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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Milton had from the 13th century to the 19th both an incumbent rector and a vicar. There was a church by the mid 12th century, (fn. 1) of which the advowson belonged from the early 13th century to the Beaches and their successors as lords. (fn. 2) The Stranges regularly presented to the rectory from the 1340s, (fn. 3) the Crown occasionally during minorities, as in 1402. (fn. 4) For what was probably already a sinecure the Stranges often chose family dependents, such as John Scot, rector 1349-72, (fn. 5) or kinsmen, such as Ebles le Strange, 1396-9, (fn. 6) sometimes university-trained canon or civil lawyers. One in the 1430s was master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and later became a bishop. (fn. 7) Such incumbents were presumably absentees. Ebles was licensed in 1399 not to reside for three years. (fn. 8) The advowson was not conveyed with the manor in 1446 or 1545. (fn. 9) George Stanley therefore presented to the rectory in 1484, (fn. 10) as did Edward, earl of Derby, until the 1590s. (fn. 11) In 1597 his son Earl William granted the advowson of the rectory for 1,000 years to trustees for Dr. Roger Goad, provost of King's College, Cambridge, (fn. 12) who was immediately presented to the rectory. (fn. 13)
Dr. Goad (d. 1610) provided in his will that his eldest son Matthias should present his next son Thomas, followed by the doctor's younger sons, and failing them a fellow of King's, to which the advowson was ultimately to pass. (fn. 14) Matthias and the absentee rector Thomas, who had bought the next turn, both died in 1638, whereupon the right to present was disputed among their kindred, executors, and legatees. In 1639 it devolved by lapse to the archbishop of Canterbury, who chose Samuel Collins, provost of King's. (fn. 15) Collins allegedly kept the rectory even after his ejection from the provostship in 1645, but when he died in 1650 Milton rectory passed to his successor as provost, the Cambridge Platonist Dr. Benjamin Whichcote. (fn. 16) Meanwhile in 1642 the advowson had been formally conveyed to the college, (fn. 17) which acted as patron from 1661, presenting fellows or occasionally provosts, (fn. 18) who naturally lived away from the parish. (fn. 19) By the late 18th century the rectory was openly recognized as a sinecure. (fn. 20) Samuel Knight, however, having bought the manor, in 1776 obtained the rectory by exchange for another living, and remained rector until his death in 1790. (fn. 21) Thereafter King's College appointed ex-fellows as sinecure rectors (fn. 22) until the union of the rectory and vicarage in 1845, when it became, as it remained into the 1980s, patron of the combined living. (fn. 23)
Milton already had a vicar, besides its rector, in the 1270s. (fn. 24) In 1298 the king claimed to present a vicar during the vacancy of the see of Ely. (fn. 25) From c. 1350 vicars were regularly instituted as to a distinct benefice on presentation by the rectors. (fn. 26) Such presentations continued until the 1550s, (fn. 27) but were then interrupted, recurring only infrequently until c. 1800. Meanwhile the vicar's duties were variously performed by curates, sequestrators, and sometimes by the rectors themselves. Between 1560 and 1660 only Thomas Goad formally presented vicars, doing so thrice between 1617 and 1631. (fn. 28) After two probable appointments by Dr. Whichcote in the 1660s, (fn. 29) no more vicars were legally presented until the bishop collated by lapse in 1789. (fn. 30) From the 1810s three vicars were appointed. When the last resigned in 1845, (fn. 31) the vicarage was on the rector's request united that year with the rectory, (fn. 32) to which King's College continued to present (fn. 33) until presentation was suspended in 1979. (fn. 34)
Before 1100 Picot gave two thirds of his knights' demesne tithes to Barnwell priory, (fn. 35) a gift represented by the 1250s by a pension of 6 marks (fn. 36) which the priory received out of the rectory until the 1530s. (fn. 37) Milton church as a whole was taxed at 11 marks in the early and mid 13th century (fn. 38) and 23 or 26 marks in the 1270s and 1290s. (fn. 39) In 1379 the rectory was worth less than £20, and the vicarage under £10 a year. (fn. 40) In 1535 the former was valued at £47s., the latter at £4 16s. (fn. 41) In 1567, however, the rectory could be leased for £20 a year. (fn. 42) In 1638 the rectory was worth £100, the vicarage, including a 2-mark pension from it, only £20. (fn. 43) Later the rectorial income increased from £70 in 1644 to £120 by 1728 and £390 c. 1830. That of the vicarage, however, was only £18 in 1644 and £71 in 1728, contributing to its frequent vacancy or sequestration. (fn. 44) In 1776 it was allotted £200 by Queen Anne's Bounty, (fn. 45) a grant renounced by the rector after 1845. (fn. 46)
In 1279 the rector possessed by the gift of the founder of his church 30 a. of glebe and lordship over six cottagers owing works. (fn. 47) In 1615 and 1779 the glebe consisted of c. 35 a. of arable. The vicar in 1615 had no glebe save for the site of his house. (fn. 48) At inclosure in 1802, when the tithes were commuted for land, the rector was allotted 34 a. for his glebe and 199 a. for the great tithes, the vicar only 2 a. for glebe and 34 a. for tithes, (fn. 49) so raising his income to £95 by 1830; £60 of it was paid to his curate. (fn. 50) After 1845 the united benefices' 279 a. yielded £500 a year net in the 1850s, and £620 gross in the 1870s. Its value had fallen to £350 by the 1890s. (fn. 51) In 1925 Rectory farm, 247 a., was sold to Caius College, Cambridge, still its owner in the 1980s, leaving only 27 a. of glebe thereafter. (fn. 52)
The rectory house in 1615 and 1800 stood in a 21/2-a. close south-east of the church. (fn. 53) In 1594 the house was inhabited by a curate, who kept hogs in the churchyard. (fn. 54) By 1600 the vicars had long had their own residence east of the churchyard, (fn. 55) which was in poor repair in 1549 (fn. 56) as in 1665. (fn. 57) In 1783 it was a thatched cottage. The rectory house, then as in 1836 in decent condition, was chosen as the incumbent's residence after 1845, the old vicarage, surviving in 1836, being overlooked. (fn. 58) The rectory house, rebuilt c. 1846, (fn. 59) remained with the living until the early 1980s, but a new house for the minister was then put up in its garden, (fn. 60) and the old house was converted into a hospice for sick children. (fn. 61)
Possibly c. 1270 Joan de Somery gave 20 a. occupied by two villeins to support a chaplain saying masses for her ancestors in a manorial chapel. (fn. 62) The endowment was not recorded later.
In the Middle Ages it was presumably the vicars who actually served the church. Presentation of vicars was frequently recorded from 1349, (fn. 63) two quitting the living c. 1400 by exchange for a chantry. (fn. 64) The vicars had chaplains to assist them in 1379 and 1406. (fn. 65) One vicar, Eudes of Quy, served from 1446 to his death in 1489. (fn. 66) James Straightbarrel, rector from 1484, presented in 1493 his kinsman Richard, formerly chantrist at Histon, the second vicar who was certainly a graduate. (fn. 67) Richard Allanson, previously the curate, (fn. 68) became vicar in 1517 after his predecessor had been deprived, and served in person until he died in 1532. (fn. 69) In his time there were guilds of All Saints and St. Catherine. (fn. 70)
From 1561 the vicarage was normally left vacant. The curates included Henry Gotobed until 1579, of a local family, next Robert Hasell, (fn. 71) who traded in corn c. 1585, (fn. 72) and c. 1590 William Kelhan. The last allegedly neglected to wear the surplice and to catechize the younger villagers. (fn. 73) Sequestrator of the vicarage by 1610, (fn. 74) Kelhan was officially presented to it in that year, and died in 1620. (fn. 75) The recusancy of successive lords of the manor had little effect on the parish, as shown in surviving wills between 1550 and 1700. (fn. 76) In 1631 the Arminian Thomas Goad appointed Edward Johnson, who used the cross in baptism, and administered communion at the altar rails. He was also accused in the 1640s of getting drunk with the papists at the manor house, and was ejected early in 1645. (fn. 77) Samuel Lowe, in office c. 1655, probably adhered to the Cambridge Presbyterian classis. (fn. 78)
From the 1670s until c. 1700 the parish was served by clergy, usually Cambridge men, not formally instituted, but styled indifferently curates or vicars, (fn. 79) thereafter until 1800 by transient curates. (fn. 80) In 1728 the sequestrator employed a curate, who came from Cambridge each Sunday to hold two services, besides three communions a year, attended by only six people. (fn. 81) After 1600 the rectors also occasionally took an interest in the parish. Roger Goad was preaching there in 1609. (fn. 82) Benjamin Whichcote, who retired to Milton in the early 1660s after losing his provostship, is said to have preached there regularly and paid for poor children to learn to read. (fn. 83) John Lane, rector from 1737, also held the vicarage by 1744 by sequestration, and buried his wife at Milton. (fn. 84) The pluralist Oliver Naylor, rector 1747-75, was sequestrator by 1766, living part of the year at Milton, (fn. 85) otherwise employing curates there, who performed the usual services. (fn. 86)
When the vicarage was revived after 1776, the bishop collated the mathematician Samuel Vince, 1789-1813, (fn. 87) who for some time rode over from Cambridge to do the whole duty. (fn. 88) By 1807 Thomas Key, rector since 1795, was resident at Milton, his sole benefice. Like later ministers until the 1830s he catechized and held two Sunday services and four sacraments a year, for up to 13 communicants. After Key's death in 1811, (fn. 89) and the departure of the vigorous preacher James Slade, sequestrator 1813-16, (fn. 90) the vicars commonly employed as curates members of Cambridge colleges, who claimed 25- 30 communicants in 1825 and 1836. (fn. 91) C. J. Champneys, the last vicar, probably resided in the early 1840s. (fn. 92)
John Chapman, who resided as rector from 1841, and held the combined living from 1845 to his death, aged 91, in 1895, served Milton in person throughout, assisted by a curate only in his last years. (fn. 93) In 1851 he claimed an average congregation of 120 adults in the morning and 170 in the afternoon. (fn. 94) In 1865 he formed a choir and started choral harvest services. (fn. 95) By 1873, besides preaching at both the customary Sunday services, he held some weekday evening and Lenten ones, and monthly communions for 30- 35 communicants. (fn. 96) His successor, who by 1897 held six communions each month, estimated that churchgoers numbered 160, including 60 Easter communicants, while 80 others neglected all worship. (fn. 97) Milton retained resident ministers until the 1980s. (fn. 98) In the early 1940s the church, seating 270, was regularly attended by only six people. (fn. 99) From 1979 the parish was served by a priest-in-charge, resident at the new rectory house. (fn. 100)
The church of ALL SAINTS, so named by 1520, (fn. 101) built of field stones, consisted after 19thcentury reconstructions (fn. 102) of a chancel, an aisled and clerestoried nave with south porch, and a west tower. The earliest surviving part is the round-headed chancel arch, unmoulded on cushion capitals. A plain recess on its south side towards the nave perhaps accommodated an altar. (fn. 103) The three-bay nave, with arcades in which round shafts on square piers support moulded arches, was perhaps rebuilt in the early 14th century, shortly followed by the three-stage tower, buttressed and embattled with a pointed cap. The two-bay south aisle, whose three-light east window has curvilinear tracery, probably also dates from before 1350. It has a contemporary piscina. The medieval clerestory had threelight windows, still there in 1744.
The chancel was rebuilt after 1350. In its windows and those of the south aisle there was once glass with the arms of the Stranges, still extant c. 1770, and Frevilles, and the name of John Scot, rector from 1349, who made the east window. (fn. 104) Perhaps then also the Perpendicular sedilia were inserted to adjoin an earlier double piscina. There is a plain octagonal font. Money was left for painting the rood loft in 1521, (fn. 105) and for glass for the south aisle windows in 1516. (fn. 106) The remains of an alabaster retable were found c. 1840 walled up in a niche in the south aisle east wall. (fn. 107) An altar tomb in the north-east corner of the chancel retains brasses of the judge William Cook (d. 1553) and his wife with their five children. (fn. 108)
The church, in decay c. 1580, (fn. 109) and without a proper pulpit in 1600, (fn. 110) received much new woodwork during the next century. (fn. 111) The nave has an early 17th-century roof on moulded tiebeams with pendants. The chancel had its south side wainscotted by the 1670s, (fn. 112) and was still stalled round in 1744; four surviving stalls are of c. 1600. The altar rails, removed after 1645, (fn. 113) were finally replaced in 1774 with ornate panelled ones sent from King's College chapel. (fn. 114)
By the early 17th century the screened-off south aisle was the private chapel and burial place of the lord of the manor. William Harris (d. 1628) and his son William (d. v.p.) were buried there, perhaps in two altar tombs standing in 1744 at its east end. With John Harris (d. 1659) (fn. 115) they are commemorated by a mural monument. From the 1660s to the 1780s the repair of the chapel was treated as the responsibility of the lords. (fn. 116) There are mural monuments to Samuel Knight (d. 1790), to his wife Elizabeth (d. 1800) by John Flaxman, (fn. 117) and to Samuel Knight (d. v.p. 1829) ascribed to Sir Francis Chantrey. (fn. 118)
In 1774 the old north aisle was taken down. William Cole provided stained glass from his collection for the new windows in the blocked arches. (fn. 119) Between 1847 and 1850 the chancel was reconstructed: it received a new roof to a design by A. W. N. Pugin and a Decorated east window given by King's College, while a vestry was added beside it. (fn. 120) About 1855 the south porch was replaced with a new bay of the aisle, and a new porch was built outside it. The arch to the tower, long walled up for use as a dovecot, was reopened, and a new roof installed. (fn. 121) In 1864 the rector, John Chapman, rebuilt the north aisle. (fn. 122) An organ dedicated in 1911, along with a new reredos, replaced a barrel organ in use since the 1840s. (fn. 123) About 1959 expensive repairs were required. (fn. 124) Between 1982 and 1984, after some opposition, a pentagonal church hall was built, attached to the Victorian north aisle. (fn. 125) From 1850 a quarter of the town land income had been assigned to the church fabric fund. Its yield doubled from £16 in the 1860s to £33 by 1960 and had reached over £220 in the 1970s. (fn. 126)
The existing plate (fn. 127) includes a silver cup of 1568, with a paten given by Dr. Whichcote after 1660. (fn. 128) There were three bells in 1552, (fn. 129) as in 1744 and later. (fn. 130) One with a Latin inscription was recast in 1621, another in 1665, the third in 1701. (fn. 131) The registers begin only in 1707, and for marriages in 1754, (fn. 132) but there are bishops' transcripts from 1599, with gaps 1643-51. (fn. 133) The churchyard was full by 1897, when John Chapman obtained 1/2 a. nearby, not then consecrated. (fn. 134) Both that burial ground and another off the Landbeach road, acquired by 1901 for the parish, (fn. 135) were almost full by 1980, when a new one was being bought. (fn. 136)