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the bowl, in the vast majority of cases, is circular. Occasionally,
as in a few Norman fonts of North Somerset, the interior is square.
In three instances, namely, at Wellow, Somerset, Lenton, Notts.,
and St. Mary's, Stafford, the interior of the bowl is foliated ; and at
Lanteglos, Cornwall, and Yate, Glos., it is octagonal.

The outer octagonal shape came into use in a few late instances
in Norman days, and is also found occasionally in those of Early
English date.

Fonts subsequent to the time of Henry III. are almost always
octagon in shape ; but there are a few square I4th-cent. fonts, as at
Newick, Sussex ; and of the I5th, as at Bradfield, Suffolk, and
Lindfield, Sussex. There are a very few English fonts of heptagon
shape Chaddesden, Derbs. ; Elmswell, Suffolk ; and Bowden
Magna, Leics. About a score are hexagon ; such are those
of Faringdon, Berks. ; Kegworth, Leics. ; Outwell, Norfolk ;
Rolvenden, Kent ; Sleaford, Lines., etc. At Hollington, Sussex,
is the unique example of a pentagon font.

Both Mr. Parker and Mr. Bloxam were in the habit of saying
that they were not aware of a single instance of the survival of a
pre-Conquest font. We believe this is still the opinion of several
expert ecclesiologists, such as Mr. W. H. St. John Hope, and it was
a view that was likewise upheld by the late Mr. Micklethwaite.
It requires, therefore, some boldness to assert that Saxon fonts do
remain in England ; but this we are convinced is the fact. It
would, indeed, be marvellous if this was not the case, as there are


so many substantial remnants of Saxon church fabrics. Stone fonts,
which are by their very nature of a fairly indestructible character,
were, beyond doubt, used by Saxon Christians.

In two cases the pre-Norman characters used in font inscriptions
prove their Saxon date. The inscription on the circular font of
Little Billing, Northants, engraved by Paley, runs round about a
third of the circumference of the bowl, with two horizontal lines of
Anglo-Saxon lettering ; it reads as follows :

Wigberhtus artifex atque cementarius hunc fabric avit,
Quisquis suum venit mergere corpus procul dubio capiat.

" Wigbert the artificer and mason made this (font),
Whoever comes hither to dip his body, let him take it (Baptism) without doubt."

There is one other font, namely, that of Potterne, Wilts., with an
inscription in similar angular pre-Norman capitals. In this case
the inscription is the appropriate first verse of Ps. xlii. : Cicut
cervus desiderat adfontes, aquarum ita desiderat anima mea ad te Ds.
Amen. This font, of tub shape, was discovered in 1872, buried
4 feet below its successor.

Competent authorities pronounce the old font at Bosbury,
Herefords., found in 1844, 2 feet below its Early English successor,
to be of pre-Norman date.

In the church of South Hayling, Hants, is a small font of
Anglo-Saxon knot-work, fully described by Mr. Romilly Allen in
vol. ii. of the Victoria County History of Hants.

There seems no reason whatever to doubt that the font of the
Saxon church of Deerhurst, Glos., is at least as old as the date of
the later Saxon chapel shown by its dedication stone to be of the
year 1053 and possibly pertains to the much older church. It is
cylindrical, and covered with peculiar spiral ornaments. The whole
question as to this font and the probable early date of one or two
other fonts similarly ornamented, is ably discussed by Mr. Hudd in
vol. xi. of the Gloucester and Bristol Archceological Societies Trans-

The font at Bridekirk, Cumberland, with a runic inscription,
was long supposed to be of very early date, but the best experts
seem now agreed that the runes are of the 1 2th cent.

The massive tub font, 3 feet in diameter, of the Saxon church
of Boarhunt, Hants, may be clearly accepted as of the same date
as the fabric.



The oldest of the two fonts in the church of Bowes, N. R. Yorks.,
has a circular bason supported by a Roman altar. There cannot be
much doubt but that this bowl is of pre-Norman date. The bowl
of the font at Romaldkirk in the same Riding is similarly

The lower part of the historic font of St. Martin's, Canterbury,
whatever may have been its original use, is of pre-Norman design.

It is also the opinion of several com-
petent writers that various of the earlier
examples of plain rude fonts are just as
likely to be Saxon as Norman. It would
be too long a question to attempt any dis-
cussion of such cases in these pages, for
each instance requires to be discussed on
its own merits.

A few of our English fonts are of much
interest in their origin, having been, in
whole or in part, formed of Roman ma-
terial. At Wroxeter, Salop., and again at
West Mersea, Essex, where the church
stands on the site of a Roman villa, the
shafts of the fonts are formed of the drums

of Roman columns. At Chollerton and Haydon, Northumberland,
and at Great Salkeld, Cumberland, the fonts themselves are said
to be hollowed out of Roman altars.

In two or three other cases it is found that the font, if not of
pre-Norman date, has been made of Saxon materials. The most
noted case of this is the richly sculptured font of Wilne, Derbs.,
which is constructed out of a reversed section of an early Saxon
pillar cross.

The font of Dolton, Devon, is constructed from two pieces of
highly ornamented pre-Norman cross shafts. At Melbury Bubb,
Dorset, the font is formed out of a section of a cylindrical Saxon
cross, as at Wilne.

There is one most interesting and beautiful group of early fonts
of which the font of Winchester cathedral is the most conspicuous
example. The excellent material from which they are formed has
resulted in a remarkable degree of preservation. The stone is a
black or bluish-black marble that has been proved to come from
the Tournay quarries in Hainault, Belgium, and there, in all



probability, they were carved before they crossed the seas. There
are seven examples of this group of imported fonts now in England,
namely, those at Winchester cathedral, at East Meon, at St. Mary,
Bourne, and at St. Michael's, Southampton, all in Hants ; at
Lincoln cathedral and at Thornton Curtis, Lines. ; and at St.
Peter's, Ipswich, There used to be another Hampshire example,
namely, at Romsey abbey church ; but being in poor condition, it
was broken up and thrown away at a needless restoration about
1850. They are all alike in form and general outline, and consist
of a bowl round on the inside and square on the outside ; a stem
composed of a central shaft, with four smaller shafts at the angles ;
and a base which is square like the bowl. They vary in height
from 3 feet 2 inches to 3 feet 6 inches, and the diameter of the
bowl outside varies from 3 feet 3 inches to 3 feet 7 inches. The
sides of the square of the bowl are boldly though somewhat rudely
carved in each instance ; that of Winchester with the legends of St.
Nicholas ; that of East Meon with the story of Adam and Eve ;
that of Southampton with the evangelistic symbols ; and the
remainder with birds, beasts, and mystical creatures. Their date
is of the last half of the I2th cent. The history and details of this
group of fonts was well elucidated by Dean Kitchin and Mr. J.
Romilly Allen in vol. 1. of the Journal of the British Archceological

About the middle of the I5th cent, the singularly happy and
beautifully executed idea of depicting the Seven Sacraments of the
Church, on the vessel dedicated to the initial Sacrament, occurred
to the designers of the more elaborate English font. It is
exceedingly probable that not a few of the fonts thus embellished
were destroyed by Puritan violence, to whom such subjects would
be eminently distasteful, but there are at present existing in England
twenty-nine examples, which are thus distributed

Badingham, Suffolk. Great Glemham, Suffolk.

Binham Abbey, Norfolk. Gorleston, Suffolk.

Blythburgh, Suffolk. Gresham, Norfolk.

Brooke, Norfolk. Laxfield, Suffolk.

Burgh-next-to-Aylsham, Norfolk. Loddon, Norfolk.

Cley, Norfolk. Marsham, Norfolk.

Cratfield, Suffolk. Martham, Norfolk.

East Dereham, Norfolk. Melton, Suffolk.

Farningham, Kent. Nettlecombe, Somerset.





Norwich cathedral, Norfolk. Westhall, Suffolk.

Sail, Norfolk. West Lynn, Norfolk.

Southwold, Suffolk. Weston, Suffolk.

Stoley, Norfolk. Great Witchingham, Norfolk.

Little Walsingham, Norfolk. Woodbridge, Suffolk.

Walsoken, Norfolk.

The steps upon which these fonts stand are in some cases elaborate
and beautiful, those of Little Walsingham being the most intricate
in design. There can be no doubt that they would originally in
each case be crowned with lofty tabernacled covers. The pedestals
are usually adorned with eight figures in niches, and the bases
further enriched with small representations of the four Evangelists
and their symbols.

All their bowls are octagonal, and consequently some other
subject had to be designed for the eighth panel. In nine cases
the Crucifixion forms the subject in the eighth compartment, in
seven instances the Baptism of our Lord, and on three fonts the
Last Judgment. There is a single example of each of the following
subjects: the Communion of the -People, the Assumption, the
Virgin and Child, the Holy Trinity, Our Lord in Glory, and the
Martyrdom of St. Andrew at the church of St. Andrew, Melton.
The eighth panel at Farningham shows a figure kneeling before a
crucifix, which is probably intended for the donor of the font. In
the three remaining cases the eighth compartment is either blank
or hopelessly defaced.

Most, if not all, of these fonts were originally elaborately coloured.
Obvious traces of colour remain at Badingham, East Dereham,
Nettlecombe, and West Lynn, whilst at Westhall and Great
Witchingham the gilding is quite brilliant, and the red, blue,
green, and black paint comparatively fresh. The details of the
small groups of figures illustrating the Seven Sacraments are of
much ecclesiological interest, and have been fully dealt with and
illustrated by Dr. Alfred C. Fryer in the Archcsological Journal
(vol. lix., March, 1902).

Heraldry sometimes obtrudes itself on a font. Notwithstanding
its apparent inappropriateness in connection with the administration
of the initial Sacrament, its presence is of interest in suggesting the
donor and date of the font. Heraldry is to be noticed on the
I4th-cent. leaden font of Parham, Surrey, and on three or four
others of that period. At Shelfanger, Norfolk, the arms and


initials of Adam Bosville, who died in 1360, appear on the font ;
but heraldic fonts are chiefly of the next century. A particularly
interesting heraldic font, giving all the alliances of the old family
of Holdenby, stood in the church of Holdenby, Northants, until
a " restoration " in the " seventies," when it was broken up and
buried beneath its modern successor !

The arms of Archbishop Arundel (1397-1414) appear on the
font of Sittingbourne, Kent, and those of the last abbot of Whalley
on Padiham font, Lanes.

The following is an alphabetical list of heraldic fonts ; it makes
no pretensions to be exhaustive. Unless otherwise distinguished,
the fonts are all of the Perpendicular period.

Ackworth, Yorks.

Alnham, Northumberland (1664).

Aylsham, Norfolk (shaft).

Barrow, Suffolk.

Breedon, Leics.

Burgate, Suffolk.

Burwash, Sussex.

Catterick, Yorks.

Little Cornard, Suffolk.

Coventry, H. Trinity, Warwicks.

Crosthwaite, Cumberland (i4th).

Dalton-in-Furness, Lanes.

Drayton Parsloe, Bucks.

Dunsford, Devon.

Eakring, Notts. (1674).

East Ham, Essex.

Fakenham, Norfolk.

Featherstone, Yorks.

Finchingfield, Essex (i4th).

Harington, Lines.

Haslingden, Lanes.

Herne, Kent.

Howell, Lines.

Hoxne, Suffolk.

Ingram, Northumberland (1664).

Ketteringham, Norfolk.

Kettleburgh, Suffolk.

Kirkhampton, Cornwall.

Lesbury, Northumberland.

Market Bosworth, Leics. (i4th).

Millom, Cumberland.

Mitcham, Surrey.

Mortlake, Surrey.

Mountfield, Essex.

North Bradley, Wilts.

Padiham, Lanes.

Parham, Surrey (i4th).

Priston, Somerset.

Rackheath Magna, Norfolk (i6th)

Risley, Derbs.

Rolvenden, Kent (i4th).

St. Goran, Cornwall.

Sandwich, Kent.

Sedgefield, Durham.

Shelfanger, Norfolk.

Sittingbourne, Kent.

South Kilvington, Yorks.

Staindrop, Durham.

Stanton Harcourt, Oxon.

Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk.

Ufford, Suffolk.

West Deeping, Lines. (i3th).

Winterborne Whitchurch, Dorset.

Wiston, Suffolk.

Woodchurch, Chester.

Wybunbury, Chester.

There are a few mediaeval fonts which are noteworthy through
having projections from the bowl. These projections have given


rise to a diversity of would-be explanations of their use and origin,
which are mostly futile. There are five distinct English instances,
and the same explanation cannot apply to them all.

The most interesting of these, and the one which has given rise
to a great variety of conjectures, is that of Youlgreave, Derbs. This
late Norman font, which has been frequently illustrated, possesses
other noteworthy features ; the best account and pictures of it are
those given by Mr. Le Blanc Smith in vol. xxvi. of the Derbyshire
Archaeological Journal. The projection in this case takes the form
of a rounded bason or stoup, a little below the level of the font rim ;
it has an interior width of 9^ inches, and an interior depth of 6J
inches. There can be little doubt that the use of this hollowed
adjunct to the font was in connection with baptism by affusion.
The usual old rubrics of the baptismal office of the Western Church
ordained that when the infant was baptized by affusion, the surplus
water was not to be allowed to return into the font or compartment
of the font wherein was the consecrated water, but that a vessel was
to be provided to receive the water running off the head of the
recipient. The advantage of this can be readily understood when
it is recollected that the hallowed water used to remain in the font
for a long period. This is the explanation of the bequests of
silver basons for the fonts that are occasionally met with in English
mediaeval wills. The general modern Roman use is to have the
font divided into two parts for this purpose, each with its own
drain running into the earth. In cases where this is not provided,
it is usual for a server to hold a bason beneath the child's head.
In several churches of Brittany and Normandy, as well as in the
museums of Rouen and other towns in the north of France, are
early fonts with side projections for this purpose. But in all these
cases such projections have wide circular basons at the top and are
continued down to the base of the font or floor level, being pro-
vided with a drain communicating with the soil or ground beneath.
There is no drain to the font stoup at Youlgreave, and in this case
it would serve to hold a movable bason, which would be carried
into the churchyard and there emptied.

Odiham, Hants, possesses a remarkable font, temp. Henry III.,
to which attention has often been directed. Round the circular
bowl runs the inscription from the Vulgate, with the usual con-
tractions Auxilium meum a Domino qui fecit celum et terram
(Ps. cxxi. 2). The lettering is in raised letters of a bold and


slightly ornamental style of " black letter ; " this kind of text is
very exceptional for I3th-cent. work, and the suggestion that the
lettering was done at a later date may possibly be correct. The
character and method of this inscription is unique in English fonts,
but its special peculiarity remains to be noticed. From the upper
part of the bowl there is a bracket-like projection, in the top of
which is an oblong hollow measuring 5 inches by 3^ inches. This
hollow has sloping sides, and is if inches deep. At each end is a
circular hole which is carried through the stonework at an acute
angle, terminating in similar small holes lower down on the outer
surface of the bracket. There have been various surmises as to
the original use or intention of this bracket. Of late years it has
been generally maintained that it was to serve for baptism by
affusion, after the same fashion as the attached stoup of Youlgreave.
But the small, oblong hollow is obviously quite unfitted for any
such purpose, and if a little water is poured in, it trickles down the
outside of the font in two directions, after a fashion that would
make its retention in any vessel placed on the ground an im-
possibility. It is just possible that the Odiham projection may
have served to affix a movable bracket upon which a bason could
rest ; but this is improbable, for in that case the holes in the hollow
would have been straight so as to readily permit of the fixing and
unfixing of such a convenience. This bracket could have had no
connection with the chrysmatory for the holy oils used at baptism,
for the mediaeval chrysmatory was of very small dimensions, and
held in the hand of a server. On the whole by far the most likely
use for this bracket was to serve as a support for the hinges of a
font-cover of unusual solidity of structure.

The I4th-cent. font of Pitsford, Northants, is well engraved by
Paley. This font has a plain, solid, three-sided ledge projecting
immediately from the rim of the octagonal font, and pierced with
several small circular holes. It is probable that these holes and the
ledge were intended to sustain a movable rest of wood or metal
for the support of the affusion bason, or (which is more unlikely)
for a bracket to hold the office book.

At St. Michael's, Sutton Bonnington, Notts., is a fourth of these
fonts with projections cut out of the solid stone. This well-finished
I4th-cent. octagonal font has its original step and priest's stone.
It stands 4 feet high, and has a diameter of 2 feet 6 inches. There
are three projecting brackets ; the one on the celebrant's left has a





flat surface level with the font rim 9 inches by 8 inches ; the two
smaller ones, on the east and south sides of the font, are 6 inches
across. On the larger bracket would rest the affusion bowl in the
proper place, for the infant's head would rest on the priest's left
arm, whilst the two other pro-
jections might be convenient
for the salt and candle, which
were accessories of the full
Western rite of baptism.

The font of Rainham, Es-
sex, has a circular Norman
bowl with a shaft of later date.
On one side there is a small
semicircular projection, level
with the rim of the font,
standing out a little distance ;
whilst on the opposite side is
a small portion of another
similar projection, most of
which has been broken away.

The I3th-cent. font of Raunds, Northants, has a carved ram's
head projecting from the rim, the top of which, when perfect, may
possibly have served as a rest. Several other of our old fonts show-
marks or traces whence original projections seem to have been
broken off.

With regard to post- Reformation fonts, there are just a few
dated examples of the long reign of Elizabeth. Such are Ellesmere,
Salop., 1569, and Edlington, Staffs., 1590. Much honour was done
to the fonts in the way of more or less comely covers during the
time of James I., but very few were then constructed. The font of
Whixall, Salop., bears the date 1608. At Byford, Herefords., is a
font of the time of Charles I., dated 1638, and there is another of
the following year at Rackheath Magna, Norfolk.

When the Puritans gained the ascendancy during the Common-
wealth, the use of fonts was forbidden ; their place was to be taken
by a mere bason. Where churchwarden accounts of this period
are extant, reference is often made to this mean change. Thus at
Wilmslow, Chester, the lead lining of the old font was sold for
3^. ; and in 1647 "iron work to sett the bason in" cost 5^., whilst
2s. 8d. was paid for " a pewter bason for to baptize in." The same


parish accounts show that 17^. S</. was spent on a new font in 1660,
and gs. on a cover in 1661.

The churchwarden accounts of Aldwincle St. Peter's, Northants,
show that a bason was bought for 6d. in 1655, and in 1657 the
churchwardens "sould the fTont for iij^. vjW." In 1662 they had to
spend i IDS. 2d. in setting it up again.

The dated fonts of the early days of the Restoration of both
the Church and the Monarchy are numerous. Those of the year
1662 naturally predominate, as that was the time when loyalty to
the Prayer-book, by those holding benefices, was made obligatory.

The following list includes many dated Restoration fonts to
be found in different parts of the kingdom, but it is probably
less than a quarter of the whole number :

1660. Edwalton, Notts. 1662. Scarrington, Notts.

Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Notts. Distington, Cumberland.

Wysall, Notts. North Chapel, Sussex.

Flinton, Notts. Ecclesfield, W. R. Yorks.

Flawborough, Notts. Sandal, W. R. Yorks.

North Winfield, Derbs. Burneston, E. R. Yorks.

1661. Probus, Cornwall. Ainderby Steeple, E. R. Yorks.
Lurgashall, Sussex. ,, Northallerton, E. R. Yorks.

Wakefield, W. R. Yorks. Wensley, E. R. Yorks.

Ormskirk, Lanes. Great Harwood, Lanes.

Pleasley, Derbs. Wirksworth, Derbs.

1662. Cropwell, Notts. Findern, Derbs.
East Bridgford, Notts. Skirkbeck, Lines.
Sibthorp, Notts. Astbury, Chester.

Whatton, Notts. 1663. Marske, E. R. Yorks.

Shelford, Notts. Bunbury, Chester.

,, Orston, Notts. Ripple, Kent.

Tithby, Notts. Ackworth, W. R. Yorks.

There are also one or two dated fonts of the years 1664 and

Some of these fonts are of rude workmanship, but others,
notably a Nottinghamshire group, of very similar design, display
decided merit. The most striking Restoration font in England is
the one in Orston church, Notts., which is a fine piece of carving,
partly after a mediaeval model, but at the same time showing con-
siderable originality. The arrangement of the three tulips
probably emblematic of the Trinity is, we should think, unique.



Another Restoration font which we also consider worth illustrating
is that of Wirksworth, Derbs. In this case, although the true prin-
ciples of design are set at defiance by a medley of varied orna-
ments, the result is not unpleasant, for it is quite obvious that the
sculptor did the very best of which he was capable to adorn the
House of God. These fonts are mostly octagonal, but those of
Lurgashall and North Chapel, Sussex, are square and of local
Petworth marble.

In a few instances the date 1660 or 1662, accompanied by


churchwarden initials, are to be found on far older fonts, signalizing
the date when they were brought back into the church after Puritan
ejection. This is the case with the Norman font of Parwich,
Derbs., and with the I5th-cent. font of Church Layton, Leics.

Some later fonts of the same century are also dated. Thus
1674 appears on the font of Eakring, Notts. ; 1681 at Stoke
Albany, Northants ; and 1686 on those of Pickhill, E. R. Yorks.,
and Lupton, Westmoreland.

The use of anything save a proper font for baptism was for-
bidden by Elizabeth in 1584, and is strictly prohibited by the
reformed Canon of the Church of England ; but the use of mere
basons by the Puritans obtained such a hold that this irreverent


custom is even yet in use in a few out-of-the-way parishes, where
small bowls of various kinds are introduced into the font to save
the trouble of heavier water-carrying. Only a few years ago a
shallow Wedgwood saucer, with a cover, the whole precisely like a
muffin dish, was specially made for the purpose ; but it is very rarely
now seen. Just now and again such font basons were of costly

At Audlem, Chester, there is a silver font bowl thus inscribed


For the more decent celebration of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism in
the Parish Church of Audlem. This Bason is hitmbly dedicated to
the Font there by Ann Evans, widow of Wm. Evans M.A., xxxv
years master of the Free School of the said Parish, out of her
regard to her said late Husband's intentions, tho not reqitired by
his will, 1744.

In Sir Stephen Glynne's notes on Kent churches, taken about
1835, occurs the following entry under Cranbrook :


" On the south side of the nave is what is scarce to be found in any
other church a square baptistery of stone for the purpose of immersing

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