THE History of Milton now published is the last of this series. It completes the task which the writer had proposed to himself; when he commenced his
labours. For his wish was to take in succession his own parish, and such other parishes in the neighbourhood, as were in more immediate connexion with it. Something has by this means been done towards setting forward a History of Cambridgeshire, a work very much wanted, and which might be at length accomplished were it entered upon with heartiness and good will by others. Every country clergyman has some portion of time at his disposal without entrenching in any way upon the performance of his proper duties to his own
people: he might employ this to search out and record the circumstances of the parish over which he presides, and, if he did so, a large amount of materials would soon be collected of considerable importance. For, from the interest which each clergyman may fairly be supposed to take in it, from the access which he has to parish documents, and from the ease with which from his position he can discover where the necessary information is to be obtained, no body of men have it more in their power to get together and to record what may tend to illustrate the antiquities of their county.
The last history, which the present writer put forth, concerned the parish of Horningsey. Since it was published in 1865, the church there has been so substantially repaired as to have been almost rebuilt: first the nave, aisles, and porch, by the liberal contributions of the incumbent, Mr Haviland, with the assistance of the owners and occupiers of land; secondly, the chancel, at the sole expense of St. John’s College, the impropriators of the rectory and vicarage. These renovations have entirely altered for the better the general aspect of the church, and rendered it externally, but particularly internally, a most pleasing object, instead of continuing to be, what for so long a time it had been, somewhat unsightly as well as uncomfortable.
In the course of the alterations alluded to, a most curious discovery was made at the conjunction of the chancel and nave. For the workmen, when employed about that part, brought forth to view two piscinas, one high up in the south wall, which must have been on a level with. the rood loft, another almost immediately underneath, and used from the pavement below: the former, which is
square, belonging apparently to about the year 1400; the latter trefoiled, and perhaps a century earlier. With these two Horningsey Church had at the Reformation five piscinas, and consequently as many altars in it.
As regards the lower piscina there does not seem to be any difficulty: it was connected, we may suppose, with an altar dedicated to some saint, and served by its own priest. On the contrary, we can only account, it is thought, for the upper piscina by imagining that it had been removed from its proper position, and put in later times where there was never any necessity for it. For it is a
most unusual place in a country church for a piscina, neither does any one of the churches in the neighbourhood appear to have had an arrangement of the kind. But though unusual in the country, it is not so in cities. In a work on Conventual Antiquities we find the following passage in reference to France:- At St John’s, Lyons, the jubé (rood-loft) contained an altar of the Holy Cross for Matin Mass: a similar altar for various masses was built at Notre Dame de Clere. So likewise of England it is said the rood-loft in Cathedral
churches and minsters had usually an altar of the Holy Cross in it, and occasionally two altars on the floor.
It is wished here to correct an error in the history of the parish of Horningsey, on p. 40. The 4th of June is said to have been the day when George III. entered upon his reign : it should have been that it was the day of his birth. He began his reign on the 25th of October.
To the list of parish priests John Allenson must be added : he was suspended from his spiritual oversight of Horningsey in 1569, as we learn from
Cooper’s Athenæ Cantabrigienses, though he still continued to preach there. Also, the name of John Henry Howlett has been omitted: he became chaplain in 1838.
The writer’s especial thanks are due to the members of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, at whose expense his several histories have been printed; also to the Rev Edward Ventris, M.A., and to the Rev J. E. B. Mayor, principal Librarian to the University. He was likewise assisted by the late C. H. Cooper, Esq. F.S.A.