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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The benefice, usually called solely Stow until the 1370s, (fn. 1) was a rectory until appropriated in 1457. Thereafter it became a perpetual curacy. The living was called a vicarage after its endowment in 1871. (fn. 2) About 1090 Picot gave two thirds of his vassals' demesne tithes at Quy to his foundation, Barnwell priory, (fn. 3) which retained a tithe portion into the 14th century. (fn. 4)
The patronage of Stow rectory probably belonged to the manor at Stow held of Ramsey abbey. In the 13th and 14th centuries the advowson of the church, then worth £8-12, (fn. 5) was enjoyed by the lords of Dengaines manor: (fn. 6) in the 1260s an Engaine was the first recorded rector. (fn. 7) Sir John Engaine presented in 1349, (fn. 8) Sir William Papworth in 1381 and 1403. (fn. 9) After that year the advowson was separated from the manor. (fn. 10) It had passed to the newly founded King's College, Cambridge, (fn. 11) by 1457 when Henry VI arranged its transfer to Barnwell priory in an exchange. He authorized the priory to appropriate the church without endowing a vicarage, and free of any duty to assist the parish poor. (fn. 12) In the formal appropriation the same year the bishop confirmed those concessions and permitted the priory to serve the parish by one of its canons or a secular priest. (fn. 13)
After the Dissolution Stow cum Quy was among the rectories which Elizabeth I assigned to the bishop of Ely by exchange in 1562. (fn. 14) Including besides all the tithes c. 65 a. of glebe, it was held under the bishops on beneficial leases at a rent, unchanged from the 1520s to the 1830s, of £20, by 1600 for terms of three lives. The lessees were to maintain the chancel and pay the £7 salary assigned by 1528 to the secular chaplain serving the parish, whose nomination the bishop reserved to himself. In the late 16th and early 17th century the lessees included local gentry families, such as the Hindes of Madingley and the Ventrises. (fn. 15) The curate's stipend, £10 by 1650, (fn. 16) was £32 from the 1760s. (fn. 17) In 1826 Queen Anne's Bounty gave £600 to augment it by c. £20 more. (fn. 18)
At inclosure in 1840, when 56 a. were allotted for the glebe, (fn. 19) William Cole Ambrose, the rectory lessee since 1830, accepted a rentcharge of £550, apportioned in 1840, for all tithes. (fn. 20) In 1859-60, in return for the reversion of the glebe allotment along with the £50 tithe rentcharge on his own lands, Ambrose surrendered the remainder of the rentcharge. (fn. 21) After the last life ran out in 1870, c. £303 of that rentcharge was transferred in 1871 to the living, replacing the stipend. (fn. 22) The vicar's income declined to c. £240 by the late 1890s. (fn. 23) The bishop of Ely remained patron of the vicarage in the 1980s. (fn. 24)
The rector's house probably stood in the Middle Ages in the 2 1/2-a. Parsonage close at Stow, just north of the church, which remained part of the rectorial glebe until inclosure, when it was empty. (fn. 25) A cottage called in 1528 the priest's chamber, east of Quy village crossroads, perhaps housed the parish chaplains. In the early 19th century, as perhaps by 1650, the rectory lessee occupied it with the parsonage farmstead. (fn. 26) In 1782 there was no house for the curates. (fn. 27) In 1887 T. M. Francis gave £300 to buy a site south of Stow Road, upon which a tall redbrick house was built in 1887-8. (fn. 28) It was still occupied by the minister in 1990.
In the 13th century Quy had no church of its own, (fn. 29) but only a chapel of St. Nicholas, for whose chaplain its lord, William of Heybridge (d. 1235 × 1238), assigned 4 qr. of wheat a year from his demesne. (fn. 30) In 1279 a chaplain held 27 a. under Quy manor for serving that chapel, (fn. 31) of which the lord of Quy was patron in 1290. (fn. 32) Chaplains were presented in 1292 and in the 1340s, (fn. 33) but apparently not thereafter. Plans were made in 1405 to re-endow that chapel. (fn. 34) Its site is uncertain. It has been suggested that stone walling once visible in the park, west of the Quy crossroads, represented its remains and that fragments of 13th-century pier capitals in Quy Hall gardens came from it. (fn. 35)
In 1450 John Ansty (I) founded at his Holmhall manor house a chantry chapel in honour of St. Anne, approved by the bishop in 1455, and in use by 1458. The lords, not only Ansty's descendants in tail male, but also future purchasers, were to be patrons of Ansty's chantry, incorporated by royal licence. Its priest, instituted by the bishop, also served as a domestic chaplain, being required to say the daily commemorative masses at times chosen by the lord, besides singing the canonical hours according to the Sarum use, with many specially devised prayers. Lodged in two chambers east of the chapel, the priest was to be present during major church seasons, and at St. Anne's day; he could be removed for non-residence or pluralism. Succeeding lords maintained the chapel, on an upper floor of the manor house. (fn. 36) Between 1465 and 1522 they frequently presented chaplains, (fn. 37) whose income, £8 6s. 8d. in 1535, (fn. 38) came from a messuage and 68 a. in Quy. After the chantry was confiscated in 1548, (fn. 39) that property was possessed from the late 16th century by Crown lessees. (fn. 40)
In 1260 Stow had a vicar, perhaps an absentee rector's deputy. (fn. 41) Rectors were regularly recorded from the 1340s. (fn. 42) One, appointed in 1349 and in office until 1381, (fn. 43) was licensed in 1379 to be absent for three years. (fn. 44) He was assisted by parish chaplains, (fn. 45) one of whom was also away in 1376-7 celebrating an obit in Suffolk. (fn. 46) Another chaplain was reported in 1406. (fn. 47) A parish priest mentioned in 1463 (fn. 48) was probably Barnwell priory's nominee to serve the church. Parish priests were recorded into the 1520s, when they were sometimes styled curates. (fn. 49)
Priests were sometimes employed by guilds. A guild, founded before 1360, of St. John the Baptist, whose altar stood in the church c. 1475, was still active in 1389, admitting both sexes. Its members were to attend vespers and high mass at its patron's Nativity, and also members' funerals, provided at the common expense for poorer ones. It paid 7d. weekly, for life if need be, to brethren who fell into poverty. Its surplus income went to maintain the parish church. (fn. 50) A guild of All Saints was allegedly failing to pay its priest his salary in 1379. (fn. 51) In 1526 there was an altar of Our Lady of Pity, (fn. 52) and bequests for masses, once of the Five Wounds, continued until the early 1540s. (fn. 53)
Stow cum Quy continued to be served after the Reformation by curates, one appointed for life in 1536. (fn. 54) Before 1640 few curates held office for more than four or five years. (fn. 55) Stephen Rant, curate by 1640, served through all political changes until his death in 1682. In the 1650s, when he received a temporary augmentation of £15, he sometimes attended meetings of the Cambridge Presbyterian classis. Like most of his successors, but few of his predecessors, he was a graduate. (fn. 56) Later curates again proved transient: there were 20 over the next century, among them c. 1720 Thomas Herring, later archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 57) In 1728 the curate, nonresident like all his successors for 150 years, lived in college but provided two services each Sunday and the sacrament four times a year for 19 communicants. (fn. 58) Similar services were held in 1776, when the curate lived nearby at his family home at Bendishe House in Bottisham. (fn. 59) James Hicks, appointed c. 1784, served the church from his seat at Wilbraham Temple until his death in 1826, performing only morning services in 1807. By 1825 he had increased the number of communicants to c. 15. (fn. 60)
Edward Ventris, curate and later vicar from 1826 to his death in 1886, (fn. 61) could similarly perform only one service in person until the 1870s, being also by the 1830s chaplain of the county gaol in Cambridge, where he lived. (fn. 62) Evening services were sometimes provided by assistant curates, particularly from the 1850s. (fn. 63) In the mid 19th century the church had c. 300 sittings, pews for the farmers in the aisles, benches for the labourers in the nave, 180 seats being free in 1897. (fn. 64) By the 1870s Ventris held communion twice a month, attracting 25-30 communicants, most of the villagers being churchgoers. (fn. 65) From 1888 vicars occupied the new vicarage. One claimed 50 communicants in 1891, when communion was held weekly, (fn. 66) and in 1897 there were 300 churchgoers, but 60 others neglected all worship. The vicar, who had started a Bible class and parish library, held services at Quy station waiting room for people from houses far off in the fen. (fn. 67) He served from 1894 to 1924. After six incumbents during 20 years, a retired missionary appointed in 1946 was still in 1990 serving in his 80s as priest-in-charge. (fn. 68)
The church of ST. MARY, so named by the 1340s, (fn. 69) stands at Stow End somewhat east of the village crossroads. Built of fieldstones dressed with ashlar, it consists of a chancel, a nave of four bays, aisled and clerestoried, and a west tower. (fn. 70) From the 12th-century nave survives part of a small round-headed window over the south arcade. In the early 13th century the nave walls were apparently pierced to make two transeptal chapels. The entrance arch of the south transept, triple-chamfered with some dogtooth on its responds, has been incorporated in the south arcade. The three-stage west tower, whose diagonal eastern buttresses are inserted into the nave, was probably built c. 1300, receiving stepped west buttresses and a west window later in the 14th century. Aisles were added soon after 1300, widening at their east ends into the former chapels. The new nave arcade, of four bays on the north, three new ones on the south, has double-chamfered arches over rounded attached shafts. The aisles have two-light windows, three with mouchettes; those to the south, blocked by 1800, (fn. 71) have had their tracery renewed. The chancel, formerly 44 ft. long, (fn. 72) is also early 14th-century. Its high altar was consecrated in 1346. (fn. 73) Its west end retains two-light windows of that period. Further east, wall arcading with angel headstops had three-light windows inserted in the 15th century. The chancel east window, of three lights as c. 1850, (fn. 74) has renewed reticulated tracery, possibly copying an earlier design. (fn. 75) In the late 15th century threelight windows were inserted in the aisle east walls, and the nave was heightened to receive the existing clerestory of two-light windows under four-centred arches. The low-pitched nave roof, constructed on kingposts and curved braces with traceried spandrels, and having intermediate false hammerbeams over the windows, is also 15th-century, as are the lowpitched roofs of the aisles, though all are much renewed.
The octagonal font, with panels containing shields supported by demi-angels, is 15thcentury. The early 15th-century roodscreen of five divisions has much-cusped openings over a panelled base and open tracery above: its uppermost parts are 19th-century. In the early 18th century glass with the arms of Engaine, Papworth, and Bernard survived in some chancel windows. (fn. 76) Over the nave south arcade is part of a late medieval painting of St. Christopher.
At the nave east end lies a brass to John Ansty (I) in armour, with small figures below of his 12 sons and 4 daughters and an indent for his wife Joan. (fn. 77) Indents for other brasses also survive, and one brass of 1641. Besides 17th-century floorslabs to Robert Lawrence and the Childs, a pedimented wall tablet of 1675 in the north aisle records Lawrence's charitable gift. In the north chapel are 18th- and 19th-century wall monuments, one of which formerly blocked its north window, and a brass of 1845 to the Martins. (fn. 78)
The windows were in decay in 1561, (fn. 79) and the steeple and window glass in poor repair from the 1570s. (fn. 80) By the 1590s some windows were 'daubed up' with clay, while the rectory farmer left the chancel unthatched. (fn. 81) Two chancel windows, bricked up by 1665, had not been reopened by the 1680s, when the chancel, by then tiled, was cracked. (fn. 82) Its north and east walls were threatening to fall by 1739, when Thomas Martin procured a faculty to shorten it by 18 ft. (fn. 83) The upper storey of the tower was replaced c. 1800 with a wooden belfry. (fn. 84) The tower arch was still blocked in the 1840s by a gallery removed in 1855. (fn. 85) Some masonry was renewed in the 1840s, (fn. 86) but work on the chancel in the 1860s was done with poor-quality stone, (fn. 87) and a thorough restoration was effected only in 1879-80 under William White, the tower's third stage being rebuilt in stone and the chancel reroofed. (fn. 88) A new organ, given by the Francises in 1899, was moved to the south aisle in 1901. (fn. 89)
There were up to three chalices c. 1325, one more by 1390, (fn. 90) and in 1552 a silver gilt chalice with a paten. (fn. 91) Only a paten of 1685 survives from the plate acquired in 1687, the remaining plate dating from the early 1870s. (fn. 92) There were four bells in 1552. (fn. 93) Five cast in 1670 were still in place in the late 20th century. (fn. 94) The surviving parish registers begin only in 1650, being complete thereafter; (fn. 95) extracts for 1547-95 are extant. (fn. 96) The churchyard, still thought sufficient in the late 19th century, (fn. 97) was enlarged to the west in 1983. (fn. 98) In 1976 the district council transferred to the parish council another burial ground, acquired in 1953. (fn. 99)