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'One rare piece of novelty': Todd Longstaffe-Gowan and Tim Knox explain how a drawing found by chance on a market stall proved to be an astonishing rarity: a design for one of the most splendid 17th-century church furnishings in England, Canterbury Cathedral's font. The drawing goes on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum this month.

The discovery of a large, meticulously delineated early-17th-century architectural drawing is a rare event, but it is even more unusual to be able to identify, it as a drawing for a surviving work--in this case the great marble baptismal font at Canterbury Cathedral, described by John Newman as 'an outstanding piece of Laudian display ... memorably pure and unmannered in its classicism'. (1) This discovery has led to the identification of its creator, the sculptor John Christmas. Recent research has also thrown new light on the circumstances of its creation and the vicissitudes that befell it.


Discovered, unrecognised, by the present writers on a barrow in the Portobello Road market in London in 2002, the drawing was said by the vendor to have come from a house-clearance in the south-west of England. It was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum from Christopher Gibbs Ltd in 2005, with assistance from the Art Fund, and this month goes on display in the museum's British Galleries.

The drawing (Fig. 4), in pen and watercolour on a large sheet of vellum, depicts the impressive covered baptismal font in full frontal perspective. (2) It is shown raised on a stepped octagonal plinth of red and black marble ('rance' and 'touchstone'). (3) The pedestal is square in plan, with four red marble Tuscan-Doric columns, raised upon bulbous bases of black marble. Between them are black marble niches containing statues of the four Evangelists, emerging from rectangular panels of yellow marble. The bowl of the font is gadrooned and inlaid with touchstone, and is mounted upon a socle jewelled with rance. The domed font cover is embellished with statuettes and finials, and is coloured to show that it is made of wood. The dome rises from an octagonal 'frieze' embellished with cherub heads and cartouches, set against simulated rance panels; its cornice is surmounted by statuettes of angels, allegorical figures and finials. The dome's second stage is interrupted by another frieze, also inlaid and ornamented with finials, from which a further stage rises, its ribs in the form of stylised fish. The whole is surmounted by a knop crowned with a statue of Christ blessing two children.


The drawing is clearly recognisable as the design for the font, which survives--with some minor modifications--on the north side of the nave at Canterbury Cathedral (Fig. 2). Commissioned in 1637, it was completed and presented to the cathedral in 1639. The drawing is signed by the man who commissioned it, John Warner, Dean of Lichfield, who ordered the font on the eve of his promotion to the bishopric of Rochester. It is carefully drawn and coloured, suggesting that it was made for presentation, presumably to Warner or the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury. (4)


John Warner was born in 1581, in prosperous circumstances, and took holy orders at Oxford, becoming demy of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1599. (5) He was elected a fellow of Magdalen in 1604, completing his MA in 1605, and DD in 1616. Described as 'a man of decided character and cheerful and undaunted spirit, an accurate logician and philosopher, and well versed in the fathers and schoolmen', (6) Warner's first ecclesiastical preferment came in 1614, when he was appointed rector of St Michael, Crooked Lane, London on the recommendation of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury. Nominated prebendary and canon of Canterbury in 1616, (7) he was instituted rector of Bishopsbourne, Kent in 1619. Further preferments followed: Hollingbourne, Kent, in 1624, and St Dionis Backchurch, London in 1625. Warner was made Dean of Lichfield in 1632. Appointed Chaplain to the King in 1633, he attended Charles I at his coronation in the same year. (8)

Warner was devoted in his adherence to both church and monarchy. His steady progress through the hierarchy of the church was doubtless due to the favour of Abbot's successor, Thomas Laud, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1635. The see of Rochester was notorious for the ruinous state of its cathedral, the poverty of the diocese, and the intractability of its former dean and chapter. In 1633, Laud 'complained to the king that the cathedral suffered much for want of glass in the windows, and the church-yard lay very indecently, and the gates down'. (9) In Warner, he found an ardent ally in his campaign to dignify the ritual and ceremony in the Anglican Church. (10)

Warner had already demonstrated an interest in church buildings, furnishings and decoration; he was a benefactor to the archbishop's campaign of 1631 to restore St Paul's Cathedral in London. In 1633 or 1634, Warner, then Dean of Lichfield, agreed to pay '15/yearly for life' towards the repair of the church; and gave 1,000 [pounds sterling] 'to his Majty towards the building [of Inigo Jones's portico at] the west End of St Paules Church, wch was the Kings sole undertakeing'. (11) Warner also indulged his enthusiasm for 'the adorning of God's house' elsewhere. Among his benefactions was St Michael's, Crooked Lane, where, from 1621, the 'whole Roofe' was 're-builded, and with the Lead new cast Re-covered', for 500 [pounds sterling]. (12)

However, not all of Warner's ecclesiological improvements were appreciated by their beneficiaries. In 1642, the congregation of St Dionis Backchurch, which he had 'very decently beautified' a decade before, (13) complained that their 'communion table' had been 'set up altar-wise under the east wall', and that Warner had raised it 'with three ascents of black and white marble, and placed books, candlesticks and a bason thereon, and uses frequent and offensive bowing and cringing towards the same. The Bishop caused a new font to be erected with sculptured images thereon. He caused the church stock to be spent in these things to the amount of 120/.' (14)

The apogee of Warner's artistic patronage was, however, the 'making and remakeing of a font in ye Cathedrall church of Christ in Canterbury', (15) an enterprise that began in 1637 and was completed only in 1663. The cathedral did not possess a fixed font, but a 'Bazon of brasse for Christenynge with a foote of Iron to stand vpon'. (16) Perceiving 'the want of a fixed Font in the Cathedrall Church of Canterbury', Warner set about to build one 'at his own charge." (17) This 'costly' gift was doubtless intended to express his gratitude to the King and his archbishop for his recent promotion, but he was also evidently deeply honoured to bestow such an ornament on the 'Great Cathedral'. (18) In about 1661, he reflected 'Blessed be God who enabled me to give 400l for making and setting up a faire Baptistery in the Cathedrall Church are Canterburie'. (19) This was at the time a huge sum: Inigo Jones's entire pulpitum or screen at Winchester Cathedral, erected in 1637-38, cost 234 [pounds sterling] 4s 0d. (20)

A friend of Warner, the Anglo-Saxon scholar and zealous royalist William Somner, gave the font considerable attention in his The Antiquities of Canterbury (1640):
 Observing by the way, and that in the next place,
 one rare piece of novelty, which, because it hath
 been hitherto omitted, and is so worthy as I may
 not altogether balk or utterly passe it over in
 silence, I must affoord a place here, and that not
 altogether improperly, since it is a monument; not
 of the dead, I confesse, but (which is much better)
 of the operative and exemplary piety of the living
 Donor. Whosoever knows not my meaning may
 know, that by the munificence of the late worthy
 member of this Church, Dr Warner, the new fight
 reverend Lord Bishop of Rochester, the Church,
 this part of it at least, is newly much graced with
 (what before it never had, though much wanted) a
 fixed Font, and that such a one, as whether it be
 more curious or more costly, I am not able, or
 worthy to judge; but both ways (I am sure) so
 excellent and exquisite, that the Author cannot but
 be famous for it; whilest the Church continues
 graced by it: and the rather, because it is (I take it)
 the first thing of worth, that by any private hand
 hath been offered to this Church of latter. (21)

A large fold-out engraving of the font, which closely follows the presentation drawing, and must have been based on it, was included in the first edition of the Antiquities (Fig. 3). It is inscribed 'This Font was {given consecrated} by the right reverend father in God, John L:rd Bishop of {Rochester Oxford} this present yeare, 1639'. (22) This text is possibly a transcription of the lost original dedication inscribed on the font. (23)


Somner remarks that the font--'a curious and beautiful piece of Work'--was erected at the 'West-end of the Church under Arundel-Steeple', beside the Consistory Court. (24) Its location was determined by convention: Foulke Robart recommended in his Gods Holy House and Service (1639) that the font be set up at the lower end of the church close to the entrance, and enclosed by rails 'more suteable to the reverence due thereunto.' (25)

Curiously, it is the reminiscences of Richard Culmer the Elder--'enemy to Archbishop Laud, to the Cathedral at Canterbury, and to all the prelatic party at the beginning of the rebellion' (26)--that provide the best description of the font. Culmer, known as 'Blue-Skin Dick of Thanet', on account of his blue cloak, was a 'fanatical devine', whose book Cathedrall Newes from Canterbury: shewing the Cantaburian Cathedrall to bee in an Abbey-like, Corrupt, and rotten condition, which cals for a speedy Reformation, or Dissolution (1644) chronicles his commission from Parliament during the Commonwealth to 'detect and demolish' the superstitious inscriptions and idolatrous monuments in the cathedral. (27)
 In that Cathedrall, there hath been lately erected a
 Superstitious Font, with three Ascents to it, paled
 without with high guilder, and painted iron bars, having
 under the Cover of it, a carved Image of the Holy
 Ghost in the forme of a Dove, and round about it are
 placed carved Images of the twelve Apostles, and
 foure Evangelists, and of Angels, and over it a Carved
 Image of Christ; so that none can looke up in prayer
 there, but hee shall behold those tempting Images in the place
 of Devine Worship; against the Law of God, and the
 Doctrine of the Church of England. And all this is done
 at the costs of Doctor &c.--late Prebend there, now
 Parson of Back-Church in London; Parson of
 Barham in East-Kent, neere Dover; Parson of
 Bishops Bourn; Lord Bishop of Rochester, &c.
 And that Font was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of
 Oxford; as is testified by a Proctor of the Arch-Bishops
 Ecclesiasticall Court in Canterbury; in a Booke lately
 Printed and dedicated to the Arch-Bishop of
 Canterbury, and adorned with the Pictures of his Miter
 and Coat-Armes, and of many Altars, and Idolatrous
 Monuments, and of that New Cathedrall Font (28)

Despite Culmer's puritanical objections, there can be little doubt that most contemporaries considered the Bishop of Rochester's 'pious & noble work' to be an ornament of singular beauty and importance. (29)

A document of 1663 refers to 'Articles for Agreement', now lost, drawn up between Warner and the sculptor John Christmas in 1637, and provides the hitherto unknown name of the artist who created the font. (30) John Christmas and his rather more shadowy brother Matthias were the sons of the sculptor Gerard Christmas, Carver to the Navy. (31) They worked under their father in the shipyards at Deptford and Woolwich from c. 1617/18, and John succeeded him as Carver to the Navy on his death in 1633/34. His masterpiece was the decoration of the warship Sovereign of the Seas (launched 1638), a task he shared with Matthias, following an iconographical programme devised by the dramatist Thomas Heywood. The brothers also assisted their father as 'Artificers' creating the Lord Mayor of London's pageant of 1628, and in 1635 they succeeded their father as Chief Artificers, a post they held until 1639, when the annual parades were suspended by order of Parliament. They also carved stone funerary monuments, most notably the magnificent tomb to Archbishop Abbot (1562-1633), Laud's predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury, in Holy Trinity, Guildford c. 1635-40 (Figs. 5 and 6). (32)


John Christmas--who occasionally worked independently of his brother--was probably contracted as the sculptor for Dr Warner's font on the recommendation of Archbishop Abbot. Warner is known to have been on 'particular terms of intimacy' with Abbot and members of his family, and the archbishop had given Warner his first preferment. (33) A member of the Christmas family--in this case the father, Gerard--probably created the impressive public conduit that Archbishop Abbot erected, at his sole expense, in Canterbury in 1626. (34) 'Abbots Conduit', which no longer survives, was an elaborate, octagonal structure, supported on columns, enclosing a sculptural group depicting Christ and the woman of Samaria at the well. An engraved view (Fig. 8), illustrating an encomium entitled Jacob's Wel, and Abbots Conduit, paralleled, preached, and applied, in the Cathedrall and Metropolitical Church of Christ in Canterbury, to the use of that citie, etc. (1626), shows it surmounted by an ogee-domed roof, crowned by an elaborate finial, and adorned with allegorical figures. (35) It bears a strong resemblance to the design of Warner's font, and shares many characteristics with Archbishop Abbot's tomb at Guildford (which is signed by both John and Matthias Christmas), notably the 'wayward Doric' order of the columns, the freestanding allegorical figures and 'Armes or Scutcheons', and the use of ogee, or drop-shaped, consoles to support them. (36)


Warner's font was in place for only two years before it was vandalised and then dismantled. There has been some confusion as to its fate during the period 1641-42, but it can be demonstrated that the font was dismantled in two successive campaigns: in the first attack it was denuded of its statuary, and it was totally dismantled in the second. Culmer, writing in 1644, described the first assault:
 On Candlemas day [2 February] at night, 1641 [1642
 new style]. Those Consecrated Images about their
 new Cathedrall Font were demolished, & taken
 away they knew not how, nor by whom that
 purification was observed, without Candles: but a
 few days after, some of those Idols were found in
 that Cathedrall, in a Pulpit, where a Sermon had not bin
 preached neer 20. years before: But were not those
 Images put into that Pulpit, to preach in that
 Cathedrall, touching wooden Priests, and Idol-Shepheards?
 But of that busines, the Prelats made
 no dumb complaint to the King himselfe, when he
 was last there, in his journey with the Qu:[een] to
 Dovor: they carryed him to the Font, and shewed
 him the lamentable condition, and ruine of their new
 consecrated Font, and where those Images had stood
 about it. And indeed they could better endure the
 late felling of about 300. Episcopall and Cathedrall
 Oakes in one year, for their owne game: then they
 could endure the pulling down of those 18. Idols of
 wood & stone (37)

It is interesting that the Puritan iconoclasts did not destroy the statues they removed from the font, but hid them in a disused pulpit, as if to taunt the cathedral clergy with their fallen 'Idols'. The reaction of the clergy--taking the King and Queen to see the destruction for themselves--is equally significant.

This violent act of desecration appears to have haunted Warner in old age. In a sermon of about 1663 he made an analogy between the destruction of the temple of the Jews ('synagoga'), and the despoliation of the churches of England under the Great Rebellion--and, in particular, Canterbury Cathedral. (38) He inveighed against Culmer and his associates, who destroyed 'not only Parochial Churches, but in the great Cathedral, God beholds the carved work broken with axes and hammers'. (39) Their work is recorded in a painting of 1657 by Thomas Johnson (Fig. 7), which shows a band of iconoclasts smashing stained-glass windows in the cathedral choir.


After the vandalistic incident of 2 February 1641/2, Warner's friend William Sonmer wrote to him about the measures the Cathedral had taken to protect the ruined font:
 A piece indeed so elegant, & of ... [text
 missing] ... ornament, as deserves all possible care
 provide ... [text missing] ... care & shelter it from
 the rude, unhallowed & sacrilegious hands &
 approches of a sordid & malignant generation in
 these licentious times, whose meate and drinke it is
 to invade, abuse & voilate all that ever may adorne,
 either the house or service of God. Upon this
 consideration, we are enforced, for want of that
 strong and comely fence it once had, & is now
 purloyned, so to inclose it with a fence of boards
 as quite obscures & keeps it from common &
 publick view; insomuch as the glory of it is in a
 manner lost both to yr Lordship & our Church.
 Rather than which might not our intermedling in
 such a case be construed (as noe doubt it may) a
 detraction from yr Lordships honr of the sole
 foundation, we should not be unwilling to bestow
 that Fence about it, whereof in order to its
 preservation from abuse, it stands in so much
 need. But desiring that yr Lordship reape the
 whole & sole honr of the worke, we are humble
 Sutors to yr Lordship to complete and perfect
 what you have so laudably begun, & wch without
 the addition of such a fence to prevent invaders,
 of the fanatic & sacrilegious rabble ... raving ... (as the
 case requires) yr good ... for ... Lordship Singular
 piety, & rest (40)

Despite Somner's precautions, a second desecration of the font appears to have taken place nearly seven months later. White Kennet reports in 1693 that 'outrages were committed in the Cathedral of Canterbury, [on] Aug. 26, 1642. By the countenance of Colonel Edwyn Sandys, and the madness of Culmer'. This time the font appears to have been entirely demolished, although Kennet praised Somner for having 'preserved' many of the 'Muniments and Histories' and 'other ornaments of the desolated Church. Particularly when the beautiful Font in the nave of that Cathedral ... was pull'd down, and the materials carried away by the rabble.' (41)

During this turbulent time, Bishop Warner's existence was no less precarious than that of his wretched font. His steadfast loyalty to the King and Church, and his Laudian sympathies, caused him to be impeached by the House of Commons in August 1641, and committed to prison. This impeachment was, however, dropped and he was released, only to have his lands and goods sequestered in 1643, forcing him to flee his palace at Bromley. For three years he led a 'wandering life' in the west of England and Wales, all the while maintaining links with Charles I. In 1649 the sequestrations of his property were discharged, but it was only at the Restoration that he emerged from his exile to resume the government of his diocese. Restored to his honours and his fortune, he once more addressed his clergy in Rochester Cathedral, in February 1662, at the age of 81.

Once reinstated, Bishop Warner was evidently eager to restore his font at Canterbury, as on the 3 April 1663 he contracted 'John Phillips Marbler Cittizen and Haberdasher on London, and Thomas Jempson of Chartham [Chatham] nere Rochester in the County of Kent Joyner' to reconstruct it. John Phillips is possibly the Mr Phillips, 'stone-cutter', who supplied black marble for use as inlay in the decoration of Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire around 1655, (42) although another sculptor of the same name, spelt Phillippes, assisted William Wright in the tomb of Sir Henry Slingsby at St John the Baptist, Knaresborough, Yorkshire in 1633. (43) Henry Phillips, who made Cromwell's funeral effigy, and who may--or may not--have been the Phillips who is recorded as Master Sculptor under Charles II, may have been a relation. (44) Thomas Jemson is easier to identify. He was presented as an apprentice to the Joiners' Company by John Christmas in 1623-24, and was probably the 'Mr Jempson' who became his foreman and was recommended to succeed him as Master Carver to the Navy. (45)

The 'Articles for Agreement' for the contract of 1663 state that the work was to be completed 'on or before the feast day of St Michael Archangell [29 September] next comeing,' and the commission was to be carried out in the 'best most sufficient substantiall and workmanlike manner, matter, figure and forme make erect and finish in some convenient place as shall be appointed within the Cathedrall & Metropoliticall Church Canterbury one front of the forme and fashion hereafter mentioned, and as it was heretofore erected and sett up by John Chistmas or his Assignes & according to the Articles of agreement between the right reverend father in god aforesaid (then Dean of Lichfield) on th'one Parte & the said John Christmas on th'other part bearinge date the 13th day of June 1637.'

The font is described in great detail:

'The lowest stepstone to be of black Marble of nine foot and eight ynches in width, and Seaven ynches in height, the second stepstone to be seaven foot and eight ynches of black Marble, and Rance, and the tread of each step to be twelve ynches, the upper step to be five foot and eight ynches from outside to outside of black marble and white marble, and likewise seaven ynches in height, soe that all three steps shall be one & twenty ynches in height; Item that from the top of the upper step to the top of the front bowie shall be foure foot and seaven ynches, and the bowie to be of white marble and inlayd with black Godrons [gadroons], & to be three foot and one ynch in width from outside to outside, and that they same shall be borne up with square body of touchstone wherein shall be foure severall Neeces [niches], and in each Neece shall stand one of the Evangelists with his severall Emblems (of white Marble) of eighteen ynches in height & upon each Corner of the said body shall be placed a Columb of Rance, or of a better stone, with baces & Capitalls of white Marble answerable to the same, which Bases shall stand upon a fayre pedestal of mixed Marble according to the description shewd in a draught; (46) Item that the Cover of the front and all the materials shall be of Wainscote, Wallnuttree, speckled wood, (47) Ebony and Box; Item that upon each square of the same Cover shall stand on a pedestal a statue of one of the Apostles in Box of eight ynches and a halfe high, and on a second degree shall stand foure Apostles of the same height with foure severall Armes or Scutcheons viz, the kinges ma[jes]t:yes the Archbishops and the Churches with severall adornments of Cherubins all carved in box, And under the Cover shall be a dove hoveringe made of Box and on the top of the Cover shall stand a statue of Christ with a child in his left arme, and his right hand on and other Child with two other children standinge by, the height of which Statue shall be eighteen or nineteen ynches in height, and that the height of the whole Cover from the top of the front Bowie to the top of the upper pane of the Cover shall be six foot or thereabouts, and that the whole height thereof from the ground to the upper most parte of the same shall be twelve foot.'

Warner agreed to pay Phillips and Jemson 110 [pounds sterling] for their work. This was a fraction of the cost of the original font, which must have been between 290 [pounds sterling] and 390 [pounds sterling]. (48) The fact that the detailed description of the font is so closely based on the original design, and that the preamble makes reference to facts which could only have been gleaned from a close inspection of the original 'Articles for Agreement', suggests that Warner used them as the basis for the reconstruction.

What remains unclear is how many of the fragments of the 'ruine of their new consecrated Font' were incorporated into the Phillips and Jemson font. White Kennet reports in 1693 that Somner had 'enquir'd with great diligence for all the scatter'd pieces, bought them up at his own charge, kept them safe till the King's return, and then delivered them to that Worthy Bishop; who reedified his Font, and made it a greater beauty of holyness; giving to Mr Somner the just honour, to have a daughter of his own first baptized in it'. (49) The Cathedral Treasurer's accounts of 1662-63 also report that 'Willm Somner ... [was] payd for bringing the font bowie & other materials of stone & yron from ye town into ye church ... 0-10-0' [pounds sterling]. (50) It is highly likely that Phillips and Jemson would have reused what they could, as the fragments had by then doubtless acquired the status of relics. This might explain why the reconstructed font cost considerably less than the original.

The font, as it survives today, differs somewhat from the drawing: the base possesses three 'stepstones', while the cover has a taller middle register in place of a low frieze, and is generally more elaborate. Moreover, the steps and pedestal are executed solely in black and white marble; and neither rance nor yellow marble are used at all. But John Christmas clearly departed from his original design in 1637: the drawing shows the font with four stone figures and nine wooden statuettes, while Culmer describes it as possessing 18 'Idols of wood & stone', as well as the crowning figure of the Saviour. The font as it survives today still has 18 'Idols'--17 statuettes (Figs. 1 and 9), and a boss in the form of a dove. (51) Elements of the pedestal and the stepstones, and much of the font cover, are possibly original, including the 'hoveringe dove' and some of the marble figures. The gilding of the ornaments appears to have been carried out after Warner's death in 1666, but before 1697, when Celia Fiennes described the cover as being 'well carv'd, and painted and gilded.' (52)


Warner died on 14 October 1666, at the age of 86, and was buried in Merton's Chapel at Rochester Cathedral. His tomb was carved by Joshua Marshall (1628-78), who was paid 120 [pounds sterling]. (53) In his will, Warner left 'all my printed bookes and written paper such as doe in any way concern my Estate' to his nephew Doctor John Lee, Archdeacon of Rochester. Most of his papers are in the Bodleian Library, but the Norfolk Record Office in Norwich possesses a diary and some miscellaneous correspondence, and there are a few letters in the British Library. In 1926 Warner's descendant Alfred Lee-Warner gave two documents relating to the font to Canterbury Cathedral Archive. According to Warner, many of his papers were seized when his 'Spiritualities and Temporalities' were sequestered by Parliament in 1643, so this may explain how the drawing for the font was lost from view for over 350 years. (54)

The restored font itself remained in its old place in the second bay of the north side of the nave of the cathedral. In 1783, the Revd John Duncombe recorded that it had 'recently been new painted and gilt within these few years'. (55) An engraving of the font by John Raymond, published in William Gostling's Walk In and About Canterbury (1777) presumably commemorates this refurbishment. (56) In 1789, the font was removed so that the nave could be repaved, but was reinstated in its original position in November 1895. (57) It remains there to this day.

The Canterbury font is among the most important items of renaissance church furnishing to survive in England, a 'bejewelled' chalice for the sacrament of baptism, formed of rare marbles and exotic woods, and set with costly coloured stones in the mariner of contemporary church furnishings in the southern Netherlands. (58) As such, it is a rare survival of the brief flowering of international court culture in England during the reign of Charles I, before it was engulfed and destroyed by the Civil War of 1642-49. It is hoped that the rediscovery of the original drawing for the font, its identification as the work of John Christmas, as well as the new information presented here on its destruction and reconstruction, will galvanise fresh appreciation of Dr Warner's magnificent gift to 'the Cathedrall Church of Canterburie'.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of Geoffrey Fisher, Adam White and John Newman, who read and commented upon drafts of this article, and who made innumerable suggestions. Buffy Tucker, Angela Prior and Brigadier John Meardon assisted us in our research at Christ Church, Canterbury.

(1) John Newman, The Buildings of England: North-East and East Kent, Harmondsworth, 1976, p. 209.

(2) The drawing is inscribed in brown pen 'Jo Warner' (lower right-hand corner). Its subject was identified by Geoffrey Fisher, the Conway Library of the Courtauld Institute of Art.

(3) 'Rance' is a red variegated marble, from Hainault in Belgium. 'Touch' or 'touchstone' is a black marble.

(4.) For comparable drawings see those in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris of the tombs of Elizabeth I and Sir Christoper Hatton (reproduced in F. Lugt and J. Vallery Radot, Bibliotheque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes, Inventaire general des Dessins des Ecoles du Nord, Paris, 1936, nos. 296, 297), or the design for a fountain at Hampton Court Palace which is probably by Cornelius Cure (R.A. Skelton and John Summerson, A Description of the Maps and Architectural Drawings in the Collection made by William Cecil, first Baron Burghley, now at Hatfield House, Roxburghe Club, Oxford, 1971, no. 153). The font drawing can be compared with John Christmas's signed design for a mural monument, in the Weddell archives at Newby Hall, Yorkshire: Adam White, 'Biographical Dictionary of London Tomb Sculptors', The Walpole Society, vol. LXI, 1999. White writes 'such drawings. were sometimes made by professional draughtsmen rather than the sculptors, using humbler material which the sculptor supplied and they worked up. So this [the Canterbury font drawing] might be in the hand of John Christmas, but it might not'. (personal communication, 23 March 2002). He believes that the drawing was made for presentation, and that 'it is unlikely to have belonged with a contract'. Fisher has suggested, however, that it was conceived as a presentation drawing but later served as a contract drawing.

(5) John Warner inherited a fortune from his father, Harman Warner of London, a merchant tailor. It is also said that a godmother, who was a relative, left him 16,000 [pounds sterling], Oxford Dictionary, of National Biography (hereafter DNB), qv 'John Warner'.

(6) DNB.

(7) He was still serving as Clerk to the Chapter in the convocation of 13 February 1623.

(8) DNB; see also Edward Lee-Warner, Life of John Warner, Bishop of Rochester, 1637-1666, London, 1901.

(9) William Shrubsole and Samuel Denne, The History and Antiquities of Rochester, Rochester, 1772, ix 88. Shrubsole and Denne reported that 'the probable cause of his Grace's severe stricture' was not file parlous state of the fabric, but that 'the communion table stood, it seems, in the middle of the choir' (pp. 90-91).

(10) For Laud's new emphasis on 'comeliness and decency in the furnishing and care of churches', see John Newman, 'Laudian literature and the interpretation of Caroline churches in London', in David Howarth (ed.), Art and Patronage in the Caroline Courts, Cambridge, 1993, p. 169.

(11) 'A Plaine, & true Narrative concerning the Bp of Rochester, whoe by Gods Mercie is 80 yeares old' [1661 62]. Bodleian, MS Eng. Hist. B205 fol. 25. Warner reports that he 'gave freely' to the rebuilding, and had 'ye acquittance of the then Ld Archbishop of Canterburie'.

(12) John Stow, Survey of London, London, 1633, p. 856.

(13) Ibid., p. 832.

(14) Petition, December 1642, of the Parish of St Dionis to the House of Commons. William Douglas Hamilton, Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Charles I, 1641-43, London, 1967, p. 421.

(15) Copy of Last win and Testament of John Warner, Bodleian, MS Eng. hist. B205 fol. 30.

(16) J. Wickham Legg and W.H. St John Hope, Inventories of Christchurh Canterbury with Historical and Topographical Introductions and Illustrative Documents, Westminster, 1902, p. 242 (a transcription of an inventory dated 1 December 1586). Prior to the arrival of the brass font there was a 'fonte of Siluer [silver]', p. 237.

(17) Bodleian, MS Eng. hist. B205, fol.117.

(18) The figure of Christ blessing the children is unusual in 17th-century English iconography, and suggests that the Bishop may have had particular views on the sacrament of baptism. The inscriptions on the font cover read: 'Goe therefore & Teach all Nations Baptizing them in ye Name of ye Father & ye Sonne & ye Holy Ghost' (lower register), and 'Suffer little Children to come unto me, and forbid ye not: for of such is ye Kingdome of God' (upper register). The text echoes Matthew, XXVIII, and Matthew XIX, 14.

(19) 'A Plaine, & true Narrative', Bodleian, MS Eng.hist. b205, fol. 25. The cost of building and rebuilding the font is variously recorded as between 400 [pounds sterling] and 500 [pounds sterling]. For instance, the Bishop's will states that during his life he gave 'for the making and remakeing of a font in ye Cathedrall church of Christ in Canterbury five hundred pounds.' eg. no Curiae Praerogativae Cant. Extract., see Lee-Warner, op. cir. in n. 8 above, pp. 62 63. The Bishop's known benefactions in his lifetime and by his will amount to over 30,000 [pounds sterling].

(20) John Harris and Gordon Higgott, Inigo Jones: The Complete Architectural Drawings, London, 1989, p. 148. Contemporary fonts were very much cheaper. Nicholas Stone the Elder (1586 or 1587?- 1647)--'England's leading sculptor in stone and marble ... and the country's most eminent mason' was paid 12 [pounds sterling] for the font at St John the Evangelist, Great Stanmore (Walter Lewis Spiers, 'The Note-book and Account Book of Nicholas Stone', The Walpole Society, vol. vu, 1918-19, p. 79); and in 1641 John Christmas received 1 [pounds sterling] 10s 0d for the font at St Mary Colechurch, London. (White, op. cit. in n. 4 above, p. 21.) The lavish font 'of white Marble with the Pedistalls of Portland stone with Couer of Copper inricht with Imbosments and Carveing' at St Paul's Covent Garden (1630) by the masons Andreas Carne and Thomas Miller cost 30 [pounds sterling]. The Survey of London, vol. XXXVI, London 1970, p. 280.

(21) William Somner, The Most Accurate History of the Ancient City, and Famous Cathedral of Canterbury. The Antiquities of Canterbury London, 1640, part I, pp. 181-82.

(22) The plate is inserted opposite D 181. Richard Culmer, Cathedrall Newes from Canterbury: shewing the Cantaburian Cathedrall to bee in an Abbey-like, Corrupt, and rotten condition, which cals for a speedy Reformation. or Dissolution, London, 1644, p. 3 (in the margin), reported that the font was consecrated 'by a Lord Bishop [Bancroft, Bishop of Oxford], who went round about it, reading in a Booke, and went up the three steps, and put his head into the Font.'

(23) The layout of the dedicatory text on the engraving closely resembles the format of the Christmas brothers' signature on the tomb of Archbishop Abbot at Guildford. See Joseph Burke. 'Archbishop Abbot's Tomb at Guildford, A Problem in Early Caroline Iconography', Journal of the Warburg and Courtlauld Institutes, vol. XII, 1949, p. 181. Culmer's description of the font in 1644 suggests, however, that it was not inscribed: Culmer, op. cit. in n. 22 above, p. 3. The present font cover has two long inscriptions, neither a dedication to the patron.

(24) Somner, op. cit. in n. 21 above, part 11, p. 29.

(25) Foulke Robarts, Gods Holy, House and Service, According to the Primative and most Christian Forme Thereof, London, 1639, pp. 45-46.

(26) Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, Oxford, 1813, vol. l, p. 447.

(27) DNB.

(28) Culmer, op. cit. in n. 22 above., p. 3. 'The Booke lately Printed' is presumably Somner's Antiquities.

(29) William Somner to John Warner, Bishop of Rochester, n.d. (c 1641-42). Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Fabric 46/3.

(30) 'Articles of Agreement' (3 April 1663), Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Fabric 46/1.

(31) For a detailed description of the life and work of the Christmases see White, op. cit. in n. 4 above, pp. 18-26.

(32) This monument is signed by John and Matthias Christmas. DNB states that it was erected in 1635, but White suggests 1640: White, op. cit. in n. 4 above, p. 25, note 4.

(33) DNB.

(34) White, personal communication.

(35) Ibid., p. 23. The engraved view is not a literal representation of the conduit, but an improved version designed to illustrate the sermon.

(36) These distinctive consoles are also present on the Christmas's monument to Mrs Temperance Browne at Steane, Northamptonshire (1635). Given its close relationship in the Canterbury font, it is possible that John Warner was responsible for the iconography of the Abbot's Conduit.

(37) Culmer, op. cit. in n. 22 above, p. 17. The 'late felling of about 300. Episcopall and Cathedral Oakes' may refer to the Navy's unpopular demand in June 1640 for '150 loads of umber from Arborfield, Berkshire, to go by land to Reading, thence by water to Chatham and Deptford; [and] of 150 loads from Battersea and Nutfield, in Surrey, to go by hand to Deptford': Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, Charles I, 1640, London, 1880, p. 305.

(38) In post-Reformation England the term 'synagogue' was applied disparagingly to abbeys: Oxford English Dictionary.

(39) John Warner, undated sermon. Bodleian, MS Eng. misc.b. 193, fol.11.

(40) Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Fabric 46/3.

(41) White Kennet, A Treatise of the Roman Ports and Forts in Kent by William Sommer. To which is prefixt the Life of Mr Somner, [London?], 1693, pp. 93-99.

(42) John Bold, John Webb, Oxford, 1989, pp. 88-89. Information on Phillips and Jemson has been supplied by Adam White.

(43) Adam White, 'Thomas Browne, William Wright and Slingsby monuments in Knaresborough', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol. LXIX, 1997, p. 198.

(44) M. Noble, Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell, London, 1787, vol. I, p. 280; see also George Vertue, Notebooks (vol. 1), The Walpole Society, vol. XVIII, Oxford, 1930, p. 129; vol. IV, p. 68, and Howard Colvin, History of the King's Works, London, 1975, vol. III, p. 167.

(45) Guildhall, MS 8041/1, unfol.; Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1654, p. 571.

(46) The dimensions of the present font correspond very closely to those specified in the Article of Agreement.

(47) Speckled wood (Brosimum aubletii), also known as snake-wood or letter wood, is a South American hardwood with speckled markings.

(48) On the cost of making and remaking the font, see n. 19 above.

(49) Kennet, op. cit., p. 94.

(50) Treasurer's Account Book, 1662-63, fol. 61. Canterbury Cathedral Archives.

(51) The existing statuettes represent: the four Evangelists in marble set in niches in the pedestal; Sts Andrew, James, Matthew, Philip, Simon, Matthias, Thomas and Jude on the first register of the cover (in gilded wood, possibly boxwood); and Sts John, Peter, Bartholomew and James on the upper register of the cover (in gilded wood). A gilt-wood statuette of Christ blessing two children crowns the font cover.

(52) C. Morris (ed.), The Illustrated Journeys of Celia Fiennes, 1685-c. 1712, London, 1982, p. 120.

(53) 'ffunerall Charges', included in 'An Inventory of John late Lord Bishop of Rochester his estate taken October 21, 1666': 'for my Lords Monument at Rochester 120-00-00 [pounds sterling, for the iron grate about it 22-15-00' [pounds sterling]. White, op. cit. in n. 4 above, p. 95; Bodleian, MS. Eng. Hist. b205, fol. 33.

(54) Lee-Warner, op. cit. in n. 8 above, intro., and pp. 39-40; Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Fabric 46/1, 46/3. Bodleian Library (MS Eng. Hist. b205, MSS Eng. Th.b4-8, e62 176-77; Eng. Misc. b193-95; Top.gen. c75), Norfolk Record Office (diary, miscellaneous correspondence, National Register of Archives 27665, Lee-Warner).

(55) John Duncombe, An Historical Description of the Metropolitical Church of Christ Canterbury, Canterbury, 1783, p. 52.

(56) Raymond's delineation bears little relationship to the post-Restoration font; he appears to have derived his version from the engraving published in Somner's Antiquities (1640). His version, however, varied from the original in showing the plinth as possessing three ascents, as it was built. There is another curious inconsistency between Raymond's engraving and the drawing: the image of St Mark is reversed on the pedestal.

(57) Legg and Hope, op. cit. in n. 16 above, p. 269. Lee-Warner, op. cit. in n. 8 above, p. 16. A full account of the re consecration of the font is given in The Guardian, 27 November 1895. The font was repainted in 2000. It would be interesting to discover whether the 'Wainscote, Walnuttree, speckled wood, Ebony and Box' specified in the contract lurk beneath the thick layers of paint and gilding.

(58) See, for instance, the rood screen from s'Hertogenbosch (1613), in the Victoria & Albert Museum. For a description of some contemporary English chalice fonts, see Francis Bond, Fonts and Covers, London, 1908 first edition; republished 1985, p. 267.

Tim Knox is the director of Sir John Soane's Museum, London.

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan is a gardener, historian and author.
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Date:Jul 1, 2006
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