St Helen, Barnoldby-le-Beck, Lincolnshire

Feature Sets (2)


Taking the S doorway as a reference, the nave with its three-bay N and S aisles was likely built in the 13th c.  The chancel is probably late 13th c. and was rebuilt in 1839.  The late 14th/ early 15th c. W tower was rebuilt by C. H. Fowler in 1901-1902.  The clerestorey is of the 14/15th c.  The church was restored in 1892 by Ewan Christian.  The Romanesque features are the two fonts.


Though Barnoldby le Beck is mentioned in the Domesday Book there is no reference to a church here in 1086.




Drum font, plain

Located in the SE corner of the S aisle, the plain drum font is a creamy, tan coloured limestone.  The rectangular plinth, on which the font rests, is separate from the font and post-medieval. The drum of the font is unadorned but there is roll moulding on the lip. The surface condition is very rough. Running halfway around the center of the drum is a horizontal groove where stone has been cut away.  There is no lead lining inside the drum.

exterior diameter: 0.63 m.
height of bowl: 0.51 m.
interior diameter: 0.48 m.

Drum font with intersecting arcades

Located toward the W end of the N aisle, the drum font with intersecting arcades is a creamy, tan coloured limestone.  The cylindrical base is not original to the font.  The bottom edge of the font drum is chamfered.  The columns are cut flat and rest on rectangular plinths. The capitals are not defined by any details, only an increasing tapered width from the columns below them.  Round arches springing from the capitals intersect and, unlike the flat treatment of the columns, are given a rounded profile.  The lip is chamfered.  Lead lining in bowl is shaped into cusps on the lip.  There is a central drain.  There are two inserted repairs on the top portion of the font, one on the N side and one on the S side.  This is a very lop-sided drum shape as the E side of it has a pronounced outward inclination from bottom to top. 

exterior diameter: 0.81 m.
height of bowl: 0.555 m.
interior diameter: 0.605 m.


A sign placed on the wall near the plain drum font reads: “This font was discovered beneath the Norman font when the nave was excavated and consecrated, serving as a base; it was inverted; the solid portion being next the Font, and the Steps being built round the hollow part.  There are few similar instances of an old Font having been thus placed to prevent desecration.”  This discovery is also mentioned by Critchlow in her church guide to St. Helen’s.  Dating of fonts is notoriously difficult, but in this case, the use of the plain drum font beneath the arcaded font provides a clear sequence of production and use, with the arcaded font replacing the older plain one.  Pevsner dated this arcaded font to the late 13th c. due to its “flat cutting and absence of capitals”.  However fonts with intersecting arcades were long out of fashion by the late 13th c.  This font is much more comfortable with a 12th c. date.  During the 12th c. there are numerous examples in Lincolnshire of such fonts adorned with intersecting arcades (see for example those at Cabourne, St. Nicholas; Bracebridge, All Saints; or Boothby Pagnell, St. Andrew).  Furthermore, the “flat” cutting technique doesn’t support any kind of dating in this instance.  Indeed the intersecting arcades on the font at St. Andrew’s in Boothby Pagnell are also given a flat treatment and the columns equally lack any detailed delineation.  Re-cutting of stone fonts, not an uncommon practice (see Bond), produces both a flatter profile and tends to reduce or erase previously articulated details.  Stocker has suggested that such re-cutting is a sign of reverence toward to the liturgical vessel due to its contact with the consecrated baptismal water. Given the sequence of usage for these two fonts, a date in the 11th c. to early 12th c. would seem plausible for the plain drum font.

The use of an older font as a base below a newer font is well documented and other cases in Lincolnshire can be found at Colsterworth, Saltfleetby All Saints, and Tattershall.  In such cases, the lead lining of the earlier font was removed, as is the case here at Barnoldby le Beck, so it too could be recycled (see Stocker). 


  • F. Bond, Fonts and Font Covers, London: Oxford University Press, 1908, 91, 95-97.

  • M. J. Critchlow, “St. Helen’s Church, Barnoldby le Beck”, church guide, n.p., 1994.

  • N. Pevsner and J. Harris, The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire. London: Penguin, 1989 (1990), 118.

  • D. Stocker, “Fons et Origo: The Symbolic Death, Burial, and Resurrection of English Font Stones”, in Church Archaeology, vol. 1, (1997), 17-25.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TA 235 033 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Lincolnshire
now: Lincolnshire
now: Lincoln
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: St Helen
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Thomas E. Russo 
Visit Date
18 July 1996