Chippenham: Church

Pages 384-387

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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Chippenham church, which existed by the 12th century, served both Chippenham and Badlingham. It had belonged to the Mandevilles but was granted c. 1136-44 by Geoffrey de Mandeville to Walden abbey (Essex), and was probably appropriated by the 1220s, when a vicarage was recorded. (fn. 1) In 1279 the abbey held 45 a., probably appropriated rectorial glebe, and 52 a. of freehold, presumably part of the freeholders' gifts of 102 a. made in the mid 13th century. (fn. 2) The abbot of Walden released the monks of Sibton from paying great tithes on their land at Badlingham c. 1220-30. (fn. 3) A dispute between the abbot of Walden and the preceptor of Chippenham was resolved in 1228 when the earl of Essex confirmed the tithes of Chippenham's demesne to the preceptor, but in 1284 the abbot of Walden only recognized 1 a. of the preceptory's warren to be free of tithe. (fn. 4) The abbots of Walden retained the rectory, including the great tithes and the advowson of the vicarage, until the Dissolution. (fn. 5) In 1538 Sir Thomas Audley acquired with the abbey estate the advowson and great tithes, both of which he sold to John Bowles (d. 1543). (fn. 6) Those rights passed to his son Thomas, and from the late 16th century the advowson and the impropriate rectory descended with Chippenham manor. In the early 18th century the great tithes were being paid with the Chippenham estate rents, but they were commuted in 1839. (fn. 7)

In 1640 the patron specified what lands belonged to the vicarial glebe, which 1663 × 1790 comprised 14 a. of arable, lying in 21 strips in four of Chippenham's fields, and 1 a. of pasture in Badlingham. (fn. 8) In 1791 the inclosure commissioners allotted 15 a. east of the church as vicarial glebe. (fn. 9) In 1839 the glebe's tithe rentcharge was £1 10s.; in 1887 its gross rent was £18, but its value thereafter declined. (fn. 10) The glebe was let out as allotments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but was sold off c. 1949-53. (fn. 11)

The vicar received small tithes, but the medieval vicarage was not particularly wealthy: it was worth £5 in 1254, £8 in 1291, and £16 in 1535. (fn. 12) In 1640 the patron augmented the living to £60, and it yielded £56 in 1650. (fn. 13) In 1658 the next patron recommended a further augmentation as the living by then only yielded a net income of £28. (fn. 14) His successor took over the cost of the living in 1665, and paid £30 to the vicar, whom he housed at Chippenham Hall. (fn. 15) The vicarage was valued c. 1789-92 at c. £100-£120. (fn. 16) In 1780 the former Hospitaller estate, Chippenham Park itself and Manor farm, were exempt from vicarial tithes, which were commuted in 1839 for £326. (fn. 17) In 1843 in return for giving 2 a. of land for building a new vicarage John Tharp (d. 1851) received a £5 reduction in his tithe rentcharge. (fn. 18) Between 1866 and 1876 the income of the living increased from £284 to £373 gross, but thereafter declined. (fn. 19) As the advowson was in private hands in 1941, Chippenham vicarage was not eligible for augmentation above £300, and the patron's wish to increase its value by transferring funds from Snailwell rectory was not acted upon. (fn. 20) The vicar was in dispute c. 1936-41 with the steward of Chippenham Park over a £5 reduction in tithe rentcharge, and with the Jockey Club of Newmarket over whether the Limekilns gallops should be assessed for tithes as non-agricultural land. (fn. 21)

In 1544 there was a vicarage house for the parish clergy, and a chapel was attached to the manor house. (fn. 22) The vicarage had 7 hearths c. 1664-74. (fn. 23) It was inconvenient, exposed to the elements, and lacking adequate out-house facilities in 1671, but was repaired in 1674. (fn. 24) The house was almost certainly the flint- and-brick vicarage which stood in a 1-a. plot next to the church, east of the main street, in 1712. (fn. 25) The vicarage was unoccupied c. 1805-37, and was inadequate in 1840. (fn. 26) Work on a new vicarage north-east of the church began in 1846, using materials from Snailwell manor house and Landwade Hall. (fn. 27) The vicar Augustus Tharp, who designed the house in a Gothic style, only lived there for a few years, (fn. 28) and in 1861 his curate lived there. (fn. 29) The vicarage was, however, occupied by successive vicars between 1881 and 1942, but since 1954 has been a private house. (fn. 30) In 1954 a site on the corner of High Street and New Street was retained for a new vicarage house, completed in 1972. (fn. 31) A church house, possibly used by curates, was sold off in 1784. (fn. 32) A vicarage tithe barn, 13 m. by 5 m., was used c. 1699-1791, but demolished in 1846. (fn. 33)

The medieval vicarage was generally held by undistinguished clergy: in 1385 it was vacant, and in 1386 it was exchanged. (fn. 34) Thomas Bowles was the first layman to present a vicar, in 1549. (fn. 35) The next incumbent, presented in 1554, held Chippenham in plurality with Dullingham vicarage, but only served Chippenham for three years. (fn. 36) Conditions then stabilized: the next vicar served for thirty years, and Nicholas Allen, presented by Griselda Revett's second husband, served from 1587 until 1633, and was a teaching minister and devout protestant. (fn. 37) In 1640 Sir William Russell assigned the patronage to his son, Sir Francis; he appointed his brother-inlaw and former tutor, Dr. John Gauden, who resigned in 1642 on receiving the deanery of Bocking. (fn. 38) His successor George Warren was still vicar in 1650. (fn. 39) In 1653-4 Sir Francis Russell solemnized a marriage as J.P. (fn. 40)

The next two vicars shared their patrons' strong protestant views. (fn. 41) Isaac Archer, only resident for 21 months during his 26-year tenure from 1663, usually served Chippenham through curates until his resignation in 1688. (fn. 42) Samuel Barker, vicar 1699-1707, and Samuel Knight, vicar 1707-17, held the living in plurality with Burrough Green rectory to the south. (fn. 43) Knight, also a prebendary of Ely cathedral from 1714, was Lord Orford's chaplain, sharing his patron's strong anti-Catholic attitudes. (fn. 44) From 1718 until 1794 Dr. Clement Tookie (d. 1748) and his son, also Clement (d. 1794), held the living in succession, both in plurality with the neighbouring rectory of Worlington (Suff.). (fn. 45) From 1724 Dr. Tookie also had an Ely prebend, and between 1728 and 1791, when the owners of Chippenham Park were absentees, he and his son effectively acted as squires of the parish. (fn. 46)

John Tharp (d. 1804) had intended to unite the benefices of Chippenham and Snailwell, but the plan was opposed by the rector of Snailwell. (fn. 47) Chippenham was not notably well served by its 19th-century vicars, except for Augustus Tharp who served as vicar of Chippenham for 40 years. From 1805 until 1837 his predecessor, an absentee, Thomas Sisson, also rector of Wallington (Herts.), hired the ministers of Fordham and Kennett in succession as curates. (fn. 48) Augustus Tharp, son of John (d. 1851), became vicar in 1838. (fn. 49) He enjoyed good relations with the labourers, and provided for the poor. (fn. 50) After 1855 he was also rector of Snailwell, residing at Snailwell rectory, (fn. 51) and employed four clergymen in succession as curates for both parishes. (fn. 52) Between 1878 and 1907 there were five vicars, and, although one resigned after only six months, the rest served for between seven and ten years each. (fn. 53) Between 1907 and 1997 Chippenham was served by eight vicars. (fn. 54) Since 1943 the vicarage of Chippenham has been held with Snailwell rectory, and from 1972 the Chippenham vicarage house has been the residence for the combined livings. (fn. 55)

There were four guilds in 1464, of the Trinity, Corpus Christi, St. John, and St. Margaret. One of them may have founded the guildhall whose existence was only revealed to a royal commission in 1561; it was sold by the Crown in 1569. (fn. 56)

In 1603 there were 126 communicants. (fn. 57) In September 1663 the vicar preached twice on Sundays, but after April 1664 there was only one Sunday service. (fn. 58) In 1665 no communion had been celebrated for c. 20 years, but in 1672 there were 126 conformists. (fn. 59) Services were well attended between 1806 and 1820, when there was one service every Sunday alternating between mornings and afternoons. (fn. 60) Communicants numbered c. 14-15 in 1806, c. 10-12 in 1813, 30 in 1820, and 55 in 1889. (fn. 61) Communion was held quarterly between 1806 and 1820, and fortnightly in 1885. (fn. 62) In 1997 there was a service every Sunday morning, and communion was held fortnightly.

The parish church, dating from the 12th century, consists of a chancel divided off by two arches from a chapel on its south side, and with a vestry on its north, an aisled nave of seven bays, and a rectangular west tower. Since 1279 the church has been dedicated to ST. MARGARET OF ANTIOCH. (fn. 63) There are traces of round-headed 12th-century windows in the chancel and at the nave east end. (fn. 64) The nave was rebuilt in the 13th century, from which period survives the north arcade with closely set piers, alternately round and octagonal. The 13th-century south chapel is entered from the south aisle through an arch. The south porch dates from the 14th or 15th century. About 1447 a fire gutted the interior, (fn. 65) probably leading to the reconstruction of the nave and aisles. The south arcade was rebuilt, new square-headed aisle windows were inserted, and a clerestory was added, its windows having two cinquefoil lights on the north side, three on the south side. The west tower is also 15th-century, as is probably some of the woodwork, including benches with poppyheads.

Four 15th-century wall paintings plastered over with psalm texts in the mid 17th century were uncovered during the restoration of 1884-87. (fn. 66) One on the north wall of the north aisle, showing St. Michael and the Virgin at the Last Judgement with the arms of Sir Robert Botyll, prior of the Hospitallers 1439-69, was damaged during restoration work in the 1970s. It was barely visible by 1997, along with one of St. George and the Dragon in the south aisle. Fragments of the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus then survived at the north aisle east end. The painting of St. Christopher further west, facing the south door, was in good condition.

In 1643 William Dowsing destroyed two paintings, and stained glass. (fn. 67) In 1745 the chancel had a thatched roof, and its screen was adorned with emblems of the monarchies of the British Isles and France, with inscriptions for Charles II. The manorial pew, possessed successively by Lord Sandys and the Tharp family, faced the pulpit at the east end of the south aisle until the Second World War, but was then removed to create an open area. In 1876 a gallery still stood across the west side of the tower arch for singers and an organ, and in the late 19th century the congregation still turned to face the gallery when singing hymns. In 1883 only the lower panels of the 17th-century chancel screen survived. In 1885 the chancel was rebuilt to designs by Finch Noyes, with a new floor, screen, pews, and arch, and its east window was glazed in memory of J. S. Tharp (d. 1875). In 1893 a new timber roof was placed over the nave, and three years later the old gallery at the west end was pulled down. From the late 19th century the Tharp family had a vault underneath the south chapel, with access from the south side of the altar. A wooden screen, erected in 1943, enclosed the east end of the north aisle to form a memorial chapel for the Tharp family. That also serves as a War Memorial chapel.

The west tower of three stages, constructed of clunch, flint, and pebble rubble, with its embattled parapet and moulded plinth, was restored in 1994 with a loan from the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust. (fn. 68) There are six bells in the tower: one, cast at King's Lynn (Norf.) c. 1325-50, bears a dedication to the patron St. Margaret, and one was cast in 1703. (fn. 69) In 1898 two others were recast and rehung, and a sixth bell was given by the tenant of the Cottage.

On the north wall of the chancel there is a monument to Sir Thomas Revett (d. 1582). The south chapel contains seven memorial plaques for members of the Tharp family, and at the western end of the south aisle wall there are marble tablets for Dr. Clement Tookie (d. 1748) and his family. In 1930 12 p. of glebe was incorporated into the churchyard on its north side, and in 1947 a further 1,630 sq. m. was added. (fn. 70)


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. iv. 141, 149; B.L. Cott. MS. Nero C. ix, f. 30.
  • 2. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 506; B.L. Harl. MS. f. 160v.; above, econ. hist.
  • 3. Sibton Cart. iv (Suff. Chart. x), 24-5.
  • 4. C.R.O., P 44/28/2.
  • 5. Val. of Norwich, ed. Lunt, 432; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 503.
  • 6. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), pp. 212, 410; P.R.O., CP 25/2/21/20, no. 63; C.R.O., R 55/7/7/1-4; Norf. R.O., REG/31, p. 1265.
  • 7. C.R.O., R 55/7/7/105.
  • 8. B.L. Add. MS. 5807, f. 128; W. Suff. R.O., 806/1/5/Chippenham 1663-1791.
  • 9. W. Suff. R.O., 806/1/5/Chippenham 1796; P.R.O., IR 29/4, no. 19; Crockford (1926, 1935).
  • 10. P.R.O., IR 29/4, no. 19; Glebe Returns, 1887, 47; Crockford (1926, 1935).
  • 11. Church Com. file 92060.
  • 12. Val. of Norwich; ed. Lunt, 432; Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 121; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 503.
  • 13. B.L. Add. MS. 5807, f. 128; Lamb. Pal. MS. COMM. XIIa/13, f. 277.
  • 14. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1658-9, p. 48.
  • 15. Two East Anglian Diaries, ed. Storey, 88, 100.
  • 16. Camb. Chron. 17 Jan. 1789, p. 1; C.R.O., R 55/7/ 7/205.
  • 17. C.R.O., R 55/7/10/3; P.R.O., IR 29/4, no. 19.
  • 18. Church Com. file 58016.
  • 19. Clergy List (1866); Church Com. files 53270, 53910; Crockford (1896 and later edns. to 1951-2).
  • 20. Church Com. file 53910.
  • 21. Ibid. 58016; 5742.
  • 22. C.R.O., R 55/7/5/1(15).
  • 23. P.R.O., E 179/84/437, rot. 75; E 179/244/22, f. 13; E 179/244/23, rot. 85.
  • 24. Two East Anglian Diaries, ed. Storey, 137, 148.
  • 25. C.R.O., 71/P 3; W. Suff. R.O., 813/1/5/Chippenham 1699-1729.
  • 26. Norf. R.O., VIS/42/4; VIS/47/10; VIS/54/4; VIS/59/2; ibid. glebe terrier (1846).
  • 27. Barber, Hist. Chippenham, 35.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. P.R.O., RG 9/1035, f. 16
  • 30. Ibid. RG 11/1680, f. 16; Church Com. file P 106.
  • 31. Church Com. file P 106; inf. from the vicar.
  • 32. Camb. Chron. 8 May 1784, p. 3.
  • 33. W. Suff. R.O., 806/1/5/Chippenham 1699-1791; ibid. glebe terrier (1846).
  • 34. Norf. R.O., REG/31, p. 1265; Lamb. Pal. Reg. Courtenay, f. 260.
  • 35. Norf. R.O., REG/31, p. 1265.
  • 36. Ibid.; Alum. Cantab. to 1751, i. 212.
  • 37. Norf. R.O., REG/31, p. 1265; Alum. Cantab. to 1751, i. 19; B.L. Harl. MS. 595, f. 183; Spufford, Contrasting Communities, 338.
  • 38. Norf. R.O., REG/31, p. 1265; Alum. Cantab. to 1751, ii. 200; B.L. Add. MS. 5807, f. 128; D.N.B.
  • 39. Alum. Cantab. to 1751, iv. 340; Lamb. Pal. MS. COMM. XII a/13, f. 277.
  • 40. C.R.O., P 44/1/1-2.
  • 41. Alum. Cantab. to 1751, i. 37; iii. 313; Two East Anglian Diaries, ed. Storey, 87, 97-8, 112; Spufford, Contrasting Communities, 339-40.
  • 42. Two East Anglian Diaries, ed. Storey, 17, 97, 100, 114, 122, 142, 148, 163, 174-5.
  • 43. Norf. R.O., REG/31, p. 1265; Alum. Cantab. to 1751, i. 87; iii. 29; D.N.B.
  • 44. D.N.B.; Barber, Hist. Chippenham, 29.
  • 45. Alum. Cantab. to 1751, iv. 251; Alum. Oxon. 1715- 1886, iv. 1427.
  • 46. Barber, Hist. Chippenham, 32-3; C.R.O., R 55/7/7/202.
  • 47. C.R.O., R 55/7/12a; R 55/7/23/1-5.
  • 48. P.R.O., IND 17011, f. 260v.; Alum. Oxon. 1715-1886, iii. 972; Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900, v. 523; Norf. R.O., VIS/42/4; VIS/47/10; VIS/54/4.
  • 49. Barber, Hist. Chippenham, 34.
  • 50. C.R.O., R 55/7/23/19.
  • 51. Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900, vi. 146; Camb. Chron. 6 Jan. 1844, p. 2; 13 Feb. 1847, p. 2; 24 Nov. 1849, p. 2.
  • 52. Below, Snailwell, church; Camb. Chron. 24 Mar. 1855, p. 3; 22 Aug. 1857, p. 4; 30 Jan. 1858, 4; 18 Oct. 1862, p. 8; 24 Nov. 1870, p. 5.
  • 53. Clergy List (1881); Alum. Oxon. 1715-1886, iii. 830; Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900, i. 144; Crockford (1886-1907); Camb. Chron. 19 Jan. 1878, p. 4; 20 July 1878, p. 4; 16 Apr. 1897, p. 8.
  • 54. Crockford (1915 and later edns.); Camb. Evening News, 5 May 1969.
  • 55. Crockford (1947 and later edns.).
  • 56. Trans. C.H.A.S. i. 351, 370, 387.
  • 57. B.L. Harl. MS. 595, f. 183.
  • 58. Two East Anglian Diaries, ed. Storey, 92, 97.
  • 59. Ibid. 89; Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 231.
  • 60. Norf. R.O., VIS/42/4; VIS/47/10; VIS/54/4.
  • 61. Ibid. VIS/42/4; VIS/47/10; VIS/54/4; C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/30.
  • 62. Ibid.; Norf. R.O., VIS/42/4; VIS/47/10; VIS/54/4.
  • 63. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 505.
  • 64. Architectural account based on B.L. Add. MS. 5807, ff. 120-8; Eccl. Top. Eng. vi, no. 179; D.o.E. list (1984); A brief guide of St. Margaret's Church, Chippenham; Barber, Hist. Chippenham.
  • 65. Lysons, Cambs. 167.
  • 66. Proc. C.A.S. vi. 322-9; Barber, Hist. Chippenham, 12-3; brief guide of Chippenham Church.
  • 67. B.L. Add. MS. 5807, f. 120.
  • 68. Newmarket Jnl. 20 Jan. 1994.
  • 69. Cambs. Bells (C.A.S. 8vo ser. xviii), 35.
  • 70. C.U.L., E.D.R., G 3/30/5, pp. 304-7; G 3/30/6, pp. 55-7.