CRUETS, CENSERS AND THE, LIKE

There are some curious little vessels which go back to pre-Reformation days, used for wine and water for the cup. According to the British Museum Guide these cruets or amulae were usually engraved " A " and " V " initials standing for the Latin words aqua and vinum. There are also small spoons extant which were used for mixing the wine and water. Censers and incense boats are among the rarer and more valuable " curiosities " of church property. Some of the ancient abbeys possessed them and it is only by rare good fortune that any of them have been preserved. Two of these rare objects have recently been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum. They are the censer and the incense-boat from Ramsey Abbey, in Huntingdonshire, and are said to be the finest examples of English silver-smiths' work extant. These treasures long lost have had a romantic history, for in 1850 they were found on draining Whittlesea Mere. The censer stands 102 inches in height, being fashioned like a six-sided tower of open tracery, on a circular foot or stand. It is complete with chains and ring. The incense-boat is of the usual type almost plain, but with the ram's head handles-the connecting link with Ramsey Abbey. The censer is silver-gilt and a splendid piece of mediaeval design, well matching the Gothic architecture of the period. Censers appear to have been used early in the Christian church, those used in the Gothic cathedrals in pre-Reformation times being very ornate some of them of gold and others of silver. Incense boats, vessels of boat-like form, were common in the Middle Ages. Timbs has several references to the use of incense in London churches a century ago. At St. Ethelburga's, in Bishopsgate, he says, " incense is used on Saints' days." They had feasts in olden time there, too, on which occasions the emblems of office would be in evidence. At the Ascension Day dinner in 1686, it is recorded that the churchwardens purchased four hundred oranges and lemons, three hams, Westphalia bacon and half-pound of tobacco," and they decked the church with yew and box !

The chrismatory, a receptacle for consecrated oils is seen sometimes among old church relics. There are also many curios, and spoons and decorative objects of minor importance. In this connection it may be pointed out that many of the smaller vessels found among old family silver are suspiciously like other pieces known to have been made for church use-even a fine silver dish ornamenting a sideboard may at one time have been used as an alms-dish, and the silver cup about which there is no family history not infrequently shows from its symbolic ornament that it was originally designed for use in the most sacred rite of the Christian church.