The Romanesque Fonts at Feock and Ladock

In the church at Feock is a font carved from a dark coloured stone. It is shaped like a chalice, with a shallow bowl, a slender stem decorated with plain and cable mouldings, and a broad circular base. Scale it down and it would be an exquisite  drinking vessel. It has been linked with a number of other fonts in the county (Lanreath, Ladock, Fowey) on the basis of the stone type (Catacleuse stone from Trevose Head near Padstow) and the shared carved designs based upon foliate and geometric motifs. Given that the other fonts are twelfth century it is natural to assume that this one is as well. But I don’t think that it is. 

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Above: The font at Feock, and details.

One of the signs of Victorian as opposed to Romanesque work is its delicate looking chalice shape. This is not a hallmark of medieval fonts which, in this bowl and stem form, favour deeper bowls with an undecorated supporting column. Often, there is something that tends towards asymmetry. The font at Feock looks as if it were turned on a lathe. The flat band of saltire crosses around the top of the bowl is another sign, carved with a rigidity rare in medieval work. It is an odd design, with the central limbs of each four-pointed star or cross not meeting in the centre; rather, the cross is split into two chevrons which point at each other.

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Above: Details of the font at Feock.

But it is the foliate motif that really suggests post-medieval work. Enclosed within a near perfect circle, and without spiral-like volutes, the leaf is almost immaculately replicated around the bowl. While medieval carving uses repeated patterns and motifs a great deal, rarely are they repeated in such an industrial way (compare with the illustrations of the Ladock font below). It’s often this sense of difference within the repetition that gives medieval work its life. All things considered the font at Feock probably dates to the nineteenth century, and may have been carved when the church was heavily restored by the architect J. P. St Aubyn in the 1870s.

A few miles the other side of Truro is the village of Ladock. The font in the church here is clearly of the twelfth-century. Spiky  palmetto motifs, each one with leaves and volutes at different positions, the angled profile of the top of the bowl, and the depth of the bowl itself all point toward the mid-1100s. The central column and base are likely to be of a later period.

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Above: The medieval font at Ladock.

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