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Church prevented from destroying its own font

A Church of England court has clarified that old church fonts do not need to be buried when they are replaced.

Font at All Saints Church, Winterton

A Church of England court has clarified that old church fonts do not need to be buried when they are replaced. Previously, many redundant fonts have been buried as part of a tradition said by some to be partially designed to prevent them being used for occult purposes. The decision comes after the Victorian Society successfully challenged the burial of an Edwardian font in All Saint’s Church Winterton, Lincolnshire.

The decision is important as it sets a precedent which can be relied on in future cases ­- making it easier to ensure old fonts can be saved.

Victorian Society Senior Conservation Advisor for Churches, Tom Ashley, said: ‘While we understand the need to protect an old font from misuse, we are glad that the Chancellor recognised the pointlessness of burying the existing font when it was possible to re-site it within the Church. The craftsmanship which went into the Edwardian font, which has served its community for 100 years, can now continue to be appreciated.’

After receiving advice that there should not be more than one font in a church, All Saint’s Church planned to bury its Edwardian font underneath its rediscovered medieval font. The Victorian Society challenged this decision in the Church of England’s Consistory Court arguing that the desire to reinstall the mediaeval font did not provide a pretext for destroying the Edwardian font.

Ruling on the plans, Mark Bishop, Chancellor of the Diocese of Lincoln and a judge of the Church's Consistory Court, held that as the Edwardian font would not be used as a font in future, it was not necessary to decide whether having two fonts in use in one church was permitted by ecclesiastical law. Therefore, he considered that both the fonts could ‘co-exist peacefully’ within the same church, or if this was not desired, the old font could be sent to church storage. The Chancellor could ‘see no reason’ why the Edwardian font had to be buried and rejected All Saint’s application for permission to do so.

Wednesday 28 January, 2015

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