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St Helen, Barnoldby-le-Beck, Lincolnshire

(53°30′42″N, 0°8′20″W)
TA 235 033
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Lincolnshire
now Lincolnshire
  • Thomas E. Russo
18 July 1996

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Feature Sets

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.





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.