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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By the 1190s Crowland abbey was presenting rectors. In the early 1220s the church was appropriated to the abbey, a vicarage being ordained, (fn. 1) to which the abbey regularly presented until the Dissolution. (fn. 2) A turn granted in 1539 to Sir William Parr was exercised in 1559 by Richard Wingfield of Upton (nr. Peterborough, Northants.), (fn. 2) while in 1564 and 1570 Thomas Halfhead, lessee of the manor and rectory, nominated the vicar. (fn. 3) Queens' College, Cambridge, having acquired the advowson with the manor, (fn. 4) normally appointed present or former fellows of the college to the living from c. 1616 until the 1840s, and thereafter former members until the 1980s, when it still possessed the advowson. (fn. 5)
In the 12th century Crowland abbey exacted a £4 pension from the rector. (fn. 6) Following the appropriation, it generally received most of the great tithes, (fn. 7) and probably absorbed almost all the glebe into its demesne. Barnwell priory, however, was entitled under grants from Picot and his successor Pain Peverel to two thirds of the tithes of their vassals' demesne; (fn. 8) that portion, later received from the Grantchesters' estate, was worth 2 marks in 1254, (fn. 9) but by 1340 had long been held in fee farm by the abbey for £4 a year, (fn. 10) and for £3 by the 1530s. (fn. 11) At inclosure in 1834 Queens' College was allotted 262 a. for the great tithes but only 24 a. for rectorial glebe, its claim to have its whole estate reckoned as glebe having been rejected. (fn. 12) The eventual purchasers of the land, Chivers Ltd. and the Air Ministry, were in 1955 held jointly and severally liable to repair the chancel. (fn. 13)
By 1225 the vicarage had been endowed, presumably in addition to the small tithes, with the altarage of the church, with a third of the corn tithes of the Giffard fee and of the Lisle fee in Westwick, and with 7½ a. (14 a. in 1279) of arable and meadow, besides a pension of 33s. 4d. out of the rectory. (fn. 14) The pension, paid at irregular intervals in the late 13th and early 14th century, (fn. 15) was eventually renounced by the vicar c. 1390 in exchange for all the tithes due from Westwick, which he had held on lease for several years. That arrangement, originally made for his life, (fn. 16) proved permanent: in the 19th century the vicar was still receiving the Westwick tithes, yielding until the 1880s the £100 at which the tithe rent charge on them was fixed in 1838. (fn. 17) About 1830 his Oakington tithes were usually received in cash, not in kind. (fn. 18) In 1834 the vicar was allotted for a glebe reckoned in the 17th century at 6 a. of arable with 1 3/4t; a. in Westwick and 3 a. of meadow, (fn. 19) c. 10 a., and for his tithes c. 80 a., mostly in the far south of the parish. (fn. 20) The glebe, 91 a. in all after 1834, including 11/2; a. in Histon allotted for Westwick tithes, (fn. 21) remained with the living until c. 76 a. were sold in 1920, the rest being sold in 1926. (fn. 22) Benefactions made after 1900 to augment the vicarage included £100 in 1922, half from Queens' College, and £1,200 left by Dr. G. F. C. Searle (d. 1954), received in 1961. (fn. 23)
The whole church was taxed at 20 or 25 marks in the early 13th century, (fn. 24) and at 331/2; marks in 1291, of which the vicar's share was 71/2; marks. (fn. 25) The vicarage was taxed at £4 13s. in 1535. (fn. 26) It was worth c. £50 in 1650 and 1728, (fn. 27) £206 in 1830, (fn. 28) and £300 net in 1873, but the actual income from land was almost halved to c. £100 c. 1885. (fn. 29) The rector had a house by the church in 1198, which was assigned to the vicar c. 1225. (fn. 30) It probably occupied the ½-a. site southeast of the church, on which the vicarage house stood by 1615. (fn. 31) The house was left to decay by an absentee vicar in 1563, (fn. 32) and c. 1580 was used as a barn, smithy, and alehouse. (fn. 33) Henry Morris, vicar 1748-64, (fn. 34) came to reside, and expensively rebuilt it, (fn. 35) and it was usually in a decent state thereafter. (fn. 36) It was again rebuilt in the 19th century as a plain three-bay house, was improved in 1922, (fn. 37) and was still the vicarage in the 1980s. (fn. 38)
By the late 12th century Crowland abbey was presenting university magistri to the rectory. (fn. 39) Under them the church was probably served by local men such as Ingold the priest, who left land at Dry Drayton to his son. (fn. 40) The first recorded vicar was Walter, who by 1279 occupied 24 a. besides his glebe, (fn. 41) and by c. 1300 left his church vestments and a portifer. (fn. 42) In 1315 the clergy included, besides the vicar, at least four chaplains drawn from well-to-do local families, one of whom had already served Savary, a former vicar, for 30 years. (fn. 42) A priest was serving anniversaries at Oakington in 1376. (fn. 43) Two chaplains were mentioned there in 1379 (fn. 44) and one in 1406. (fn. 45)
Between the 1370s and the 1410s at least five vicars quitted the living by exchange, after mostly serving 4-5 years; only one died in office. (fn. 46) One, a fellow of Michaelhouse, Cambridge, obtained a dispensation for ten years' absence for study. (fn. 47) A successor, a priest's son, was dispensed to hold in plurality in 1428. (fn. 48) For almost a century from the 1450s most incumbents retained the living for 15-25 years each until death. (fn. 48) They were probably resident, (fn. 49) often attending their parishioners' deathbeds in the early 16th century. (fn. 50)
The light before the altar of St. Mary was endowed by 1318 with 6d. rent out of the Crowland manor. (fn. 51) In 1458 indulgences were offered to those who visited the church's image of St. Laurence. (fn. 52) Guilds were recorded in the early 1520s in honour of St. Mary, whose image was mentioned in 1522, St. Laurence, St. Catherine, and All Saints. (fn. 53) In 1550 the Crown sold 7 a. given for lights and obits. (fn. 54)
Emery Daude, presented in 1559, in 1561 was, although resident, incompetent to preach and neglected to catechize the children. He was deprived for non-residence, probably in 1563. (fn. 55) Lewis Yellaton, vicar 1570-1610, (fn. 56) c. 1577 claimed, though living at Girton, to attend regularly and perform all required services. Then, as later until c. 1600, he was alleged not to catechize, and though preaching after a fashion did not wear the surplice. In 1603 the parish complained that he spent two hours preaching at the Sunday services. (fn. 57) The fellows of Queens' who succeeded him seldom cared to hold Oakington for more than five years, (fn. 58) and often employed curates there. (fn. 58) Some were strong Laudians, including Edward Martin, 1626-30, (fn. 59) and Daniel Chandler, vicar by 1638, when the churchwardens were ordered to install communion rails, turn the reading desk, and make the pews uniform. (fn. 60) He vigorously enforced Bishop Wren's Articles, and in the early 1640s made light of fast days appointed by parliament. About June 1643 Chandler departed to the royalist army, leaving as his substitute a supposed Jesuit. Even before he was sequestered in 1644, the parish had hired another minister. (fn. 61) Mr. Selby, who served it in 1650, was styled an able preaching minister. (fn. 62)
For a decade after 1660 Oakington was again held by transient Queens' men, (fn. 63) but thereafter by fellows, who presumably lived in college, and often served through curates. They held it for terms of ten years or more until the 1720s. (fn. 64) One vicar c. 1730 made the villagers go to the college chapel to be married. (fn. 65) He and his successors claimed in 1728, 1776, and 1807 to provide two services each Sunday and the sacrament thrice yearly, in 1728 for c. 15 communicants. (fn. 66) Except for Henry Morris, who eventually tired of rural solitude, (fn. 67) probably no vicar was resident until after 1800. (fn. 68)
Although Thomas Webster, 1809-40, came to reside, he mostly left the parish to his curate. He claimed an increase in the number of communicants from c. 8 in 1807 to 27 by 1836. (fn. 69) George Whittaker, 1840-51, who later had a successful career in clerical education in Canada, (fn. 70) had the church repaired, organized coal, clothing, and benefit clubs, and started monthly communions. (fn. 71) In 1851 the average adult congregation was said to be 140 in the morning, more in the evening. (fn. 72) The antiquary and author W.G. Searle, 1858-93, (fn. 73) was in 1873 holding three, by 1885 two, services every Sunday, preaching at one, and fortnightly communions, attended by only 6 out of 16 communicants. (fn. 74) His successor in 1897, who thought over half the population were churchpeople, visited his flock up to four days a week. (fn. 75) Oakington retained its own resident incumbent in the 1980s, and still had a good congregation in the 1970s. (fn. 76)
The church of ST. ANDREW, so named by 1490, (fn. 76) built of field stones with, originally, Barnack stone dressings, comprises a chancel, aisled nave with rebuilt south porch, and west tower. (fn. 77) Its earliest surviving portion is probably the nave, whose thick walls are perhaps 12thcentury; the base of the tower may be contemporary. The square font with arcaded sides, probably also 12th-century, is mounted on a 15thcentury base. The church was substantially remodelled in the 13th century. The chancel, whose walls contain puddingstone, was rebuilt with three lancets each side, in deep rear arches, and another with plate tracery further east to light the altar. All have been renewed. Inside the chancel an original string course rises over the 13th-century priest's door. Narrow aisles, from which a blocked lancet survives in the south aisle west wall, were added by cutting five wide arches through each of the earlier nave walls. The south arcade with round piers probably preceded the north one, which has octagonal piers. Their east and west responds are primitive, one having Romanesque decoration. Three 13thcentury coffin lids with floriated crosses were found in 1839 and c. 1850. (fn. 78)
Perhaps c. 1300 the tower was heightened. Its eastern face shows the outline of the original high-pitched roof, possibly thatched. The chancel arch was probably widened in the 14th century, and the tower arch in the 15th, when the tower was embattled and buttressed on the west, the aisles being probably then widened. The 13th-century south doorway and double piscina were reset in the new south aisle wall. That aisle with its foil-headed windows probably preceded the north aisle, perhaps rebuilt after 1500, whose windows have standard Perpendicular tracery. From the late 13th century to the 15th Crowland abbey often paid for work on the chancel, still thatched c. 1380, and with windows glazed by 1400. (fn. 79) About 1450 the abbey helped the vicar to repair stalls, presumably in the chancel. (fn. 80) Those were perhaps the ones still attached in 1744 to the east side of the canopied screen but apparently lost during repairs in the 1840s. Portions of the dado of the screen, retaining some original panelling, are preserved in the north aisle.
In the early 1560s the site of the demolished altar had not been tidied, and the rectory lessees left the chancel unrepaired. (fn. 81) In the early 17th century Torrell Joscelyn placed new glass, including his arms, in the chancel east window, but little was left of it by 1744. (fn. 82) Under Charles II the church was said to be greatly neglected and full of rubbish. (fn. 83) It was again in poor repair in 1783, especially its roof and windows. (fn. 84) In 1840 the nave roof was thrusting the main arcades apart; in 1843-4 the defective roofs were largely replaced and the tracery of the aisle and tower windows renewed, the old south porch being demolished. (fn. 85) Since the dissenters prevented a church rate being levied, half the cost was raised by pledging the town lands income to repay a loan. (fn. 86) Further work was delayed until the late 1880s, when to designs by W. M. Fawcett the nave had its floor relevelled and received new seating, while the chancel was refurnished and given an alabaster reredos, gone by 1985, mostly at the vicar's expense. A new south porch was built in 1890. (fn. 87) An organ was installed in 1891. (fn. 88) In the late 20th century the church, supposedly shaken by vibration from low-flying aircraft, had sometimes to be closed for worship. The leaning nave walls were straightened c. 1971 and the tower c. 1973, (fn. 89) and their exterior walling was renewed between 1973 and 1983. (fn. 90)
The four bells of 1744, including three recorded in 1552 and recast c. 1655,. and one recast in 1748, (fn. 91) were rehung with one new one in 1978. (fn. 92) The existing plate includes a cup and paten by Thomas Buttell, probably of c. 1570, and a paten of 1693 given by Queens' College. (fn. 93). The registers, beginning in 1561, are virtually complete, with a gap 1696-1708 (fn. 94)