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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In 1279 the lord of Great Childerley was said, on account of the liberty of Huntingdon, to enjoy view of frankpledge, to have a gallows and tumbrel, and to take fines for breaches of the assize of bread and of ale. (fn. 1) The coheirs' claim to have view of frankpledge there by prescription was accepted in 1299. (fn. 2) No courts were recorded after 1500, and no court rolls have been traced.
The parish had no churchwardens in the 17th century, (fn. 3) and only one, probably the tenant at the Hall, occasionally in the 19th. (fn. 4) Even so, Childerley remained a separate civil parish in which money was raised, £40-60 between 1800 and the 1810s, to maintain 3 or 4 paupers. (fn. 5) After 1820 such expenditure fell to £30 or less, (fn. 6) but c. 1830, when no rate was formally levied, because the whole parish was in one hand, allowances were made to large families. (fn. 7) From 1836 Childerley belonged to the Chesterton poor-law union, (fn. 8) and from 1894 to the Chesterton rural district, (fn. 9) being included from 1974 in South Cambridgeshire. (fn. 10)
Churches. Although small, Childerley had by the 13th century two churches, both rectories, one for each manor, (fn. 11) although in 1340 that of Little Childerley was described as a chapel of the other. (fn. 12) The advowson of each belonged in 1279 to the lord of the manor, (fn. 13) and continued to do so until they were united in 1489. In 1315 it was settled, following a lawsuit, that the lords of each moiety of Great Childerley were to present alternately, Margery de Lyons as the elder coheir having the first turn. (fn. 14) That practice continued into the 15th century, (fn. 15) when the Hores were entitled to present alternately to Great Childerley. (fn. 16) They were also sole patrons of Little Childerley. (fn. 17) Following union of the benefices the patronage remained from the 1510s with the Cutts (fn. 18) and Calvert families (fn. 19) and their successors as owners of the Childerley estate, (fn. 20) although the Crown occasionally as in 1585 and 1717 presented by lapse, when the living had long been left vacant. (fn. 21) The incumbency of the depopulated parish had become by the 18th century virtually (though not legally) a sinecure, (fn. 22) and members of the Calvert family, such as William Calvert, rector 1777-1831, nephew, and Nicholson Calvert, 1832-71, youngest son, of the patrons held Childerley with family livings in Hertfordshire. (fn. 23) The Brookes, to whom the patronage was conveyed in 1920, never exercised it, the bishop occasionally presenting by lapse. In 1972 Childerley was formally united with Caldecote, the bishop becoming joint patron of the united benefices of Toft with Caldecote and Childerley. (fn. 24)
In the early 13th century Great Childerley was worth £6, and Little Childerley £1, and c. 1276 the values were £10 and £5 respectively. (fn. 25) No later valuation of Little Childerley by itself has been found. Great Childerley, taxed at £10 in 1291, (fn. 26) was said with Little Childerley chapel to be really worth £13 in 1340 from tithes, other income coming from the yardland and 10 a. that its rector held in 1279. (fn. 27) By the 1450s, however, it was worth only £5 (fn. 28) and in 1535 the united living was assessed at c. £6 10s. (fn. 29) By 1530 the parsonage had been leased to Sir John Cutts at £8 a year. (fn. 30) The glebe, though possibly farmed by a rector who owned cattle and sheep at his death in 1540, (fn. 31) was absorbed without trace into the Cutts estate, (fn. 32) and no tithes were paid by 1639. (fn. 33) Thereafter the titular rector received only £3 a year, which was claimed after 1700 to be a modus in respect of all tithes. Thomas Metcalfe, having procured a Crown presentation in 1717, sued for tithes in kind, but in 1719 compromised, granting the Calverts a 99-year lease of all the tithes for only £20 yearly, (fn. 34) still the whole rectorial income in 1830. (fn. 35) The composition was later raised to £50, the amount for which the tithes were finally commuted in 1849, (fn. 36) and which was the income paid to the curate in the 1880s. (fn. 37) There was probably no rectorial residence after the 16th century. (fn. 38)
Rectors were recorded at Great Childerley from the 1260s (fn. 39) and at Little Childerley from 1286. (fn. 40) Two 13th-century rectors of Great Childerley called 'of Oakley' were presumably of the patrons' family, (fn. 41) as was Nicholas de Lyons, rector until 1341. (fn. 42) The next two rectors were probably absentees, being licensed to lease their cures to other clerics for several years. One in 1341 was the bishop's cross-bearer. (fn. 43) Richard atte Pond, rector from 1349, (fn. 44) who gave a chalice, (fn. 45) was resident c. 1375, (fn. 46) and was succeeded in 1377 by a local man who had a chaplain to help him in 1379 (fn. 47) and served until after 1398. (fn. 48) Rectors were regularly presented to Great Childerley until the 1480s. (fn. 49) At Little Childerley there were at least five rectors between 1386 and 1406, (fn. 50) and a separate parson was still being appointed to it in 1476. (fn. 51) Both livings were vacant by resignation in 1489, when the bishop, who had recently presented to Great Childerley by lapse, united the two churches during his pleasure, collating the first joint incumbent himself. (fn. 52) Little Childerley was described as a free chapel in 1585. (fn. 53) Great Childerley church was perhaps still open in 1540 when a rector expected to be buried in it, (fn. 54) but was probably closed by 1552 when no church plate was reported; (fn. 55) the living was vacant in 1561 and for 25 years thereafter. (fn. 56)
After the Crown had presented in 1585 Sir John Cutts hastily secured his rights by obtaining its nominee's resignation and himself presenting. In 1594 he gave Childerley to James Bridgeman, rector of Lolworth, (fn. 57) who held it until his death in 1631, (fn. 58) and was succeeded by other titular rectors, naturally absentees, until the 1680s. (fn. 59) Their nominal curates, recorded from 1610, actually served as chaplains to the Cutts household in the chapel which Sir John Cutts (d. 1615) had set up south-east of the Hall, and which Bishop Heton (d. 1609) inaugurated by attending a service and sermon there. The chaplain was both appointed and paid by the Cuttses. (fn. 60) In 1681 John Cutts presented the rector of Boxworth to Childerley, probably to avoid a presentation by lapse, (fn. 61) for Childerley was again left vacant from the 1690s to 1717. (fn. 62) Although the pluralist rectors appointed in the 18th century, including a professor of Arabic, 1723-32, (fn. 63) did no duty, the Calverts paid for monthly services in the early 18th century. By the 1740s, however, all services had ceased, the few inhabitants worshipping in adjoining parishes, and the chapel was used as a barn until after 1800. (fn. 64) From the 1870s incumbents of neighbouring parishes were regularly presented as rectors, those of Boxworth, who had long officiated for Childerley, until 1889, those of Conington until 1900. (fn. 65) From 1900 the ministers of Hardwick and the parishes successively linked with it held Childerley, from 1934 as priests-in-charge. (fn. 66)
The chapel was reopened and refurnished in 1882. The rector of Boxworth, once inducted, found a clergyman to serve as curate. The first curate had some success, many neighbouring labourers attending his quarterly communions and the Sunday afternoon services at which he preached. They sometimes overflowed the chapel's 60 sittings, while even dissenters came to his Sunday school, closing their own. When after 1888 he departed the congregation dwindled. By 1897 services were infrequent. (fn. 67) In the 1930s the chapel was virtually a private one for the Brookes, whose household supplied most of up to 12 people attending its afternoon services. (fn. 68) In 1984 it was planned to reopen it for occasional services after a 20-year lapse. (fn. 69)
Great Childerley's medieval church, rededicated in 1352, (fn. 70) was named for ST. NICHOLAS, (fn. 71) but was later thought to be of St. Mary. (fn. 72) It has been supposed to have stood near the east end of the former village street. (fn. 73) In 1639 its decayed walls were said to have been converted for use as a brewhouse and stable. (fn. 74) Numerous burials were found when a lawn south of the Hall was being levelled in 1852. (fn. 75) The existing chapel is that built or rebuilt by Sir John Cutts c. 1600. It is oriented slightly differently from the Hall, and the clunch ashlar of its inner walls, faced externally with red brick, may possibly derive from one of the medieval churches, Sir John's new east window perhaps filling the former chancel arch. In it he installed, in 'Gothic Survival' tracery, glass showing scenes from the Passion above armorial bearings and praying figures of his ancestor Sir John (d. 1521) and his wife, brought from their Essex seat of Horham Hall. (fn. 76) That glass was gone by 1748. (fn. 77) In the 20th century the chapel, of brick and tile, comprised one main room, containing a gallery, and a small north wing, whose roof once carried a bellcot. In 1748 there were, besides the Gothic main cast and west windows, two three-light north windows and two more two-light ones in the north wing, one with a square surround. (fn. 78) In the 1840s the building was partitioned, its eastern half being converted into a cottage, while the other part was used as a smoking room by the occupants of the hall. It was that half which was restored to ecclesiastical use in 1882, (fn. 79) when it was dilapidated and scarcely weatherproof. (fn. 80) It was repaired c. 1983. (fn. 81)