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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Landwade was probably not originally formally a separate parish, but it came to be accepted as one from the mid 15th century, perhaps through having its own church; it never had an incumbent of its own, but only curates appointed by various authorities. In 1279 a chapel at Landwade, linked to the rectory of St. Andrew's at Burwell, was in the possession of the prior of Fordham through the gift of Robert of Hastings, made in the early 13th century. (fn. 1) The chapel may have been served by canons from Fordham in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 2) In 1535 it was attached to Burwell rectory, but in 1540 a portion of the tithes was being paid to Exning. (fn. 3) In 1637 it was still officially attached to Burwell, but 'the hamlet (had) quite slipt out of all jurisdiction ecclesiastical'. (fn. 4) In 1763 it was annexed to the vicarage of St. Martin's, Exning (Suff.). (fn. 5) The parish appears to have been attached to St. Martin's in the 19th century, but on occasion the vicar of Burwell was responsible for conducting services. Since 1895 the parish has been attached to St. Martin's and St. Philip's, Exning. (fn. 6) In 1540 the chapel's annual income, including the tithes, was 26s. 6d. (fn. 7) In 1548 the curate at Landwade enjoyed the right to the tithes 'except such part as ought to be paid to the parsonage of Exning'. (fn. 8) In 1650, because the greatest part of the great and small tithes paid by the parishioners of Landwade passed to churches at Fordham and Burwell, the curate only received an income of £4 16s., and the parishioners petitioned for the right to pay the tithes to their own curate. (fn. 9) Chaplains who served at Landwade may not have had any substantial revenues apart from alms from the lord of the manor. From 1707 until 1808 the vicar of Burwell had responsibility for Landwade; in 1808 he received a small stipend from Sir Charles Cotton, in whom all the tithes were vested. (fn. 10) In 1833 the vicar of Burwell received £20 for conducting services at Landwade chapel from Sir St. Vincent Cotton. (fn. 11) In 1912 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners paid the vicar of St. Martin's and St. Philip's, Exning, £3 13s. 10d. for his duties in Landwade. (fn. 12)
In 1833 the vicar of Burwell held one Sunday service every three weeks at Landwade chapel. (fn. 13) As long as Landwade Hall was occupied by members of the Cotton family, services probably continued to be held occasionally, but after 1854 the inhabitants may have been expected to attend Sunday services at St. Martin's church, Exning. In 1863 Landwade church had not been open for worship for a number of years, and it was not until 1883 that services were again provided, when a fellow of St. Catherine's College, Cambridge, held a service on the first Sunday afternoon in each month, and on every Thursday evening. By 1896 the vicar of St. Martin's and St. Philip's in Exning was conducting services on alternate Sunday afternoons, and on every Thursday evening. In the interwar years, however, services were only held on alternate Sundays during the summer months by the vicar of Exning. In 1999 services were held once a month on Sundays during the summer months.
The church has been dedicated to ST. Nicholas since at least c. 1445. The existing church, which is 250 m. north of the modern Landwade Hall but only 5 m. west of the remains of the medieval manorial moat, was apparently built as a private chapel by Walter Cotton c. 1445, and has remained virtually unaltered. In 1912 the principal landowner was still responsible for the upkeep of the church, with £74 being invested for that purpose. (fn. 14) In the late 20th century grants from charitable trusts have helped to keep the church in good order.
Built of coursed flint and partially rendered, it has north and south transeptal chapels of the same length as the chancel, an aisleless nave with south porch, and a low, two-stage west tower. (fn. 15) There is no structural division between the nave and chancel, but the church retains its original five-light traceried screen, which is placed between the two bays of the chapel arcades. These have multiple chamfered orders on compound piers with high bases rising just above the tops of the poppy-headed benches. The east chancel window has three transomed lights with cusped ogee heads to the upper lights. The nave and chapel windows have a simpler two-light design, except for the east window of the north chapel which has three cusped lights in a fourcentred head; it appears to be an addition, perhaps of the early 16th century. All of the original 15th-century glass was apparently removed in the 19th century, but twelve panels mostly figures of saints were returned and reset in the nave windows in 1926-7. The roof, which is also 15th-century, has braced principals supported on carved head-corbels and is ceiled between the principals and above the collars. The churchyard wall, which is of early brick, may be contemporary with the church.
In 1637 the church was in a poor condition: the roof was decayed, and the bells had been sold. (fn. 16) In the early 18th century, however, a new altar table and plain reredos were installed. In 1796 the west face of the tower, which had partially collapsed, was repaired with large brick buttresses and new windows.
The church contains several monuments of the Cottons erected between the 15th century and the early 18th. (fn. 17) In the chancel are three anonymous altar tombs, the plainest in the centre, the others in the eastern corners. That to the south-east, probably of c. 1500, the most elaborate with quatrefoils on its tombchest below a flattened arch over the indents of lost brasses and brattishing above, considerably resembles the earliest, also anonymous, in the south chapel. The north chapel contains the sixposter monument of Sir John Cotton (d. 1593) with reclining figures and heavy strapwork along the top. The south transept accommodates the next three generations: Sir John Cotton (d. 1620) and Sir John (d. 1689) both have halfreclining figures in armour below round arches under broken pediments containing achievements of arms and supported on Corinthian columns, the earlier pediment segmental, the later straight with floral volutes; Sir John (d. 1620) looks down on his reclining wife; Sir John (d. 1693) is alone on his bulky monument with two putti above. Both monuments are surrounded by their original railings. Sir John (d. 1789) and his wife are chastely commemorated in marble by a double portrait medallion supported by weeping putti before an obelisk.