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Historic font saved after landmark ruling by church court

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 the Arches decided that St Peter’s Church in Draycott was not facing a financial emergency.

The court also ruled 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,' said Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society.

The richly-carved Romanesque font was designed by William Burges, architect of iconic buildings such as Cardiff Castle and Cork Cathedral. It is still in regular use for baptisms, as it has been since the church was consecrated in 1861.

Thursday 19 March, 2009

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