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Printed at The Dakien Press, Edinburgh.



After finishing a book the first duty incumbent on the writer is to
apologise for its existence. The apology for the present volume is that,
while there are numerous valuable papers on individual fonts, or groups
of fonts, e.g., by Mr J. Romilly Allen, I)r Alfred Fryer, and Miss
Emma Swann, to which should be added an excellent chapter by
Dr J. Charles Cox and Mr Alfred Harvey in English Church
Furniture, no book has as yet dealt with the subject as a whole,
except, to a somewhat limited extent, the two volumes published
more than sixty years ago by Mr F. Simpson and Mr T. Combe.
Each of these contains a brief introduction, in the latter case by
Mr F. A. Paley ; otherwise in both the text is little more than a
catalogue raisonne of individual fonts. In both books the illustrations
were of necessity reproduced from drawings, and in Mr Simpson's
book the engravings were of great beauty ; but drawings are apt to be
inaccurate, and, however beautiful, cannot be relied upon for the
scientific accuracy of a photograph. Nor are the examples given
sufficient in number to cover the various types of fonts ; Mr Combe
illustrated 123 fonts, Mr Simpson only 40, and in both cases the
illustrations were on a very small scale. In the present volume the
number of illustrations amounts to 426, of which by far the greater
number have never appeared before, and the more important examples
are reproduced on a large scale. As for the subject of Font Covers,
it is practically virgin soil.

It is believed that the great number, variety, beauty, and interest of
the fonts and font covers here illustrated will come as a surprise and
revelation to all but the very few who know their England. It is
indeed a subject for thankfulness, that, in spite of all her troubles and
vicissitudes, the English Church has been able to preserve and hand
down to us such a priceless store of mediaeval art. Too long English
folk have been indifferent to or ignorant of the treasures of their own
country. But there are signs that the times of indifference and neglect



are passing away. Year by year our own native art is receiving more
and more attention and appreciation ; monographs are being multiplied ;
there are even art pilgrimages to the churches of East Anglia ; the
rood screen in the Broads at Ranworth last year attracted 6,000 visitors.
Of equal interest with the rood screens are the fonts and font covers.
It may be doubted whether in any country in Europe is preserved such
a series of examples, infinite in number as in diversity of design. Next
to the great Rood, with the Mary and John above the lofted screen,
the most conspicuous feature in the later Gothic churches of England
was the high-platformed font, with the open traceries of the font cover
soaring aloft to the roof, as still may be seen at Sudbury, Castleacre,
Ufford, and elsewhere. Nor did delight of the craftsman in font
design pass away with the passing of Gothic art ; many graceful chalice
fonts and font covers of classic design were erected in the reigns of
Elizabeth and the Stuarts, and even in Hanoverian days. A large
proportion of space is given to the illustrations of the later font covers,
for the reason that, as a rule, Post-Reformation work is too often
regarded with contumely or indifference ; it is not necessary to dislike
classic work in order to appreciate Gothic.

In this, as in other works of the writer, in the main the historical
method is employed, and the story begins at the very beginning with
the baptism of Christ. It is attempted to show how and why the rite
bulked so large in early Christian days, demanding detached baptisteries
on the largest scale — baptisteries circular or octagonal, evidently modelled
on the form of the bathrooms familiar in the Roman Thermae and in
every important Roman house. In the baptistery, as in the bathroom,
the piscina was at first a sunk tank reached by a descent of two or three
steps ; later this gave way to a tank no less large, but placed on the floor
of the baptistery. But with the changes of ritual which are detailed,
such great tanks became unnecessary, and gave way to tub-shaped fonts,
still, however, resting on the floor. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
many fonts were mounted on legs, usually on five legs. In the next
two centuries these supports are generally reduced to a single pedestal.
Then come the religious changes of the sixteenth century. Some con-
servative Churchmen produce what they imagine to be Gothic fonts ;
others, more sensible, design their fonts as chalices in the revived Classic
style; economical Puritans are satisfied with a basin of base metal.
By the nineteenth century there were even those who officiated in a
baptismal slop-pail of earthenware, shaped like a kitchen bowl or a
muffin dish. All these changes are correlated with and dictated by
changes in the methods of administration of the rite, which are detailed
at considerable length (see Chapters IV. and XV.).


The second part of the volume is mainly analytical. A new classi-
fication of fonts is proposed, and special chapters are assigned to fonts
with various appendages or accessories, to fonts of other material than
stone, especially the fine group of lead fonts, to the position, construc-
tion, and dimensions of fonts, to the remodelling of fonts, to the
conversion of altars, columns, and pillar crosses into fonts, and to
inscriptions placed upon them.

The third part deals historically with Pre-Conquest, Norman, Gothic,
and Post-Reformation design, and concludes with a chapter on the
desecration and destruction which has befallen so many fonts and covers.
It may be mentioned here that, as in his other publications, the writer
recognises no hard and fast periods of font design any more than he
does of architectural design. While for convenience labels have been
attached, it must be borne in mind that they do not necessarily connote
chronological facts. When a twelfth century font is spoken of, it is not
to be inferred that the font is necessarily work of that century. All that
is meant is that its design is such as was most common in the twelfth
century. It may actually be work done in the later years of the eleventh,
or in the early years of the thirteenth century. As for fourteenth and
fifteenth century work, no line of demarcation can be drawn at all ; font
design of the first half of the fourteenth century shades off by imper-
ceptible transitions to that of the work of the last half of the fourteenth
century, the fifteenth, and the first half of the sixteenth century.

Last comes the chapter on Font Covers, for which Mr F. C. Eden
has placed at my disposal the materials accumulated by him in inquiries
spread over several years.

To a large extent, for statements in the text, reference is made only
to those examples of which illustrations are given, on the principle that

" Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem
Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus."

The writer's inductions are really based, however, on a much wider
survey, not only of fonts visited by him, but of collections of illustrations
put at his disposal by many friends, totalling certainly not less than
four thousand examples, and in several instances comprising every
important font in a county. A glance at the Index Locorum will give
some idea of the number of examples which have been examined.

It should perhaps be added, in justice to some who have contributed
photographs, that in certain cases a picture is blurred, not because the
lens was not in sharp focus, but because the surface of the stone, having
till recently been exposed for long periods to rain and frost out of doors,
has greatly weathered. Also, in the case of some suspended font covers,



it was found that they were in imperceptible but constant motion, which
it was impossible wholly to check. In addition, some fonts have been
photographed in the Easter holidays at a time when they were disfigured
by tin pots of flowers ; it is to be desired that these should be relegated
into limbo with the churchyard wreaths of galvanised wire.

It is believed that no book on the subject so copiously illustrated
has appeared in any country. For the illustrations the writer is deeply
indebted to archaeologists and photographers all over the country ; but
for their generous help it would have been impossible to produce the
book except at a totally prohibitive price. Various portions of the proofs
have been revised by the Rev. R. A. Davis, the Rev. J. T. Fowler,
D.C.L., F.S.A., Mr F. T. S. Houghton, Rev. Clement F. Rogers, Rev.
G. W. Saunders, and Miss Emma Swann, to whom grateful acknowledg-
ment is due, as well as to many, especially the clergy, for the information
which they have courteously and readily supplied. For the preparation
of the Index Locorum I am indebted to Rev. R. A. Davis. For photo-
graphs and drawings thanks are due to Mr H. Percy Adams, F.R.I.B.A.,
the Hon. Mrs Agar, Mr F. J. Allen, M.D., Rev. W. J. Alston, Mr A.
Whitford Anderson, A.R.I. B. A., Mr R. J. Atkinson, Miss F. Bagust, Mr
R. H. Barker, Rev. R. G. Bartelot, Rev. T. N. Baxter, Mr H. Compton
Beckett, Mr E. M. Beloe, F.S.A., Mr T. M. Birdseye, Mr F. Bligh Bond,
F.R.I. B. A., Mr G. G. Buckley, M.D., Rev. P. A. C. Clarke, Rev. W. G.
Corbett, Mr F. O. Creswell, Mr J. J. Creswell, A.R.I.B.A., Mr F. H.
Crossley, Rev. E. Hermitage Day, Mr G. C. Druce, Mr J. F. East,
Mrs Eden, Mr F. C. Eden, Mr J. R. Edis, Rev. J. F. E. Faning, Mr
Fawsett, Miss G. A. Fryer, Mr Cecil Gethen, Miss A. E. Gimingham,
Mr Harry Gill, Mr G. F. Gillham, Mr Charles Goulding, Mrs Graham,
Mr E. E. Gregory, Mr Everard L. Guilford, B.A., Mr G. Hadley,
Mr J. E. Hamilton, Mr G. A. Harrison, Mr A. Hartley, Mr Harry
Hems, Mr G. Hepworth, Mrs Hoare, Mr F. T. S. Houghton, M.A.,
Mr H. E. Illingvvorth, A.R.I.B.A., Mr F. Jenkins, Mr C. B. Keene,
Mrs E. M. Leather, Mrs Jessie Lloyd, Mr C. G. MacDowell, Mr W.
Maitland, Mr A. R. Marshall, Rev. Walter Marshall, F.S.A., Rev. N. W.
Paine, Mr Roland Paul, F.S.A., Mr W. Percival- Wiseman, Miss M. P.
Perry, Rev. H. Bedford Pirn, Mr A. H. Pitcher, Mr H. Plowman, Miss
E. K. Prideaux, Mr G. Randall Johnson, Miss C. Ransome, Rev. C. F.
Rogers, Mr Noel Russell, Miss Saunders, M. Paul Saintenoy, Rev.
Canon Sewell, Mr E. Mansel Sympson, M.D., Mr Albert Smith, Mr
E. W. Smith, Mr Worthington G. Smith, Mr E. E. Squires, Mr J. C.
Stenning, Miss Emma Swann, Mr F. R. Taylor, Mr J. G. Thorold,
Mr G. H. Tyndall, Mr W. H. Walford, Mr E. B. Warr, Mr Alfred


Watkins, Mr G. H. Widdows, A.R.I.B.A., Mr H. R. Wintle, Rev. R. O.

The writer is indebted for permission to reproduce illustrations to
Messrs Batsford for that on page 20, to the proprietors of the Builder
for that on page 63, to the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery at
Famborough for those on pages 6 and 22, to Mr John Murray for that
on page 29, to M. Paul Saintenoy for those on page 118, to Signore
Rivoira for that on page 7. All the illustrations have been reproduced
by the Grout Engraving Company.

The text is preceded by a bibliography, and is followed by a general
index and by an index to the illustrations and to the localities

It is hoped to follow the present volume shortly with one on
" Stalls and Misericords ; Bench Ends and Poppy Heads ; Jacobean
Pews, Squires' Pews, Corporation Pews; Bishops' Thrones; and Chairs."
Descriptions and photographs of important and interesting examples
will be welcome ; they should be addressed to Francis Bond, Stafford
House, Duppas Road, Croydon.




Chapter I. The Original Import of the Rite of Baptism - i

„ II. Methods of Administration of the Rite of Baptism - 5

„ III. The Baptistery and its Piscina - - - - 18

„ IV. Transformation of the Baptistery Tank into a Tub

Font, a Font on Legs, a Pedestal Font, a Chalice

Font, a Metal Basin or an Earthenware Bowl - 26


,, V. Classification of Fonts : Symbolism - - - 37

„ VI. Fonts with Appendages and Accessories 60

,, VII. Fonts of Gold, Silver, Bronze, Pewter, Brick, and Lead 75
„ VIII. Position of Fonts. Construction and Dimensions of
Fonts. Plinth and Steps. Fonts Recut or
Mounted. Conversion of Altars, Columns, and

Pillar Crosses into Fonts - - 88

„ IX Inscriptions on Fonts - 107


,, X. Pre-Conquest Fonts - - 119

„ XI. Font Design in the Twelfth Century - 144

„ XII. „ ,, Thirteenth Century - 206

„ XIII. „ „ Fourteenth Century - 227

„ XIV. „ ,, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries 241

„ XV. Post-Reformation Fonts - 265

„ XVI. Desecration and Destruction of Fonts - - 275


„ XVII. Font Covers - 281

Index Locorum - - - - 315

Index Rerum - - - - 343


Allen, J. Romilly. "On the Antiquity of Fonts in Great Britain."
Brit. Arch. Journal, xliv. 164, 1. 17.

Early Christian Symbolism (lecture v.). London, 1887.

Andrk, J. Lewis. "Leaden Fonts" in Sussex Collections, xxxii. 75.

"Fonts in Sussex Churches." Sussex Collections, xliv. 28-44,


"Fonts and Baptisms." Old Reliquary, xxiv. 209 and xxv. 27.

Andrew, W. J. " Some Derbyshire Fonts." Derby Arch, and Nat.

History Soc, xxiv. 163.
Astley, Rev. H. J. D. "Norman Fonts in North-West Norfolk."
Norwich, 1906. Reliquary, vol. ix.

" Memorials of Norfolk."

Batty. " Some particulars connected with the history of Baptismal

Fonts." Aylesbury, 1848.
Cabrol. Dictiounaire d'Archeologie chretien/ie et de liturgie. Paris,

Carte. "On Fonts." Archceologia, x. 209.
Clay, C. " Particulars respecting Baptismal Fonts in British and

other Churches." Scrap Book. Folio. Manchester, i860.
Cloquet, T. " Fonts de bapteme romans de Tournai." Revue de

I' Art chretien, 1891 and 1895.
Cole, Rev. E. Maule. East Riding Arch. Journal, vol. x. 107.
C(ombe), T. " Illustrations of Baptismal Fonts," with introduction by

F. A. Paley. London, 1844. Quoted as Paley's Fonts.
Corblet, J. " Histoire du sacrement de bapteme." Revue de I' Art

chretien, vii. 99, ix. 34 and 561, xxii., xxv. 34.

" Des lieux consacres au bapteme." Revue de P Art chretien, 1877.

Cote. Archceology of Baptism. London, 1826.

Cox, J. C, and Harvey, Alfred. " English Church Furniture."
London, 1907.


Cotman. " Specimens of Architectural Remains in Various Counties

of England." 2 vols. Folio. London, 1838.
Duchesne. Origines du culte Chretien, c. ix. Paris. Third edition.

Ellis, J. W. "The Mediaeval Fonts of the Hundreds of West Derby

and Wirral." Lancashire and Cheshire Hist. Soc, N.S., xvii. and

Eden, F. C "On Font Covers." Builder, 30th August 1902.
Enlart, M. Camille. Manuel d'Archeologie, vol. i., pages 763-782 ;

see also his bibliography, page 809.
Fryer, Dr A. C. "Some types of Cornish Fonts." New Reliquary,

viii. 96.

— "A group of Transitional-Norman fonts." British Arch. Assoc.
Journal, N.S., vii. 215.

■ "Ancient fonts of Gower." British Arch. Assoc. Journal, N.S.,

- "Leaden Fonts." Arch. Journal, lvii. 40.

"Additional notes on Leaden Fonts." Arch. Journal, lxiii. 97.

- " On Fonts with representations of the Seven Sacraments."
Arch. Journal, lix. 17.

— " On Fonts with representations of Baptism and the Holy
Eucharist." Arch. Journal, lx. 1.

Gatley, John. "Cornish Fonts." Antiquary, xv. 19.

Gough, Richard. " East Meon and other Fonts." Archmologia,

x. 18?.
Grose. " Antiquarian Repertory," vol. iii. London, 1807-9.
Husenbeth. "Sacramental Fonts in Norfolk." Brit. Arch. Journal,

xiv. 51.
Keyser, C. E. List of Buildings having Mural Decorations, lxiii. and


"A List of Norman Tympana and Lintels with figure or

symbolical sculpture." London, 1904.

Lewis, G. R. "Early Fonts of England," folio. London, 1843.

Pegge. "On Fonts." Archceologia, xi. 108.

Pridham, Harvey. His collection of 416 measured drawings of Somer-
setshire fonts was purchased in 1908 by the Somerset Archaeological
and Natural History Society, and is deposited in the Taunton

Pope, T. S. "Notes on Baptismal Fonts," with numerous drawings.
Clifton Antiquarian Club, ii. 229.

Repton, J. A. " Specimens of Fonts." Archceologia, vol. xvi.
Page 335.


Saintenov, Paul. " Prolegomenes a l'etude de la filiation des Fonts

Baptismaux depuis les Baptisteres jusqu'au XVP siecle." Annates

de la Societe <T archiologie de Bruxelles, vol. v., pages 5 and 243, vol.

vi. 69.
Sauermann, Dr Ernst. "Fonts of Schleswig-Holstein." Lubeck, 1904.
Simpson, F. "Series of Ancient Baptismal Fonts." London, 1828.
Smith, G. I,e Blanc. "Derbyshire Fonts," in Derby Arch, and Nat.

Hist. Society, xxv. 217 ; and Neiv Reliquary, vii. 268, and xiii. 221.
Stone, Rev. Darwell. "Holy Baptism." London, 1899.
Summers, H. H. C. " The Ancient Fonts of Powysland." Montgomery

Collections, xxxii. 163.
Swann, Miss Emma. " Fonts of Unusual Shape, with Appendages."

Oxford Arch, and Hist. Soc, 1887, vol. xxxiii.
Walker, M. J. Russell. " Scottish Baptismal Fonts." Proceedings

of Soc. of A nliquaries of Scotland, 1887, 445.
Way, Albert. "Collection of illustrations of Baptismal Fonts," in

possession of the Soc. of Antiquaries. 3 vols.
Weaver, Lawrence. " Leaden Fonts." Burlington Magazine, viii. 246.
Wilpert. Le Pitture delle catacombe romane. Rome, 1903 (chapter

xiv. deals with Baptism). First published in German as Die

Malereien der Katakomben Poms.
Walker, A. Katharine. "An Introduction to the Study of English

Fonts with details of those in Sussex." London, 1908.

In addition to the above, many monographs of individual fonts are
referred to in footnotes.






Up to the Protestant Reformation seven sacraments were fully
recognised in England ; many a font still remains, especially in
East Anglia, in which these seven sacraments are represented
in graphic form for the instruction of believers (2). Of these
seven sacraments, two have been held at all times to be of
primary importance, those of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
But in the Catechism and Articles the Church of England now
makes a distinction between "those five commonly called
sacraments" and those two only that are "generally necessary
to salvation " and "ordained by Christ himself." In all Christian
Churches the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper
are de jure of equal authority and obligation. The rite
of baptism is not a whit behind the other in dignity and sanctity.
It might, indeed, be held that Our Lord laid even more stress on
Baptism than on the Eucharist. The complexity, too, of the
ritual which soon gathered round the former rite in the early
Church shews unmistakably the very great importance in which
it was held. First of all, the baptism of adults was preceded
by a long preparation of them as catechumens. Then, when the
day of baptism had arrived, there was the Benedictio aquae, the
blessing of the water. Then came the actual rite of baptism,
which was itself threefold ; first, there was the renunciation of
Satan, which itself, again, was sometimes triple : " Do you
renounce Satan ? " "I renounce him." " Do you renounce all his





works?" "I renounce them all." "Do you renounce all his
pomps ? " "I renounce them all." The second part of the rite
of baptism was to make triple profession of faith. " Do you
believe in God the Father Almighty ? " "I believe." " Do you
believe in Jesus Christ?" "I believe." "Do you believe in
the Holy Spirit ? " "I believe." Then came the triple ablution.
The act of baptism thus complete, there followed the laying on
of hands, various minor rites, and the first Communion. Nowa-
days the rite of baptism is very far removed from the primitive
conditions. The two rites are no longer de facto held in like
and equal regard. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper has

larger to the religious eye, and is and has
long been the very corner-
stone of Catholic theology
and ritual.

What has happened to the
other rite is clearly written
in bricks and mortar. The
series of transitions from
the baptisteries of St John
Lateran at Rome and Arch-
bishop Neon at Ravenna, to
the tanks of Verona and Pisa,
the tub-fonts of Walberton
and Tangmere, the mounted
fonts of Winchester and
Walsingham, the pewter and
earthenware basins of the
eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, is a material wit-
ness that may not be gainsaid
to a steady and unceasing
falling away of the estimation in which the sacrament of Baptism
is held. It is undeniable that the sacrament of Baptism has
been allowed to fall into a secondary position. It is equally
undeniable that this secondary position has come about by no
deliberate intent of the authorities of the Church. How then
did it come about ?

Two main factors to a large extent account for the decay of
the importance attached to the rite of baptism. The first is that
for some time baptism was mainly, if not wholly, confined to
adults ; for it was administered almost wholly to converts, who
were adults. Now, it is a very grave and serious thine for a
grown-up man to come forward and announce in the presence of
a public either hostile or indifferent that he proposes to give



up what now appears to him the evil manner of life of his
relatives and friends, and in particular to discard the religion
in which he has been born and bred, and to adopt something
altogether new and strange. More especially would this be so
when the convert was an aristocrat, perhaps an officer in the
imperial service of Pagan Rome, and the religion which he was
about to adopt that of a despised and alien sect. The sacrifice
wi >uld be no whit the less than for an Anglican peer or bishop to put
away his state and take up the yellow robe of Buddhism. It
would indeed be a much greater sacrifice. One may join the
Salvation Army, or Mohammedanism, or Buddhism nowadays
without risk of life or limb. It was not so in the first three
centuries of Christianity ; to enter on the Christian novitiate
was to many to take the first step on the crimson road of
martyrdom. In these centuries, then, baptism was of momentous
import in a Christian's life ; it could not but bulk far above
all other rites and ordinances ; never again, all the days of a
man's life, would he confront a crisis of such dire possibilities.
Hut in 312 A.i). there came the Peace of the Church, and the
black and sinister aspect of the rite was for the most part
dispelled ; nevertheless still, for many centuries onward, baptism
meant usually the solemn profession of a grown-up man. But
quite early it became the practice for children also to be baptized.
A Syrian father, St Isaac, writes c. 450 a.d. : " Let the lambs
of our flock be sealed from the first, that the robber ma)- see
the mark impressed upon their bodies and tremble. Let not
a child that is without the seal suck the milk of a mother that
hath been baptized. Let the children of the kingdom be carried
from the womb to baptism." It was natural enough that fathers
and mothers and every one who loved children should desire
that they should not wait till adult age for baptism. .And so the
baptism of children and infants had become common by the
eighth century, and the baptism of adults less common, till in the
end the latter became the exception, and the former the rule.
Hut it is of very different solemnity when a man comes forward,
like little three-year-old St Cyril, to say, " I am a Christian " ;

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