Impington: Church

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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'Impington: Church', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds, (London, 1989) pp. 136-137. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol9/pp136-137 [accessed 11 April 2024]

CHURCH

Niel, bishop of Ely 1133-69, gave Impington church to Ely cathedral priory for the obscure purpose of 'making books' (fn. 1) and in the late 12th century it was held by the precentor of Ely as priory librarian. (fn. 2) Bishop Eustace appropriated it to the prior and convent in the first decade of the 13th century, establishing a vicarage with a stipend of £5. (fn. 3) The prior and convent, and after the Dissolution the dean and chapter, retained the advowson of the vicarage until 1870, when it was exchanged with Charles Bamford of Impington Hall for the advowson of Pirton (Herts.), bought by Bamford for that purpose. (fn. 4) Bamford probably retained it until 1874. (fn. 5) The Revd. J. Purkes was patron in 1875 and George Willson from 1876 to 1882, when it was bought for the Revd. Dennis Hall, who presented himself as vicar in that year. (fn. 6) Hall transferred the patronage in 1916 to the archdeacon of Ely, (fn. 7) who retained it in 1986.

Picot the sheriff gave two thirds of his knights' demesne tithes to his newly founded house of canons regular, later Barnwell priory. (fn. 8) By 1254 they had been commuted for 20s. a year. (fn. 9) The vicars serving the church after appropriation received little of the income, in 1291 only £46s. 8d. to Ely's £16. (fn. 10) No reference has been found to any vicarial glebe, apart from 6 a. rented by the vicar in 1331, (fn. 11) and in the late 15th century the living was worth less than £8 a year. In 1394 and 1491 the income was said to be insufficient to support a vicar. (fn. 12) In the early 16th century it was augmented with £5 a year from the rectory estate, (fn. 13) but in 1535 was worth only £87s. (fn. 14)

In the mid 16th century the vicar received tithes of wool and lambs, (fn. 15) but a century later the small tithes were proving insufficient for his maintenance (fn. 16) and other expedients were found to increase his income, including a lump sum of £25 paid in 1649 out of the dean and chapter's confiscated lands. (fn. 16) During the Interregnum £10 a year was paid out of the rectory estate, (fn. 17) and shortly after 1660 the dean and chapter augmented the living, then worth only £14 a year, with a rent charge of £36. (fn. 18) The sum was still being paid in the 20th century. (fn. 19) The annual value of the living was £50 in 1728, £60 at the end of the century, (fn. 20) and £129 in 1832. It remained extremely low even in the 1920s and 1930s. (fn. 21) After inclosure in 1806 the vicar held 59 a., (fn. 22) sold in 1918. (fn. 23)

There was a vicarage house in 1564, (fn. 24) standing in a close east of the church, (fn. 25) but by 1615 it was said that there was neither house nor land on which to build one, (fn. 26) and no replacement was built until 1949. (fn. 27)

The low value of the living meant that it was rarely able to attract or retain assiduous clergy. There were ten or more vicars between 1350 and 1400, though at least some served longer in the 15th, 16th, and early 17th centuries. After the Restoration incumbencies were again almost all short, the average before 1800 being only eight years, with none longer than 20 years until the mid 19th century. (fn. 28) Vicars in the mid 16th and early 17th centuries commonly employed curates on small stipends. Curates as well as vicars were mostly fellows of Cambridge colleges (fn. 29) who travelled the short distance on Sundays to hold services. A parishioner left the curate a room in his house by the churchyard gate in 1540. (fn. 30) In the late 1640s and during the Interregnum the church was served by the diligent Thomas Bradshaw, but the vicar Thomas Wiborough returned to the parish after 1660. (fn. 31) In 1666 he lived at Impington, preaching and catechizing every Sunday and also reading prayers on Wednesdays. (fn. 32) In 1728 there were usually two Sunday services, (fn. 33) but for most of the 19th century only one, held alternately in the morning and afternoon. Communion was given three times a year before the 1880s. Some residents of the west end of the parish perhaps went to Histon church, (fn. 34) and the average attendance at Impington was put at only 20 adults in 1851. (fn. 35) In 1807 there were only three communicants but later in the century the number was usually c. 10. (fn. 36) The growth of Impington's population in the late 19th century coincided with the incumbency of Dennis Hall, 1882-1916, who introduced two Sunday services and monthly communion, and by holding regular confirmation classes raised the number of communicants to nearly 50 by 1897. (fn. 37) A surpliced choir had been introduced by his predecessor C. H. Crosse. (fn. 38) The vicarage was held in plurality with Histon from 1917 to 1920 (fn. 39) and the vicar of Histon was made priestin-charge in 1984. (fn. 40)

A guild of the Resurrection existed in the 1520s. (fn. 41)

The church of ST. ANDREW, so dedicated by 1744 (fn. 42) but in the late 12th century invoking St. Etheldreda, (fn. 43) consists of a chancel, nave, and west tower, built in field stones and ashlar, and a timber-framed south porch. The 12th-century building is represented by fragments re-used in the south wall of the chancel and perhaps by the lower part of the tower. The chancel and chancel arch were rebuilt in the early 14th century, the chancel's two-light windows being framed internally by large blank arches. The upper part of the tower was completed or rebuilt in the 14th century. Extensive reconstruction took place in the 15th, the nave being rebuilt and reroofed, a new east window inserted, and the porch added. The porch has side openings of three lights and a bargeboarded gable. Wall painting of the 15th century survives on the north wall of the nave, notably a St. Christopher.

In 1744 the altar was raised on a single step and railed in. (fn. 44) There were no high pews or galleries in the mid 17th century, (fn. 45) but in 1779 the rectory lessee wainscotted almost the whole church. (fn. 46) The building was evidently neglected in the late 18th and early 19th century and by 1843 was said to be in a shameful condition, with the chancel arch partly boarded up and the 15th-century roof ceiled between the tiebeams. (fn. 47) Shortly before 1878 there were numerous box pews at the east end of the nave and a stove in its centre. (fn. 48) The church was heavily restored by Ewan Christian in 1878-9, when the chancel arch was widened, much window tracery and other stonework renewed, and decayed timbers in the porch carefully replaced. (fn. 49)

The rood screen was apparently cut up early in the 19th century and partly used to make new seating. (fn. 50) Several medieval benches with poppyhead ends survive. There are bells of c. 1420 and c. 1480, both probably by London bellfounders, and one dated 1652. (fn. 51) A large brass commemorating John Burgoyne (d. 1505) and his wife Margaret (d. 1528) was moved from the nave to the tower in 1879. (fn. 52)

The registers begin in 1562 and are complete. (fn. 53)

Footnotes

  • 1. D. J. Stewart, Archit. Hist. Ely Cath. 280.
  • 2. C.U.L., E.D.R., G 3/28, pp. 402-3.
  • 3. Transcript of charter in C.U.L. supplied by Ely Dioc. Archivist: provisional reference D. & C. Mun. 1/1B, no. 60.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. 29 Nov. 1870, p. 5404; Cussans, Herts. vii/viii. 22; Church Com. file 42732, corr. 1870.
  • 5. Ely Dioc. Cal. (1874), 121; but cf. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/25.
  • 6. Ely Dioc. Cal. (1875-83); Church Com. file NB 14/145, return 1909.
  • 7. Inf. from Ely Dioc. Archivist, citing C.U.L., E.D.R., L 8/1, p. 49.
  • 8. Liber de Bernewelle, 40, 42, 44.
  • 9. Val. of Norwich, ed. Lunt, 221.
  • 10. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 266.
  • 11. St. John's Coll. Mun., D 27/25 (from cal.).
  • 12. E.D.R. (1900), 54; (1902), 122; (1903), 111; (1906), 110; (1909), 106; (1910), 28.
  • 13. Dugdale, Mon. i. 496.
  • 14. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii. 502.
  • 15. C.U.L., E.D.R., D 2/3, ff. 150v., 159v., 161v.
  • 16. Lamb. Pal. MS. COMM. XIIa/7, f. 113.
  • 17. Shaw, Hist. Eng. Ch. 1640-60, ii. 526.
  • 18. Lamb. Pal. MS. COMM. XIIa/3, f. 312; COMM. XIIa/7, f. 113.
  • 19. W. Kennett, The Case of Impropriations (1704), 283.
  • 20. e.g. C.R.O., P 97/3/3; Church Com. file NB 14/145, corr. 1945.
  • 21. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 8/1, f. 20; B 8/4, f. 20.
  • 22. Church Com. file NB 14/145, return 1832; ibid. 62577 (1), corr. 1925, 1928, 1932.
  • 23. C.R.O., Q/RDc 8; Q/RDz 6, pp. 349-50.
  • 24. Ibid. P 97/3/3-4.
  • 25. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 2/4, p. 178.
  • 26. Christ's Coll. Mun., Impington G.
  • 27. C.U.L., E.D.R., H 1/Impington 1615.
  • 28. C.R.O., list of doc. in par. chest, 1976; J. Cook, Impington, pp. 16-17 (copy in Cambs. Colln.); Church Com. file 62577 (1), corr. 1885, 1890, 1921, 1937.
  • 29. Partial lists of vicars in B.L. Add. MS. 5846, f. 46v.; C.U.L., Add. MS. 6380, p. 169.
  • 30. e.g. E.D.R. (1912), 205, 214; (1913), 41; C.U.L., E.D.R., B 2/6, p. 145; B 2/8, p. 101; C.U.L., Add. MS. 6380, p. 168.
  • 31. P.R.O., PROB 1½8, ff. 120v.-121.
  • 32. Lamb. Pal. MS. COMM. XIIa/3, ff. 242-3; COMM. XIIa/7, f. 115; Walker Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 88.
  • 33. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 9/1, no. 52, esp. pp. 7-8 bis, 10, 12.
  • 34. Ibid. B 8/1, f. 20.
  • 35. Ibid. C 1/4; C 1/6; C 3/25; Church Com. file NB 14/145, return 1832.
  • 36. P.R.O., HO 129/186 (1), f. 7.
  • 37. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/4; C 3/21; C 3/25.
  • 38. Ibid. C 3/31; C 3/38; Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900, iii. 198.
  • 39. Camb. Chron. 2 July 1881, p. 7; Alum. Cantab. 1752- 1900, ii. 188; cf. V.C.H. Cambs. viii. 259.
  • 40. Crockford (1925), 316.
  • 41. Ibid. (1983-4), 75.
  • 42. Trans. C.H.A.S. i. 393.
  • 43. B.L. Add. MS. 5805, f. 95.
  • 44. C.U.L., E.D.R., G 3/28, pp. 402-3.
  • 45. B.L. Add. MS. 5805, f. 95.
  • 46. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 9/1, no. 52, p. 7 (first).
  • 47. B.L. Add. MS. 5805, f. 94v.
  • 48. Ecclesiologist, ii (June 1843), 172.
  • 49. C.R.O., P 97/28/3.
  • 50. Ibid. P 97/3/2A; P 97/6/1; P 97/6/3; Church Com. file 57338.
  • 51. Proc. C.A.S. xiii. 63; cf. Camb. Chron. 11 May 1844, p. 3.
  • 52. MS. notes by H. B. Walters (1936), in possession of V.C.H.
  • 53. Cf. Mon. Inscr. Cambs. 87.
  • 54. C.R.O., P 97/1/1-6.