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 probably belonged by the 12th century to the Richmond fee, with which its advowson descended until the late 14th century, (fn. 1) being shared among the coparceners in the late 13th. (fn. 2) Bartholomew Deumars was named as patron for a turn c. 1342. (fn. 3) In 1362 Sir John Engaine settled the advowson and 1 a. upon feoffees, (fn. 4) from whom it soon passed to Sir John Knyvett, who at his death in 1381 was said to hold it of the earl of Oxford. (fn. 5) Subsequent lords of the manor and its moieties frequently purported from the mid 16th century to the mid 17th to convey and inherit the advowson (fn. 6) but it was actually exercised by others. From 1406 to 1504 the Crown presented. (fn. 7) Henry VIII assigned the patronage to his illegitimate son Henry, duke of Richmond, who presented in 1535. (fn. 8) The advowson was sold in 1543 as parcel of the duchy of Richmond to Thomas Hutton of Dry Drayton (fn. 9) (d. 1552), whose son John (fn. 10) sold it in 1557 to Thomas Docwra. Docwra in turn sold it with his half manor in 1563 to Elizabeth Thoroughgood, who with her second husband George Grave sold the advowson alone in 1580 to a Hertfordshire husbandman, Thomas Rudd. (fn. 11)
George Hamond, presented by Rudd in 1581, (fn. 12) himself in 1599 presented his successor Robert Bury, (fn. 13) who in 1612 bought the advowson from Rudd or a namesake. (fn. 14) When Bury died in 1638, his eldest son and heir Robert (fn. 15) presented his younger brother Henry, (fn. 16) who bought Robert's rights in 1664. In 1673 Henry Bury sold the advowson to the Greek scholar Dr. James Duport, who later that year gave it to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he had served for 30 years as fellow and tutor. He required fellows named to the rectory to resign their fellowships within a year. (fn. 17) Sir Nicholas Pedley briefly disputed the college's right in 1677, (fn. 18) but thereafter the college regularly presented Trinity men, often ex-fellows, until the 19th century. (fn. 19) In 1897 it sold the advowson to E. T. Hooley, (fn. 20) whose wife was nominally patron until c. 1912 and with whose former estate it was sold in 1916. From Robert Davidson, patron c. 1920, it passed by 1925 to the Revd. Lionel Richard Lewis (fn. 21) (d. c. 1950). His heir Miss L. C. Lewis gave it c. 1952 to the Universities Mission for Central Africa, which in 1966 transferred it to the Ely Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 22)
The living, always a rectory, was worth c. £5 in the early 13th century and c. £10 in the late 13th century. Swavesey priory claimed to have a tithe portion, taxed at £5 in 1254 and 2 marks in 1291, (fn. 23) under a grant of tithes by Count Alan the Red c. 1085 to its mother house, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, Angers (Maine-et-Loire). The count had reserved to the village priest some tithes from the wheat and oats. (fn. 24) In 1301 John de la Haye, then rector, successfully rebutted the priory's claim to two thirds of the de la Haye demesne tithes, (fn. 25) and the portion was not rendered thereafter. (fn. 26) The rectory was worth almost £10 in 1535 (fn. 27) and was valued at £30 a year in 1650 (fn. 28) and £90 in 1728. (fn. 29) In 1831, when it yielded c. £173, (fn. 30) it was augmented, Queen Anne's Bounty and Trinity College each giving £200. (fn. 31) The tithes were commuted in 1841 for a rent charge of £192. (fn. 32) The rectory was thus worth over £200 in the 1870s, its value falling later. (fn. 33) The glebe, reckoned as a yardland in 1279, (fn. 34) for whose 42 a. of field land (fn. 35) only 22 a. were allotted at inclosure, (fn. 36) was mostly sold in 1920. (fn. 37)
The ancient rectory house, which probably stood on the slope west of the church near the brook, (fn. 38) had five hearths c. 1670. (fn. 39) It was rebuilt with a three-bay south front c. 1820 on a new site slightly further west and was extended in 1854. In 1952 it was sold and a new glebe house was obtained south-east of the village playing field. (fn. 40)
Rectors and chaplains were recorded from the early 13th century, when Peter of Beach gave a chaplain land, including a croft by the churchyard, to maintain a daily light. (fn. 41) In the Middle Ages it was difficult to retain incumbents for the impoverished living. Two newly appointed rectors c. 1342 were successively licensed to be absent, one to study. (fn. 42) There were five rectors between 1406 and 1416, (fn. 43) three between 1436 and 1446, (fn. 44) and four between 1468 and 1482. (fn. 45) They mostly quitted Papworth by resignation or exchange. In 1458 and 1504 the Crown presented fellows of King's Hall, Cambridge. The second, Ralph Whitehead, held Papworth with numerous benefices in the west Midlands until his death c. 1535. (fn. 46) A rector presented in 1555 was still studying at Oxford in 1561 and employed no curate. Neither he nor a successor of 1565 provided the required quarterly sermons and there was no communion table in 1564. (fn. 47)
Robert Bury probably lived at Papworth during his 40-year incumbency, 1599-1638. His son Henry, rector 1638-77 and also resident, (fn. 48) was said to be well liked in 1650. (fn. 49) The five Trinity men presented between 1678 and 1694 rapidly left Papworth for better things, (fn. 50) but George Muriell retained it and resided from 1695 until his death, aged 73, in 1737. In 1728 he held three sacraments a year attended by 10-12 people but only one service each Sunday, since he also served Eltisley as sequestrator. (fn. 51) Succeeding rectors were mostly absentees. In 1745 one lived at Offord (Hunts.). (fn. 52) John Lee, 1755-78, also held Kingston in 1775 and had a curate at Papworth, (fn. 53) as did his successors in 1807, 1825, and 1836. (fn. 54) Until the 1830s the curates, when resident, catechized regularly but held only one service with a sermon each Sunday, besides the customary quarterly communions. (fn. 55)
The brothers George and Frederick Cheere, sons of the lady of the manor, served alternately as curates from the mid 1820s until c. 1851 (fn. 56) and had introduced two Sunday services by 1836, when Frederick claimed 16 communicants. (fn. 57) In 1851 George reported an afternoon attendance of 60 adults. (fn. 58) James Law Challis, rector 1860- 79, was in 1873 providing two Sunday services with sermons, Friday evening services during two thirds of the year, and monthly communions, regularly attended by c. 26 of 40 communicants. (fn. 59) By 1885 there were 60 communicants and under a young and enthusiastic rector E. E. Galloway (d. 1894), strongly supported by the Cheeres, communions were held weekly and virtually the whole population went to church regularly. Even the village Feast was temporarily converted into a church dedication festival. (fn. 60) The church developed a strong musical tradition through the efforts of Frances Cheere and her protégé, its organist S. H. Williams, who also composed operettas for local performance. She probably built St. Peter's House for him in 1862, facing the church with a relief of St. Cecilia over its porch. A choir was established by 1873 and a new organ installed in 1860 was apparently twice replaced in 1871 and 1884. (fn. 61) The parish continued to have resident rectors in the 1980s. (fn. 62)
The church of ST. PETER, so named from the early 13th century, (fn. 63) was probably rebuilt soon after 1300. It was reconsecrated in 1352. (fn. 64) It consisted of a chancel and three-bay nave, both buttressed, and a west tower. Most windows had quatrefoils over their two lights. (fn. 65) It was still thatched in 1601 but was tiled by 1685. (fn. 66) Wall paintings of the Four Evangelists and Abraham sacrificing Isaac were ordered by William Dowsing to be obliterated in 1644. (fn. 67) A plain octagonal 13th-century font, surviving in 1982, stood by the south door in 1745, when the ancient pulpit and rood screen were still in place, but despite an order of 1638 (fn. 68) there were in 1745 no altar steps or rails. In 1552 one of the three bells had recently been sold to pay for repairs. (fn. 69) It was replaced under a bequest from William Morden (d. 1651). (fn. 70)
The tower, dangerously cracked on both sides in 1685, (fn. 71) was split by a high wind in 1741, when its south side fell, badly damaging the nave. The rest of the tower was then taken down, two of the three bells being sold to pay for the rebuilding. The tall narrow tower arch was blocked and a bellcot was made above it to hold the remaining bell, recast in 1743. (fn. 72) About 1800 the south side of the nave was occupied by pews, the Cheeres having one over their family vault, and the north side was filled with old oak benches. (fn. 73) About 1850 the church was rebuilt, largely at the expense of W. H. Cheere and his brothers in memory of their mother (d. 1849). The chancel walls were repaired and two new lancets inserted in them. The nave walls were entirely reconstructed and the roofs, floors, and woodwork were entirely renewed, save for the early 17thcentury communion table. Plain marble early 19th-century tablets to members of the Cheere and Morden families were reset in the nave walls. (fn. 74) In 1851 the church could seat 90 people. (fn. 75) The medieval south doorway was reset in a new vestry built south of the nave and in 1860 an organ chamber was built south of the chancel. (fn. 76) In 1870-1 the Revd. Frederick Cheere extended the nave westwards by one bay over the site of the former tower, to provide 140 seats in all, and a new tower was built north of the medieval north doorway. It contains two bells, one given in 1873. (fn. 77) A spire added in 1876-7 was removed in 1962 as being dangerous. (fn. 78) E. T. Hooley paid for a new roof c. 1900. (fn. 79)
Emma Cheere gave a new set of plate in 1843 (fn. 80) and Hooley a chalice in 1909. (fn. 81) The parish registers are continuous from 1565. (fn. 82) The churchyard was several times extended after 1920 for the frequent burials of tuberculosis patients. (fn. 83) In 1958 a small chapel was dedicated in the Hall grounds for the Settlement and hospital. (fn. 84)