Font from W

Image of the feature "Fonts: Font" at Backwell.

by Robin Downes.

At the W end of the nave, well forward of the tower arch, a font with a circular cup-shaped bowl with a band of cable moulding towards the bottom. This stands on an inverted conical support with a roll necking at the bottom, and that on a short cylindrical stem on a tall bulbous base carved with foliage designs in relief. The assembly stands on a modern octagonal step. The description above applies to all except the W section of the font. Here the bowl is unchanged but the support is uncarved and stands proud of the rest of the circumference, so that there is no roll to the conical support and no foliage carving on the base at this side. Perhaps this was also originally true of the whole bowl, before the 1907 restoration (see below), and the explanation is that the font stood flush to a wall; but that is an unconvincing explanation, since any face to a wall would be straight.

The font was apparently discovered in the early 18thc, buried in the churchyard and brought into the church. It was restored in 1907. It has been an object of interest to antiquarians since the end of the 18thc, and a series of dated comments is included in the Comments/Opinions section of this report.

The decoration of the base consists of two symmetrical sprays of foliage springing from what is now the eastern aspect. Although symmetrical in principle, the two sprays are not, of course, identical in detail but they both terminate in leaves which are moulded to give the impression of slight eversion at their ends (rather like outermost finger-joints being upturned): a nice detail. On the whole, the decoration is heavy and coarse in effect: perhaps this is appropriate to the base of a font (as opposed to the superior bowl). 

Below the ring, the stem is a simple cylinder (except for the proud cylindrical section at the west, of course); conical above the ring. The lower part seems to be in the same, lighter-coloured, stone as the new part of the bowl; the tooling also looks similar: therefore, one may suspect that this part of the stem dates from 1907. 

The original part of the bowl still exists at the present south-eastern aspect. If one examines the bowl from the SE (or ENE), one will see a clear division between old and new: the SW aspect is new (except for the cable); the W-N-NE aspects are new including the cable. Although the new parts of the cable are more regularly moulded than the original, they do not have the mechanical appearance which tends to spoil neo-Norman work (however well-intentioned). The old and new can be clearly distinguished by their different tooling (as already mentioned) and stone (the new being lighter in colour). The bowl has no upper moulding, just curving slightly and neatly back to the rim. There is good lead, bright up to and part way across the top. There is evidence in the original rim at the east of a former lock-fitting.



Circumference of base 1.70m
Circumference of bowl 2.10m
Circumference of stem 1.56m
Depth of basin 0.28m
External diameter of bowl 0.65m
Height of base 0.26m
Height of bowl 0.31m
Internal diameter of bowl 0.45m
Overall height of font 0.99m
Width of lead 0.03m
Width of rim 0.1m