William (d. 1663), their only child Elizabeth (d.v.p.), and herself. (fn. 135) There are other 19th-century stone and marble wall tablets in the nave and aisles to vicars and members of the Isaacson family.
The late medieval church fabric has been substantially preserved from the 17th century by funds drawn, despite occasional disputes, from Burwell's 100-a. Church and Town lands. (fn. 136) In the early 18th century, when much money was borrowed in the 1720s, (fn. 137) new square pews installed c. 1710 filled the well paved nave. A three-decker pulpit stood by 1743 against a nave south pier, and a vestry and library, probably made in 1726, (fn. 138) with glass-fronted presses were installed at the south aisle west end. (fn. 139) About 1860 there were still 67 pews, including the 'hall pew' over the north door from which the Ramseys manor lessee overlooked the congregation. (fn. 140) New wainscotting had been installed in 1750. In the 1770s Henry Turner took control of the charity, devoting almost all its spare income to repairing the church thoroughly. (fn. 141) In 1799 he had the lead-covered wooden spirelet, partly open, on the tower, still containing a sanctus bell of 1776, renovated. (fn. 142) J. J. Baines, managing the charity from 1816, used its income in 1823-4 to erect across the tower arch, to Gothick designs, a gallery above three new pews. Baines installed in it a barrel organ, played in the 1850s by the schoolmaster. It perhaps replaced the village band, earlier housed in a singing pew, for whom a bassoon had been bought in 1815. (fn. 143) Presumably about that time the late Hanoverian royal arms, as used 1816-37, were placed on the central carved panel above the chancel arch. Thereafter Baines accumulated the charity income, allegedly fearing that the dilapidated roofs, through which rain seeped down the walls, might suddenly require expensive repairs. Work hastily started when he was accused of malversation in 1836 had by 1837 completed only the repair of the south aisle roof. The consequent legal proceedings resulted in 1855 in a judgement assigning half the charity income for church repairs. (fn. 144) Low church rates were levied without trouble until 1858, when T. T. Ball, whose father Edward was supporting a church rate abolition bill in parliament, successfully proposed, the charity yielding considerable funds, that they be replaced by voluntary contributions of similar amounts, which ceased within a few years. (fn. 145)
In 1861-2 J. W. Cockshott had the charity estate mortgaged to help renew much stonework and paving in the nave and aisles, and provide new seating in oak there. That restoration swept away c. 50 of the pews, which had accommodated under 500, only a quarter of the population, and the west gallery, where 25 children had sat. A new pulpit was placed by the chancel arch. (fn. 146) In 1868 Cambridge university restored the chancel, releading its roof and renewing the window tracery. The 17th-century monuments were moved, the Gerard and Russell ones to the aisles, Lee Cotton's to the vestry, and the mutilated niches and canopies reinstated, while stalls replaced pews. (fn. 147) In 1877 the university added a stone reredos, designed by A. W. Blomefield, filled with mosaic, mostly painted over in 1965. (fn. 148) In the late 1890s the tower and clerestory were restored. (fn. 149) A new organ obtained in 1862, (fn. 150) replaced or improved 1877 x 1880, then stood in the chancel. In 1967 it was enlarged and electrified, and moved to a new gallery under the tower arch over Gothic screenwork already installed by Borton there and across the south aisle west end, where a choir vestry was built. (fn. 151) Bequests from the Hurley family in the 1930s paid for stained glass in the aisle east windows and provided c. £50 yearly to reward the choirboys and maintain and beautify the church. (fn. 152) Between 1979 and the 1990s further expensive repairs were undertaken. (fn. 153)
In 1552 St. Mary's had two silver gilt chalices and patens, one bequeathed in 1541 by Abbot Lawrence with his best vestment. (fn. 154) Its modern plate includes a cup and paten of 1578, and an almsdish and flagon bought in 1739, all silver gilt. (fn. 155) There were four bells in 1552, (fn. 156) apparently recast in 1637-8. A fifth apparently added by 1709 was recast in 1723. (fn. 157) Three trebles were added in 1955. (fn. 158) A new 30-hour clock was bought for the tower in 1748, and a trigonometrical sundial procured c. 1805. (fn. 159)
Parish registers for St. Mary's, beginning in 1562, are substantially complete, save for gaps for 1580-98 and from the late 1630s to 1654. (fn. 160) In 1315 Ramsey abbey acquired 1 a. by exchange to enlarge St. Mary's churchyard, (fn. 161) to which the parish added another 1 a. to the north in 1859, so opening up the view of the church. (fn. 162) It remained in use in the 20th century. (fn. 163) In 1921 the parish council acquired 3 a. east of Ness Road for another burial ground, opened in 1923, upon which a chapel was soon after built. (fn. 164)