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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The advowson of Lolworth church, which has remained a rectory, belonged from the early 13th century to the lords of the manor. (fn. 1) The first recorded rector was Henry de Colville, from c. 1285 to 1310. (fn. 2) Sir William Thorpe devised the advowson in 1391 to Ely cathedral priory. (fn. 3) The priory made a release c. 1408, Thorpe's feoffees continued to present, and the advowson was reunited with the manor in 1420. (fn. 4) Thereafter the advowson descended with the manor until the 19th century. (fn. 5) Turns to present were occasionally granted: Adam Pennington, to whom a turn was assigned in 1501, had to sue Alexander Hampden before he could use it three presentations later to appoint a kinsman in 1506. (fn. 6) Talbot Williamson (d. 1765) of Husborne Crawley (Beds.) (fn. 7) in 1765 presented his younger brother Edmund (d. as rector 1775), who was succeeded in 1786 by his son and namesake, rector until 1839. (fn. 8) The patronage belonged to John Dodson in 1851, to the Daintrees from the 1870s to 1900, (fn. 9) and by 1905 to trustees. (fn. 10) In 1908 they gave it to the Anglo-Catholic Society for the Maintenance of the Faith, (fn. 11) which remained nominally patron in the 1980s, (fn. 12) although presentation was suspended from 1958. (fn. 13)
Picot's grant of two thirds of his knights' demesne tithes to St. Giles, later Barnwell, priory (fn. 14) was later represented by a pension to that priory of 3 marks in 1254, (fn. 15) 15s. in 1291. (fn. 16) Besides the tithes the rector retained a glebe reckoned as 19 a. of field land in 1639 and 21 a. in 1785, (fn. 17) for which 17½ a. were allotted at inclosure in 1844. (fn. 18) The tithes were commuted in 1841 for a tithe rent charge of £205. (fn. 19) The glebe allotment was sold in 1919. (fn. 20) The rectory was worth £5 in the early and £10 in the late 13th century. (fn. 21) Its value fell below £10 from the 1370s, (fn. 22) and was barely £6 in 1535. (fn. 23) By 1728 it yielded nominally £60, really £80, (fn. 24) by 1790 £120 net, (fn. 25) and c. 1830 £185 net, (fn. 26) which had risen to £225 in 1851 (fn. 27) and £250 gross in the early 1870s, (fn. 28) declining steadily thereafter. (fn. 29)
The rectory house, which in 1615 included a hall, parlour, and kitchen with chambers and solars over them, (fn. 30) and 6 or 7 hearths under Charles II, (fn. 31) probably stood then as later southwest of the church. (fn. 32) About 1727 the rector rebuilt it as a two-storeyed dwelling with four rooms, timber-framed and thatched, (fn. 33) which, falling into disrepair, was again rebuilt between 1795 and 1807. (fn. 34) In 1841 it was occupied by the village carpenter, while the rector, R. H. D. Barham, shared a farmhouse. (fn. 35) He lived at the rectory, presumably rebuilt, in 1851. (fn. 36) The greybrick house, enlarged c. 1871, (fn. 37) remained with the living (fn. 38) until its sale in 1953, when the incumbent moved to his gardener's cottage. (fn. 39)
In the 14th century several rectors gave vestments or books to the church, as did Emma de Colville. Sir Robert Thorpe gave a silver chalice. (fn. 40) From the 1340s rectors were often dependents of their patrons, regularly acting as their feoffees for the manor. (fn. 41) One in 1365 was a pluralist. (fn. 42) Between 1370 and 1410 only two died in office, while six quitted Lolworth by resignation or exchange, only two serving for as long as 10 years: one, presented in 1382 while still an acolyte, was studying at Cambridge in 1385; the other, Henry Hammond, 1394-1405, (fn. 43) once chaplain to Sir William Thorpe and appointed under his master's will, (fn. 44) also held several other and prebends. (fn. 45) The absentees' duties were presumably performed by parish chaplains, two being recorded in 1379 (fn. 46) and again in 1406. (fn. 47) One perhaps also served the altar of St. Mary, recorded c. 1310, which had a chalice of its own. (fn. 48) In the mid 15th century incumbents stayed longer, two men serving for 14 years each between 1448 and 1476, (fn. 49) but from 1490 to 1510 there was again a rapid turnover of six rectors. (fn. 50) One was resident c. 1520. (fn. 51) Two marks were then still payable out of the manor for Lolworth's 'chantry priest'. (fn. 52) In 1518 a Fen Stanton man gave all his lands around Lolworth for an obit and 1 a. for a light before the rood loft. (fn. 53) That acre and 6 a. more for another light were sold by the Crown in 1548, (fn. 54) as were the town house and another 6 a. in 1571. (fn. 55)
George Robinson, who moved from Childerley in 1547, (fn. 56) was deprived in 1554. (fn. 57) William Nightingale, rector from 1561, was then and later, though no graduate, living in a Cambridge college. (fn. 58) In 1571 he was deprived of Lolworth for neglect. (fn. 59) In 1561 he had had a curate at Lolworth, (fn. 60) as did his successor Francis Scargill, (fn. 61) who, dwelling at at his other living of Knapwell, was made to resign Lolworth in 1580. Scargill's unlicensed and previously negligent curate, who infrequently catechized and read the Homilies instead of preaching, succeeded him, promising amendment. (fn. 62) In the 1590s, however, he repeatedly omitted to wear the surplice, alleging that the parish had no decent one available. (fn. 63)
James Bridgeman, during his long tenure, 1594-1631, apparently served in person. (fn. 64) He owned many books, both Latin and English, at his death. (fn. 65) Thomas Whincop, rector from 1631, also holding Elsworth, was made to resign Lolworth, the poorer living, in 1644. (fn. 66) His successor conformed enough to retain Lolworth through all changes to 1666. (fn. 67) The next rector, Matthew Day, who served until 1717 and also from 1676 held Littleport, (fn. 68) was subjected c. 1680 to railing and scoffing at his 'ordinance of preaching'. (fn. 69) Later rectors were absentees until the 1830s. Theophilus Holborne, rector until 1765, retired to Shropshire on grounds of health from 1728, serving Lolworth through transient curates. They held the usual thrice-yearly sacraments, for 10 communicants, and two services every Sunday. In 1728 only 2 out of 17 families sent their children to be catechized. (fn. 70)
The two Edmund Williamsons, father and son, between the 1760s and 1839 usually lived on their Bedfordshire livings and also left Lolworth to curates. By 1807 and in the 1830s the younger Edmund employed the curate from Boxworth, who held one Sunday service in the mornings and evenings alternately in each parish, as c. 1776; the Sunday school mistress regularly catechized the children in 1807. Attendance at communion fell from 12 in 1807 to 3 or 4 by 1825, and in 1836 none at all would come. (fn. 71) Richard Barham, rector 1836-76, son of the humorist R. H. Barham, (fn. 72) claimed in 1851 an afternoon congregation of 41 adults. (fn. 73) By 1860 he had retired to Devon for his health. In 1873 his curate held two Sunday services with sermons, weekday ones in Lent, and monthly communions regularly attended by 12 out of 20 communicants. The number increased to 30 at weekly communions by 1897, when almost the whole population were churchgoers. The church could then hold 80 people. (fn. 74) The Anglo-Catholic priests appointed from 1909 served Lolworth diligently: one left it for only four Sundays in 17 years. By the 1930s they had developed a strong High Church tendency, which made union with neighbouring parishes awkward. (fn. 75) Despite its small size it therefore retained a resident minister, after 1950 usually a priest-incharge, until the 1980s. (fn. 76)
The church of ALL SAINTS, so named by 1495, (fn. 77) although in 1406 its dedication feast had been moved from 30 November (St. Andrew's day) to 20 July, (fn. 78) comprises a chancel, nave formerly aisled with south porch, and west tower. It is built of field stones and rubble, patched with ashlar and brick, and dressed with clunch. (fn. 79) Two small trefoil-headed lancets reset in the south porch, with a coffin lid bearing a floriated cross, indicate the existence of an earlier structure. Of the present church the chancel and nave were rebuilt in the early 14th century. The chancel had three windows of that period, all later blocked, and a priest's doorway. Its moulded arch stands on octagonal responds, plastered over, resembling those of the fourbayed arcades rediscovered in the 1890s. When they were blocked up, perhaps in the 15th century, two windows with reticulated tracery were reset in the two eastern bays on the north side, and two others, probably 15th-century, on the south. The three-stage west tower with a small stair turret has a west window with a quatrefoil in its head matched by the four belfry windows. The chancel windows once contained glass with the arms of Thorpe, Knyvett, and probably Colville, suggesting that they were glazed in the late 14th century. (fn. 80) The octagonal font and the former rood screen, mentioned c. 1520 (fn. 81) and still in place in 1745 and 1850, were also of that period. The 14th-century screen was taken down in 1891 and not reinstated for lack of money. Part was recovered and placed in 1911 inside the upper room in the tower. (fn. 82) A 14thcentury painting of the Incredulity of St. Thomas in the nave, rediscovered in 1891, (fn. 83) disintegrated during redecoration in 1951. (fn. 84) In the chancel are two brasses of ladies with butterfly head-dresses and arms including those of Langley, perhaps the two wives of Henry Langley (d. 1495), and also slabs to members of the Cutts family. (fn. 85)
The chancel windows were in decay in the 1550s and 1577, and those of the nave in 1561. (fn. 86) Perhaps soon afterwards the chancel east window was replaced with the square-headed one visible in 1745. (fn. 87) A new deal pulpit was installed by the screen by 1745. The piscina and sedilia then visible (fn. 88) were probably lost when the chancel was shortened, apparently c. 1800. The church was still very dilapidated (fn. 89) when the restoration was undertaken in the 1890s, (fn. 90) partly with E. E. Bowden as architect. Beginning in 1891, the church was reroofed and the nave received new flooring and seating. By 1893 the tower, previously too cracked to allow the bells to be rung, had its foundations repaired. In 1896 a new chancel south-west window was inserted. The south porch was rebuilt in 1902, the font remounted in 1911, and c. 1920 the nave north wall was restored as a war memorial. In 1971 T. B. Robinson gave an organ of 1851 to replace the old harmoniumn. (fn. 91)
One existing set of silver cup, paten, and flagon was given in 1740, (fn. 92) another c. 1910. (fn. 93) There were three bells in 1552, (fn. 94) and five in 1745, (fn. 95) but two were sold to pay for repairs in 1824, (fn. 96) leaving three, all probably cast in 1703, rehung after repairs to the tower in 1907. (fn. 97) The registers are virtually complete from c. 1570 except for gaps between 1621 and 1668. (fn. 98)