The font is thought to date from c.1150-1200. In 1207, Henry III was baptised in it and it is still used for baptisms today. It can be found in the north nave aisle of the cathedral. Please note that currently, the font area is covered due to conservation works.
Why do we need to do this work?
Beneath the Purbeck stone slabs surrounding the font, the ground is extremely wet. Rising damp from this ground water is causing damage to the base of our precious font.
As the moisture rises up, it brings salts with it which are deposited as the water evaporates. As the salts crystalise, it forces open natural layers and fissures in the stone, speeding up the decay of the font base.
How will this work conserve the font for the future?
Conservation work will create an “evaporation zone” around the font. This will allow rising damp to evaporate without damaging the font itself.
The Purbeck stone slabs around the font will be lifted and the fill beneath it excavated by archaeologists. This is because moisture cannot easily escape from beneath the Purbeck stone slabs
A new “evaporation zone” will be created around the font.
New highly porous (breathable) stone slabs on top of a layer of sand and Selfbinda (crushed limestone) will enable moisture to escape from the area around the font.
Conservation work generously supported by
Did you know that the carvings on the font are symbolic. Doves can be found on the north and east sides, representing the descent of the Holy Spirit (as at Jesus’ baptism).
On the south and west sides, the carvings tell stories from the life of Saint Nicholas (also known as Santa Claus).
The story of Santa Claus delivering presents at Christmas comes from the story shown on the south side of the font. This shows Saint Nicholas giving bags of gold to a poor nobleman. The nobleman is then passing them to his three daughters, who stand behind him. It is said that Saint Nicholas threw three bags of gold down the chimney of the poor man’s house so that his daughters had dowries to get married. One of their potential husbands is seen on the left-hand side of the scene.