A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
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The church was included in Picot the sheriff's foundation grant of c. 1092 to the Austin canons of Cambridge, later Barnwell priory, together with two thirds of his undertenant's demesne tithes. (fn. 1) Alone among the given to Barnwell, Rampton was not appropriated, and probably before the early 13th century the priory apparently conveyed the advowson to the lords of the manor in return for an annual rent of 6s., later claimed to be for 1 hide held of Barnwell. The rent was secured by the priory in 1284 (fn. 2) and continued to be paid by the lords of the manor to Barnwell and its successors until 1788. (fn. 3) Barnwell's tithe portion was commuted after 1291 for 10s. a year. (fn. 4) Between c. 1278 and 1304 the church was evidently thought once to have been served by a vicar, but it was then and always later a rectory. (fn. 5)
The advowson was part of the estate with which Geoffrey Burdeleys enfeoffed Sir Robert de Lisle in 1260, (fn. 6) and it afterwards descended with the manor in the families of Lisle, Windsor, Scrope, Alcocke, and Leman. (fn. 7) It was said in 1498 to be held of the prior of Barnwell. (fn. 8) In 1343 it was reserved from the grant for years made to Sir John de Lisle by Alice Seymour and her partners, (fn. 9) who presented in 1347 and 1349. (fn. 10) The king presented by lapse in 1661. (fn. 11) John Leman sold the advowson, or perhaps a turn, in or before 1778 to John Sennitt of Cambridge, who presented his son-in-law John Perkins in 1780. (fn. 12) Perkins was said to be patron in 1806, (fn. 13) but after his death in 1811 (fn. 14) the advowson was put up for sale with the manor and was bought c. 1812 by Thomas Taylor (d. 1827). Taylor's eldest son Joseph conveyed it in 1855 to his brother the Revd. Henry Taylor, who sold it in 1859 to Samuel Strong. (fn. 15) Strong presented his son Francis in 1860 and gave him the patronage, which he retained as rector until his death in 1894, though he was certified as being of unsound mind in 1865. The trustees of his estate presented in 1897. By 1909 the advowson belonged to his younger son Francis Warrington Strong (d. 1939), descending in turn to his son and namesake (d. 1967), and the younger Francis's son Francis Warrington-Strong. The archbishop of Canterbury had presented by lapse in 1946, and Francis Warrington-Strong and his step-mother Elsie Warrington-Strong transferred the advowson to the bishop of Ely in 1976. (fn. 16)
The rectory house, which had six hearths in the mid 17th century, (fn. 17) was said to be 'a mere hut and in ruins' in 1836. (fn. 18) It was afterwards completely rebuilt in yellow brick, probably between 1855 and 1862. (fn. 19) It was sold in 1982 and opened as a private residential home for old people in 1983. (fn. 20)
The rectory was among the 16 least valuable in the diocese in the 13th century, (fn. 21) and in the mid 15th it was exempted from taxation as worth less than 12 marks a year. (fn. 22) A century later, valued at £9 10s., it remained among the poorest rectories in the deanery, though it was more valuable than most vicarages. (fn. 23) In the early 18th century it was worth £80 annually. (fn. 24) The glebe in 1615 amounted to c. 14 a. of arable and meadow, besides the rectory garden and an adjacent close. (fn. 25) After inclosure in 1852 the rector owned 28 a. (fn. 26) The tithes, owed on all land apart from the meadows and Hempsals fen, were commuted in 1842 for a rent charge of £300. (fn. 27)
The low value of the living in the Middle Ages made it unattractive. Rectors were licensed to reside elsewhere in 1348, 1389, and 1392. (fn. 28) Another was ready to resign it in 1363 for a different benefice, but despite evidently obtaining preferment elsewhere was still rector when he was murdered in 1377. (fn. 29) A graduate who went on to be a canon of Windsor gave up Rampton by exchange in 1392, (fn. 30) and others resigned it in 1404, 1445, 1452, and 1489, the last for a pension. (fn. 31) No clergy other than the rector were recorded in 1379, but there was a chaplain in 1406. (fn. 32)
The living may have had more attractions from the late 15th century. A graduate rector chose to be buried in the chancel in 1491 and was succeeded by his brother, another graduate, who was buried by his side in 1503. (fn. 33) A third graduate, Robert Finch, was evidently resident throughout his tenure, 1527-45. (fn. 34) There was a guild of Corpus Christi in 1523. (fn. 35) The rector in 1560 was licensed to live elsewhere on account of the dampness of the parish, (fn. 36) and in the following half century the church was usually served by curates. (fn. 37) The only improvements required of the churchwardens in 1638 were to buy Jewell's works and to turn the reading desk and place it as directed by the rector. (fn. 38)
For 250 years after the Restoration incumbencies were long. Only Philip Leman, rector 1685- 94 and a younger brother of the patron, (fn. 39) and Henry Taylor, rector 1855-60, served for less than a decade. The seven other rectors in that period held the living for an average of 36 years. (fn. 40) The two between 1694 and 1780 seem usually to have been resident, (fn. 41) though the next resided at his other living, (fn. 42) and John Fowler, rector 1812-55, and Francis Strong, 1860-94, both went mad. (fn. 43) Short curacies were the rule in the early 19th century, (fn. 44) but J. M. Nixson served from 1862 to 1893. (fn. 45)
In 1728 there was one service each Sunday and three communions a year, a pattern of worship evidently maintained for the next century. (fn. 46) After c. 1833 two Sunday services and a fourth communion were held. After many years of torpor in the life of the church, a revival was initiated by William Monk, acting minister 1859-60, who established a choir and attracted a large congregation. His popularity among nonconformists in the village was such that they apparently offered to close their chapels if he became rector. (fn. 47) Francis Strong and J. M. Nixson continued his work. (fn. 48) By 1877 there was communion after morning service once a month. The number of communicants was put at 14 or 15 in 1728, but in the 19th century was sometimes as low as 5. The congregation was claimed in 1851 to average 50 at morning service and 75 in the afternoon. (fn. 49) The rector in 1897 reckoned that there were 130 churchgoers, with a further 40 irregular attenders and 25 villagers who never came to his services. (fn. 50)
Union with Willingham or Cottenham was ruled out in 1938 because their traditions of worship differed, (fn. 51) and Rampton continued to be served by its own rector or a curate-in-charge until 1981. From 1982 it was held in plurality with Willingham. (fn. 52)
The church, dedicated to ALL SAINTSby 1518, (fn. 53) consists of chancel, nave with south aisle and porch and north vestry, and west tower, mostly built of field stones with ashlar dressings. (fn. 54) The thatched nave roof is one of only two surviving in Cambridgeshire. Evidence for a 12th-century building comprising nave and chancel exists in the three-shafted jambs and scalloped capitals of the chancel arch, in a blocked round-headed window in the north wall of the nave, and in chevron voussoirs re-used in the east wall. The unbuttressed tower, which has slim lancets in its second stage, was begun in the later 12th or the 13th century, and the south aisle was added in the 14th. Its arcade was originally of three bays. The east end of the aisle retains a piscina.
The chancel was rebuilt in the first half of the 14th century. It has two-light windows in its north and south walls and one of five lights in the east. An ogee-arched tomb recess in the north wall was probably inserted slightly later. In the 18th century the windows still contained armorial glass commemorating the Lisle family. (fn. 55) The chancel arch was rebuilt with the chancel, using the 12th-century jambs and probably resetting them for a wider arch. The battlemented top stage of the tower was completed in the 14th century, but its window tracery has almost entirely vanished. The windows in the nave north wall are also 14th-century, the easternmost having a niche in its east jamb. In the 15th century the tower arch was rebuilt, a new west window was inserted, and a fourth western bay was added to the arcade.
There was a south porch by 1658, but it was evidently replaced by the present red-brick and tile porch after 1744. (fn. 56) The aisle and chancel were tiled by 1744 and perhaps by 1665. (fn. 57) Tracery throughout the church was much decayed and that of the east window had been replaced by two plain mullions by the mid 19th century. (fn. 58) A thorough restoration was put in hand when C. H. Evelyn-White became rector in 1894. (fn. 59) The first stage c. 1898 revealed several layers of painting on the north wall of the nave, including a masonry pattern with foliage, possibly 13thcentury, and a late 15th-century St. Christopher, (fn. 60) both of which survived in 1985. Work continued over many years: the south wall of the chancel was repaired in 1910 and the east window was restored in 1924 (fn. 61) on the basis of an earlier drawing and fragments found re-used in a nearby barn. (fn. 62) At the same time six Anglo-Saxon sculptural fragments found in the church were reset on the inside of the east wall. (fn. 63) The rubble and brick vestry was added in 1937. (fn. 64)
A 13th-century marble grave slab with an inscription in Old French commemorating Nicholas of Huntingdon, presumably a rector, lies in the nave floor. A late 13th-century effigy of a knight placed in the chancel recess formerly bore the arms of the Lisle family. (fn. 65) The nave roof is of the 16th century and has tiebeams and queen posts, and the pulpit and tester are Elizabethan, much renewed. The chancel screen, surviving in 1744, (fn. 66) was afterwards removed.
Cole praised the surplice that he was shown in 1744 as the finest he had ever seen in a Protestant church, (fn. 67) but no later record of its presence has been found. There were three bells and a sanctus in 1552. (fn. 68) Two medieval bells survive, invoking St. Mary and St. Oswald; a third bell dates from 1713 and three more were added in the 20th century, making one of the lightest peals in the country. (fn. 69) The church has a 17th-century bier.
Long before 1784 the income from letting certain baulks in the open fields was assigned to a church repair fund. Between 1784 and 1842 the annual income ranged from £6 to £34, averaging £15 10s. (fn. 70) At inclosure in 1852 the churchwardens were allotted 11 a., which produced nearly £100 in 1980. (fn. 71)
The parish registers begin only in 1678; the bishop's transcripts for the previous period, starting in 1599, have gaps in 1600-1, 1644-52, and 1670-3. (fn. 72)