Update 31 March
The first phase of the 6Ps appeal
The Font and Baptistry
As part of the current re-ordering work, the font is to be re-located at the back of the nave and on the centre line of the church; a number of people have asked why the font is not remaining in its original position and this article sets out to explain the issues from both a design and a liturgical point of view.
The baptistry is an area through which every member of a congregation or concert audience passes as they enter and leave the church. It is quite a large space but it has frequently become congested because it has always contained chairs, tables and notice boards to say nothing of the font itself. In the past the congestion was often particularly significant at the end of services with the preacher shaking hands with members of the congregation as they left, individuals having conversations, others trying to sign lists for future events on the notice boards and, from time to time, tables serving cake or wine to celebrate some significant event.
From an aesthetic point of view, the baptistry is an attractive space with interesting brasses, an ancient cross slab and several bronze grave plates displayed on the walls, most of which were hidden behind notice boards and other furniture. In the floor were eight large and significant black ledger stones, two of which had the 14th century font set on its 20th century plinth standing on them, with the other four partially hidden beneath furniture.
As if this were not enough, as design and survey work progressed, it became clear that the considerable weight of the font and its plinth were being supported by little more than the ledger stones – we were fortunate that the floor did not collapse under the weight and the font finish up in the boiler room beneath! Indeed, the floor at this point is so thin that it has not been possible to extend the under-floor heating as far as the west door.
From a liturgical perspective, baptism is the first sacrament and the font should be sited close to the entrance to the church and on a direct line to the high altar, not shunted off to one side. This was the view of our architect and supported by the Rector.
As a result of these considerations, the design set out to achieve the maximum available space in the baptistery area in order to reduce congestion and allow as much space as possible for the ’meet and greet’ roles of the welcome stewards and ‘good byes’ following services and other events. By re-siting notice boards and other furniture, it is hoped that the historic artefacts in the baptistry area will become more visible and more appreciated.
its new location it will not be possible to miss or ignore the font, thus satisfying its liturgical significance; however, the Victorian plinth and steps will not be re-used and hence it will be lower, more accessible and in scale with its surroundings. During baptisms it will also be possible for the family and congregation to completely surround the font, making the whole ceremony more intimate and inclusive. Although sited on the line of the former central aisle, the font should not prove to be an obstruction at weddings and funerals as it will be easy to adjust the layout of chairs whenever required.
The re-enforced floor under the baptistery showing the energy saving under floor heating system and boilers: amazing pipe work!