The Victorian Society has welcomed a decision by one of the highest courts in the Church of England to prevent a Somerset parish selling a font out of its listed church.
The Court of Arches decided that St Peter’s Church in Draycott was not facing a financial emergency and that allowing an important architectural feature to be sold to a private collector was unacceptable.
The parish had applied for permission to sell the font from the church after being approached by a speculative buyer in 2006. The buyer offered £100,000 for the font, plus an additional £10,000 for a replica to take its place. Initially the Diocese of Bath and Wells ruled that the sale should be allowed but the Victorian Society appealed against the decision and the case was transferred to the Court of Arches.
There the judges explicitly rejected claims that the church was faced with the real possibility of closure. They ruled that no compelling need to dispose of the font had been demonstrated and said that, had removal been allowed, ‘much of which adorns and adds interest, both historically and architecturally, to our churches would be lost to future generations.’
‘We are delighted by the court’s decision. We were very concerned that allowing part of a listed building to be sold off in this way would have set a dangerous precedent,’
The richly-carved Romanesque stone font was designed by William Burges, architect of iconic buildings such as Cardiff Castle and Cork Cathedral. It is still in reg, as it has been since the church was consecrated in 1861.
It is made up of a cream-coloured, fine-grained stone cap and base separated by a polished Purbeck Marble column. Each of the four sides of the top has a carved panel showing one of the four ages of man. Although there is some dispute about which church the font was originally intended for, it has stood in St Peter’s since the church’s consecration.
The Victorian Society is the national charity campaigning for the Victorian and Edwardian historic environment.
The society provides valuable information for owners of Victorian and Edwardian properties, to help them look after their buildings.
It helps people understand, appreciate and enjoy the architectural heritage of the Victorian and Edwardian period through its publications and educational programmes.