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 patronage of Graveley church belonged to Ramsey abbey by the mid 12th century (fn. 1) and until the Dissolution. (fn. 2) Presentations under grants from the abbey were made in 1338, 1545, and 1568. (fn. 3) In 1558 the advowson was given with the manor to Jesus College, Cambridge, (fn. 4) which from 1560 to 1852 regularly presented its fellows. Until the 1940s it still chose Jesus men as rectors. (fn. 5) In 1928 Graveley was combined with Yelling (Hunts.) as one benefice, to which were successively added Papworth St. Agnes in 1949 and Toseland (Hunts.) in 1978. The college shared the presentation with the patrons of those other benefices. (fn. 6)
The church, which has remained a rectory, was endowed with all the tithes, although in the 14th century the rector may have received only 2 a. of oats for all Ramsey abbey's demesne tithes. (fn. 7) By 1190, as in 1279, the rector held in free alms 2 yardlands of arable, (fn. 8) represented in the 17th century by a 5-a. close and 35 a. of arable, (fn. 9) reckoned c. 1800 as 31 a. (fn. 10) The rectory was taxed at £10 in 1217 and 1291, but at only 10 marks in 1254. (fn. 11) It was worth under 6 marks in the late 14th century (fn. 12) and £13 2s. 6d. in 1535. (fn. 13) In 1650 and 1728 it was supposedly worth £100 a year. (fn. 14) By the late 17th century the small tithes were usually taken by compositions. (fn. 15)
Henry Trotter, rector 1723-66, having lost his wife and children by 1729, (fn. 16) used his inherited fortune to become a major benefactor to the living and parish. Of c. 116 a. at Graveley that he bought between 1729 and 1763 (fn. 17) he settled 99 a. in 1763 to be held by future rectors. (fn. 18) As requested in his will, Jesus College moreover used its Proby Fund between 1768 and 1772 to buy for the living 28 a. at Rushden (Northants.), sold in 1896, (fn. 19) and 46 a. at Stow Longa (Hunts.), sold in 1953. (fn. 20) At inclosure in 1805 the rector was allotted at Graveley, besides 18 a. of closes, 23 a. of arable for his ancient glebe, 97 a. for Trotter's copyholds, and 359 a. for the tithes. (fn. 21) Thenceforth he owned c. 560 a., including c. 495 a. in Graveley. (fn. 22) The rectorial income rose in the 1760s from £128 to £170. (fn. 23) By 1830 it was £312 net, (fn. 24) by 1851 £466, (fn. 25) but fell from a nominal £689 c. 1880 to £300 by 1885. (fn. 26) By 1890 £100 out of £140 gross income went to repay mortgages and half the Graveley land was unlet. (fn. 27) All the Graveley farmland was sold between 1955 and 1965. (fn. 28)
The rectory house, which stood in a 6-a. close north-west of the church, had six chambers on two floors in 1615 (fn. 29) and six hearths in the 1660s. (fn. 30) Called handsome in 1748, (fn. 31) it was dilapidated by 1830. (fn. 32) In 1853 a new house of red brick, baywindowed and gabled, was built slightly further north. (fn. 33) That was sold in 1964 and another new one built nearby on a 2-a. close, the last fragment of glebe left in 1982. (fn. 34)
Robert Hall, rector c. 1280, perhaps came from a local family. (fn. 35) A rector presented by Sir Geoffrey le Scrope in 1338 was then an acolyte. (fn. 36) The rectors were assisted by parish chaplains recorded from the late 13th century to the late 15th: there were two in 1379. (fn. 37) One chaplain from Eltisley was killed by a rector c. 1358. (fn. 38) William Dunstable, rector in the 1390s, was twice dispensed not to reside, as was his successor, a clerk of the bishop of Worcester, in 1399. (fn. 39) Of three incumbents between 1400 and 1406, the second, Thomas Parys, (fn. 40) later returned to Graveley, succeeding a kinsman as demesne lessee by 1430 (fn. 41) and died as rector c. 1446. (fn. 42) In the 1470s Ramsey abbey began to present university men, including a subdean of Lincoln. They usually held Graveley for longer periods but were pluralists and probably non-resident. (fn. 43) John Ireland, the theologian presented in 1518, (fn. 44) occasionally resided in the 1520s, (fn. 45) but later allowed his parsonage house to decay (fn. 46) and left his duties in the 1540s to transient curates, paid by his rectory farmer. (fn. 47) The grant of the Halls' estate to Ramsey abbey in 1344 had involved assigning a house and 20 a. to support a chaplain to sing for their souls. (fn. 48)
The first fellow of Jesus to hold Graveley, Leonard Rannewe, still lived in college in 1561, employing a curate. (fn. 49) Francis Wiseman, rector 1568-1615, who belonged to a prosperous Graveley family, (fn. 50) did not preach once in 1570. (fn. 51) William Jenks, 1615-c. 1653, (fn. 52) was in 1650, though aged, styled able and pious. (fn. 53) Nathaniel Haighton, appointed in 1656, obtained episcopal ordination in 1662 and served until his death in 1696. (fn. 54) The next four rectors, until 1723, combined the living with their fellowships at Jesus. (fn. 55) Henry Trotter, however, had made his home in the parish by 1728, when he held two services every Sunday and four communions each year and catechized regularly in Lent. (fn. 56)
Trotter's successors also usually resided and until the mid 19th century held services and catechized as frequently as he had. William Coppard, rector from 1803, preached regularly at afternoon services. Since he was non-resident from the late 1810s, Jesus College obliged him to resign in 1828. His deputy in 1825, the curate of Papworth Everard, though holding only one Sunday service, claimed up to 30 communicants. (fn. 57) The geometrician John Warren, 1828- 52, (fn. 58) forcefully brought Trotter's charity school under church control. (fn. 59) In 1851 his curate reported average morning congregations of c. 60 adults and evening ones of 100, virtually filling the church's 165 sittings. (fn. 60) J. P. Birkett, 1852- 81, claimed in 1873 attendances of 120, although c. 70 adults neglected all worship. By then he held monthly communions, attended by 18 of 24 communicants. The number attending fell to c. 10 by 1885 under W. O. Cleave, 1881- 1905, later thought too weak towards dissenters. Cleave, who preached at both Sunday services and held weekday ones in Lent and Advent, estimated that two thirds of the inhabitants were churchgoers in 1885 but only half in 1897. (fn. 61) His successor O. P. Fisher, 1905-25, zealous and energetic but an embattled Tory, struggled hard against dissenting influences. (fn. 62) Despite the unions of 1928 and later, the incumbent still lived at Graveley in 1982. (fn. 63)
Besides restoring the church and augmenting the living, Trotter's charitable endowment provided for increasing the parish clerk's salary by £2 10s. and for an annual sermon by the rector on 20 June (near St. Botolph's day), any surplus going to distribute pious books to the poor of Graveley. (fn. 64) The surplus was still so used c. 1910. (fn. 65) Trotter had also accumulated a library of c. 1,400 volumes, covering not only divinity and the classics, but law, history, politics, medicine, gardening, and agriculture. In 1763 he bequeathed it for the use of the neighbouring clergy; he also provided £50 to erect a room for keeping the books, (fn. 66) perhaps the small red-brick building in the rectory grounds, later a stable. (fn. 67) From the 1860s the books, no longer studied, were stored in the new rectory attic. About 1960 Jesus College deposited them in the University of London library. (fn. 68)
The church of ST. BOTOLPHwas so named from the 14th century, when the demesne staff regularly offered upon his day, (fn. 69) and perhaps by the mid 13th. (fn. 70) Fragments of Norman stonework survive from an older church. It was substantially rebuilt from the late 13th century to comprise a long chancel and a four-bay nave with north aisle, of field stones dressed with clunch ashlar. (fn. 71) The two-light north aisle windows matched the two renewed ones in the nave south wall. That wall contains a blocked 13thcentury doorway, once opening into a tiled porch still standing in 1748 but later removed. (fn. 72) The three-stage west tower, buttressed and embattled, was added or rebuilt in the 15th century or later. Images of the Virgin, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine were recorded in 1525. (fn. 73) Probably in the 16th century the north aisle was taken down, leaving only a stump of its west wall to help support the tower. Three of its windows were reset in the blocked nave arcade, which also received a doorway, later blocked.
Both nave and chancel, the latter utterly decayed c. 1570, (fn. 74) needed paving, painting, and glazing in 1601. (fn. 75) There was no communion rail in 1638 (fn. 76) and a new communion table was required in 1685. The medieval chancel, then badly cracked, (fn. 77) was almost as long as the nave, but Henry Trotter procured a faculty in 1733 to rebuild it only 20 ft. long. (fn. 78) He had done so by 1748. His new chancel, of red brick, had a roundheaded east window, was paved with black and white marble, and received a new screen and wainscotting, later removed. Trotter also renewed the tower west window, ceiled the church, and gave a hexagonal pulpit. (fn. 79) His wall monument of 1766 faces his wife's of 1729 across the chancel.
J. P. Birkett had the church thoroughly restored under Somers Clark in 1874-5. The nave south wall was partly rebuilt and the chancel heightened, still in red brick. The chancel also received a new east window, Gothic like the new tower west doorway and window. A chancel arch was inserted and an open roof replaced Trotter's flat ceiling. A new font was installed (fn. 80) to replace the medieval one recorded in 1748. (fn. 81) The nave was refloored in 1908 and the tower buttresses were repaired in 1910. (fn. 82) In 1978 an organ of 1855, formerly at Papworth St. Agnes, was installed in the nave. (fn. 83)
In the late 13th century the church had two chalices, (fn. 84) in 1551 one of silver gilt. (fn. 85) The existing silver cup and paten, of 1746, (fn. 86) were probably given by Henry Trotter. The three bells recorded in 1552 (fn. 87) were replaced by four, recast in 1624 (fn. 88) and rehung in new frames in 1910. (fn. 89) The surviving registers begin in 1654. (fn. 90)