The early history of the church and village of Lolworth is unknown. The Domesday Survey (1085) records that a certain Robert held land at Lolesworde, in the North Stow Hundred, of Picot, sheriff of Cambridgeshire.
In 1251 “the Lady of Lollesworth” is mentioned as holding land in Long Stanton. In 1281, Philip de Coleville held land in Lolworth together with the patronage of the Church. He presumably presented the living to Henry de Coleville, who is the earliest known Rector and who held the living at least between 1281 and 1291.
The date of the church is unknown, though there is reason to suppose that it was built in the time of Henry de Coleville probably replacing an earlier church.
The church in its present form dates possibly from 1406. Except for the tower and south window of the nave (apparently Early Perpendicular) it is of the late Decorated period. The present form of the church is apparently its original form, that of a single nave without aisles. North and south aisles were added later. The fresco of the Incredulity of St Thomas, near the tower (see below), was considered to have dated from prior to the addition of the aisles. Thomas of Walsingham, a monk of St Albans, records in his Historica Anglicana that in September 1393 there were lightnings and thunders which did much damage in many parts of the kingdom, especially in Cambridgeshire, where the houses and crops near Lolworth and in that village were terribly burnt down.
It is possible that the church was practically destroyed in this fire and that the side aisles were lost and never rebuilt, with probably only the lower parts of the walls and pillars surviving. A field near to the church is still called Burnt Close. After the fire the village also had to be rebuilt.
It has been suggested that the church was rebuilt without the aisles but with the former tower and it is possible that the church was rededicated in this form on St Andrew’s Day, 1406. The Dedication Festival was ordered to be kept on 20th July. It is likely that the chancel was shortened at a later date and blocked windows may be seen in the north and south walls.
The present roofs date from 1891 when the church was restored. Previously they were higher and flatter. The north wall was restored as a part of the War Memorial after the Great War, 1914-18, and the work disclosed a squint near the chancel but which was blocked up again. The niche by the north side of the chancel was found at this time. The tower is of clunch, built in ashlar courses, 14 feet (4.25m) square inside, with walls of an average thickness of 4 feet (1.25m). The massive door in the tower inside is braced with wide criss-cross strips of iron, making the tower a stronghold.
The Revd Henry Martyn, missionary and orientalist, who died at Tokat in what is now Turkey in 1812, had charge of the parish of Lolworth while he was a curate to Charles Simeon at Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge from 1803 and before sailing for India early in 1805.
The Revd R H D Barham was Rector of Lolworth, 1840-76. He was a son of the Revd Richard Harris Barham, author of The Ingoldsby Legends, and it is said that some of the poems were written in Lolworth Rectory.
Today the parish of All Saints, Lolworth, forms part of the United Benefice of Fen Drayton with Conington and Lolworth and Swavesey, currently in the cure of the Revd Dr John David Yule of The Vicarage, Honey Hill, Fen Drayton, Cambridge CB24 4SF. It is hoped that those who visit our parish church will find it not only an interesting and beautiful building but also will be able to experience from it a welcome and a peace that should be the atmosphere of a place where prayer and praise are offered.
OBJECTS OF INTEREST IN LOLWORTH CHURCH
A Wall-painting of the ‘Incredulity of St Thomas’ was formerly to be seen in the northwest corner of the nave near the tower. This wall-painting was found about 1891. The subject is seldom met with in England in wall-paintings, although it possesses a sacramental significance and also occurs in most of the early series of the Life of Christ being not only an event in his mission but also a proof of his resurrection. Our Lord holds the banner of victory, the cross with pennon attached. St Thomas carries in his right hand the textus or book of the Gospels in allusion to his having preached the Gospel in India, a tradition which in medieval times led to the apostle being known as St Thomas of India. This feature is unique among English wall-paintings of this subject. The whole picture was outlined in red ochre and tints of yellow and red were used. This was the common mode of execution in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and it is possibly to the middle of the latter period that we may assign this painting. Decaying plasterwork led to the final disappearance of the last traces of the painting in 1958.
The Font, of the Decorated period, was restored in 1911 and again in 1996. On its removal from south wall the Base of a Norman Churchyard Cross was discovered. This now sits near the font.
A Medieval Tombstone currently near the font was found in the churchyard some years ago.
The Langley Tombstone is an incised alabaster slab, from about 1480, currently on the north side of the chancel at the foot of the sanctuary step, though in great part covered by the choir stalls. An old drawing shows that it represents twThe EAst Windowo ladies standing three-quarterwise, wearing the butterfly head-dress; two shields of arms conjoined are placed between their heads and the whole is surrounded by a border inscription. The Langleys owned Lolworth Manor in the time of Henry VI.
The Cutts Memorials are in the chancel. In stone is that of Sir John Cutts, Knight, died 1615. In brass is that of Margaret Cutts, 2nd wife of Sir John Cutts, died 1610. The Cutts family owned Childerley Hall from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth, and were patrons of the Lolworth benefice.
A Burial Slab in the west end of the nave, incised with a cross, reads: +Hic jacet Dominus Thomas Quondam Rector hujus Ecclesiae. This was originally near the centre of the nave, opposite the south door and possibly is that of Thomas Fayreclough who was Rector from 1444 to 1448.
Another Fifteenth Century Slab lies in the west end of the nave. ln its carvings are some indecipherable letters in Old English characters, possibly “Johgno”. This is perhaps the stone of John Kynge, Rector, 1486-95, or of John Terrington, Rector about 1483.
The Tombstone of James Bridgman, Rector, 1594-1631, is a dark marble slab in the middle of the chancel floor. The beam of the chancel screen which was taken down in 1891, the remains of which are in the belfry, had on it ‘J B 1627’, and so was possibly put up by him.
A representation of Royal Arms with The Ten Commandments on either side, dates from 1721, the original being currently stored in the tower. This was erected by Theophilus Holbrook, Rector from 1720 to 1764. A non-resident, he also presented a set of communion plate – silver chalice, paten and flagon – dated 1740. It was made at Exeter. The modern chalice and paten were formerly the property of the Revd R M Stapylton and bear the inscription “Distance separates – The Eucharist unites”.
There are three Bells. One is dated l703, the others have no date. They were probably made by Richard Keene, of Royston.
The Porch was re-built in 1902.
The present Rood and Stations of the Cross were erected by The Revd E J Dredge, Rector from 1926 to 1931 and were restored in 1972 by Kay Harper.
The East Window was erected in 1922 in memory of Emily Frohock, of Lolworth Grange, and represents Christ the King seated on the globe, his feet upon the Serpent, surrounded by Saints. On his right are Isaiah, St John Baptist, St Augustine of Canterbury, St Aidan and St George. On his left are St Peter, St John the Evangelist, St Bartholomew, St Cecilia and the Holy Innocents.
The Churchyard contains the Grave of Richard Daintree, after whom the Daintree River in the far north of Queensland, Australia, is named. Daintree (1831-1878) had been the Government Geologist in North Queensland and later became the Agent-General for Queensland in London. His parents came to live at Lolworth Grange and he is buried with them in a railed enclosure at the west end of the church.
Revd. John-David Yule