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 advowson of Cheveley was attached to the principal manor until the 18th century. (fn. 1) John Pulteney was licensed in 1344-5 to appropriate it to a chantry in London, (fn. 2) but there is no evidence that he did so. The Crown presented in 1296 as guardian of the heir and in 1576 by lapse. (fn. 3) John Martin presented in 1623 when Anne Cotton was patron. (fn. 4) Although the advowson was still owned with the manor in 1671 and 1732, (fn. 5) the first four presentations after 1660 were by persons other than the lord of the manor. (fn. 6) In or before 1778 the advowson was sold to the Revd. James Thomas Hand, (fn. 7) and for a century was normally owned by the incumbent, successively Hand himself (rector 1778-1831), his sister's grandson James Thomas Bennet (1831-68), (fn. 8) Bennet's son Edward (1868-71), (fn. 9) and James Foster Bradley (1871-8). (fn. 10) A Miss Nicholson was patron by 1879 (fn. 11) and sold the advowson c. 1896 to Harry McCalmont of Cheveley Park. (fn. 12) McCalmont's heir, Major D. M. B. McCalmont, sold it in 1920 to John George Lambton, earl of Durham, who sold it the same year to the Revd. William F. Buttle (fn. 13) (d. 1953), whose executor gave it in 1962 to the Ely Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 14)
A scheme to transfer the suburban Cheveley Park housing estate from Cheveley parish to Newmarket All Saints was approved in 1945 against the wishes of the rector, patron, and parochial church council, and became effective in 1948. (fn. 15) The benefice was joined with three others in 1987 to form the united benefice of Cheveley, Ashley with Silverley, Kirtling, and Wood Ditton with Saxon Street. (fn. 16)
The former rectory house on the west side of High Street almost facing the church, a fivebayed two-storeyed red-brick house with attics and basements, was probably built for the Revd. J. T. Hand early in his incumbency. (fn. 17) The imposing wrought-iron gates were formerly at Horseheath Hall (demolished 1777). (fn. 18) The rectory was sold as a private house in 1946 (fn. 19) and a replacement built immediately to its north remained in use for the united benefice in 2000.
The living provided a moderate income by local standards. (fn. 20) During the 18th century and in 1820 the tithes were mostly taken in kind, (fn. 21) but by the early 1830s mostly in cash. In 1838 they were commuted for a rent charge of £704. (fn. 22) The glebe was reckoned to cover 63¼ a. in 1638 but only 40¼ a. in 1678, mostly comprising strips in the open fields. (fn. 23) The Revd. J. T. Hand exchanged the open-field land with the duke of Rutland for a block of land next to the rectory house, apparently c. 1809, paying a premium for the deal (fn. 24) and reducing the glebe to 35 a., to which 2 a. were added by purchase in 1921. (fn. 25) The Revd. W. F. Buttle sold 22 a. in 1938 and the remaining 15 a. with the house in 1946. (fn. 26)
The medieval patrons probably often presented their clerks as rectors. (fn. 27) There was an anchorite in the 13th century, (fn. 28) and four parish guilds in the later 15th century. (fn. 29) Lights and obits were supported by the rents from 10½ a. (fn. 30) Leonard Cotton (rector 1504-57), a Cambridgeeducated kinsman of the squires, evidently had protestant views on redemption. (fn. 31) During the Civil War Robert Levitt (rector from 1623) fell foul of political opponents and village gossip and was sequestered in 1644, whereupon he withdrew only as far as Woodditton and hindered the collection of tithes for his successor Abraham Wright, an assiduous presbyterian who was heartily disliked by some of his flock. (fn. 32)
There were 30 or 40 communicants in the early 19th century, (fn. 33) and in 1851 the rector claimed an average attendance of 50 adults at morning service and 120 in the afternoon, rather few for a parish of 612 with no regular nonconformist congregation. (fn. 34) The vestry asked for evening services in 1852 (fn. 35) and Edward Bennet formed a Bible Society when he was his father's curate in 1862. (fn. 36) The late Victorian clergy perhaps became complacent, thinking that few adults were totally neglectful of worship. (fn. 37) In fact the bishop in person attracted only 220 adults and young people out of perhaps 500 or 550 to special services in 1913. (fn. 38) In the mid 20th century the parochial church council approved of services 'in simple form, without advanced ritual' and petitioned the patron in 1934 and 1953 for moderate appointments. (fn. 39) Declining congregations later forced Cheveley into sharing clergy with neighbouring parishes. It had occasionally been held with Ashley, as in 1703-30 and 1895-1903, (fn. 40) but amalgamation began to assume permanency from the late 1960s. Cheveley was held with Kirtling 1969-73 and also with Ashley 1973-5, with Ashley alone 1975-84, and with both of them and Woodditton from 1984. (fn. 41) The incumbent always lived at Cheveley, and in 2000 she normally held services in each of the four churches every Sunday. (fn. 42)
The church was dedicated to St. Mary in the 14th century. By the early 16th century parishioners were making bequests to 'St. Mary and all the holy company of heaven', or a similar phrase, as if that were its name, which became the accepted usage even before the church was reconsecrated in 1873 as ST. MARY AND THE HOLY HOST OF HEAVEN. (fn. 43) The church is cruciform, and consists of a chancel with south organ chamber and vestry, transepts, a central tower over the crossing, and an aisleless nave with north porch. It is built throughout of flinty rubble with ashlar dressings. (fn. 44) The church had a cruciform plan by the later 13th century, the date of the crossing arches and of a blocked lancet in the chancel north wall. The 13thcentury sedilia and piscina were destroyed in the 19th century. (fn. 45) The tower was raised by an octagonal stage in the 14th century. Much of the church was refenestrated in the second quarter of the same century with flowing tracery which survives in the transepts and chancel. The structure changed little after 1350. In the 15th century a north porch was added and larger windows were cut through the nave walls. The 15thcentury nave and north transept roofs survive, as do the restored rood screen of c. 1400 (fn. 46) and the 15th-century font.
Internal alterations of the mid 18th century included a private pew for the squire in the south transept. (fn. 47) The first thorough restoration took place in 1850-1 at the expense of John Fairlie. An organ gallery under the chancel arch was pulled down to allow the screen to be restored to its proper place, the organ being moved to the west gallery formerly occupied by the choir. Box pews and an 18th-century pulpit and reading desk were thrown out in favour of new Gothic woodwork. (fn. 48) In 1871-3 the rector J. F. Bradley made extensive repairs, replacing roofs, rebuilding the stair turret and chancel, and adding the organ chamber. (fn. 49) Harry McCalmont and his widow paid for a vestry and internal refurbishments in 1902. (fn. 50) The north transept was fitted out as a chapel in the 1930s. (fn. 51)
The registers are almost complete from 1559. (fn. 52) A burial ground near the church was given by the duke of Rutland and consecrated in 1872, (fn. 53) allowing the churchyard to be closed for burials in 1884. (fn. 54)