The sedilia
The sedilia.

Adjoining the low side-window is a double piscina, the ritual significance whereof is eloquent testimony to the time of Edward I, one basin and drain being intended for the rinsings of the priest's hands, the other for the rinsings of the holy vessels; and triple sedilia, divided by elbows only, and surmounted by richly carved ogee heads and brattishing.

The neglect and desolation of former years has not been without some compensation, for the pulley and sheath beneath the cornice in the western spandril of the sedilia is almost unique as a relic of the pre-Reformation custom of "veiling the altar" at Passion-tide. The only other example in the county that I know of is at Woodboro' where iron hooks are let into the wall above the altar rail for the same purpose. On the evening before the first Sunday in Lent a cord was stretched from side to side to support "the lent vayle before the highe-awter wt paynes blew & white."1 This curtain was drawn aside only while the Gospel was being read and on Feast days during Lent, until the Thursday before Easter when it was dramatically lowered while the words of the Passion Story were being read "the veil of the Temple was rent in the midst." The pulley and sheath are probably contemporary with the Rood screen.

The latest additions to the mediaeval church comprise the 15th century screenwork, the nave roof and the clerestorey. By this time the patronage had passed into the hands of Thomas Scot, Archbishop of York— commonly called Rotherham, after his birthplace, where he had built a fine parish church and a chantry, known as the College of Jesus, which he had endowed with part of the revenues appertaining to this Church of Laxton. He was Bishop of Rochester first, then Bishop of Lincoln 1472-1480; translated to York 1480; died of plague at Cawood 1500.

A fragment of beautiful parclose screen-work remains in the north choir aisle. It is inscribed with the donor's name and date, Robert de Trafford,2 Vicar of Laxton 1532, together with the words of the Angelic salutation and small symbolical shields. Thoroton says (1670) "on a kind of pew there is engraved a shield with five weeping eyes upon it "evidently mistaking the five wounds (goutte de sang) for "eyes." (Throsby says this is one of the churches which Dr. Thoroton never visited).

The chancel screen is largely made up from remnants of the rood screen. It is said to have been Rotherham's work and is a good example of 15th century woodwork. The nave roof belongs to the same period.

The angel brackets supporting the roof and the panels were once richly painted and decorated with heraldic shields. The Roos bearings are still distinctly visible on the central beam of the roof. There is a fine range of clerestorey windows on both sides of the nave, now alas! denuded of all the heraldic glass.3 The parapet is profusely ornamented with pinnacles and gargoyles and a diaper of quatrefoils. It bears a close resemblance to the clerestorey at Melton Mowbray, which is known to have been erected during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1589). A panel in the battlement contains a figure of a Bishop in mitre and cope with a medley of stags in the lower part of the panel. This represents Archbishop Thomas Rotherham. The stags are evidently an allusion to his coat of arms (Vert 3 stags trippant argent attired Or.) still to be seen in Lincoln College, Oxford, which he brought to completion.

Many parish churches hereabouts received similar additions at this time, but the fact that the quatrefoils predominate in the battlement and that the Mowbray lion was repeated in the glass of the windows on the south side (Gules, a lion rampant Argent) inclines me to think that the influence of the illustrious family of Mowbray who had acquired an interest in the manors, is manifest in this addition. Much conjecture has been offered concerning the gable cross at intersection of nave and chancel. The opinion that it is the letter M. for Michael or Mary or Mowbray has been freely mooted, but it seems clear that it is not a letter at all, but a mutilated Calvary which has been removed from the eastern gable (compare with Woodborough Church) The mutability of life is examplified in the history of this parish. There is a tinge of sadness in recording the bygone splendour of the fabric, but there is a more pathetic note concerning its patrons. Richard de Lexington and his valiant sons, Robert, Prior of Lenton, Judge and Baron, John, the Lord Keeper, and Henry, the Bishop; valiant soldiers and legislators like the Everinghams, have all passed away. A title in the Baronage of England4 and the name of a town and University in America (Kentucky) will keep their memory green. The Longvilliers and Bekerings, the Elton's, Northwoods', Moresby's, Rouchliffe's and the posterity of the Roos, whose heraldic achievements on windows and on walls once made this church a blazon of colour are now but fitful shadows.

The record of their former affluence and splendour must finish on a lower note. To-day you have visited Laxton field. Can your imagination picture that same field in harvest time 300 years ago. The Queen of the gleaners has led her humble followers across the baulks and headlands to pick up the gleanings left by the sickle men. Among the gleaners may be noticed an aged woman of dignified bearing and mien. It is Brigit the widowed mother of Gilbert Roos, the last Lord of Laxton of this noble race, who " by his wicked unthrift-iness " squandered the patrimony and left his widowed mother, so " tis said by inhabitants"5 to obtain a livelihood by gleaning, along with the poor of the parish.

(1) Taken from an account of Botford Church in Berkshire.
(2). Robt: Trafford, presented by Provost and College of Jesus at Rotherham, 1517-1542, when he died.
(3). The date 1490 was on the glass in one of the clerestorey windows.
(4). Robert Sutton of Averham was elevated to the peerage in 1645 as Baron Lexington.
(5). Quoted from Thoroton.