Aylesbury Fonts

Nominated by: Sue Wright

Our churches are said to be the largest repository of fine art in the country – textiles, stained glass, woodwork, metalwork, and stonework to mention some of the categories.

Under stonework come fonts.  There are a group of 22 fonts, known as the ‘Aylesbury’ fonts, named after the one in St Mary’s church in Aylesbury which has the finest example.

These Norman fonts are cup or chalice-shaped with vertical fluting on the lower part of the bowl and they were mostly made at the end of the 12th century, of stone from the Tottenhoe quarry in Bedfordshire.  They are mainly situated in Mid Buckinghamshire and are under 8 miles from the Icknield Way, with half of them being within a mile.  Two of the fonts are a little further afield in Chenies and Ludgershall and there are also three in Bedfordshire and two in Northamptonshire.

Although generally similar, the fonts are all different in every detail, including the depth of the bowl, the number of flutes, the intricate design of the rim, the stem and the base.

Some fonts, as at Saunderton, have the remains of the clasps to fasten the font cover to prevent people stealing the Holy water.

Decoration similar to that on the upper rim at Aylesbury and Weston Turville occurs on a late 12th century doorway at St. Alban’s Abbey while a detail on a capital there resembles the decoration on the scalloped bases of these two fonts.  This suggests that the craftsmen responsible for the design of these fonts may have been trained at St. Alban’s.  The chalice shape and decoration may have been inspired by the gold chalices made at St. Alban’s at the same time.

There is a font in Zealand, Denmark, which closely resembles those at Aylesbury and Great Kimble, and it is known that there were artistic connections between St. Alban’s and Denmark at that time, so patterns appear to have been exchanged.

Below is the distribution map of the ‘Aylesbury’ fonts.

Aylesbury Fonts were nominated by Sue Wright of The Arts Society, Vale of Aylesbury.