The thireenth century font basin in the Priory Crypt in Clerkenwell

Font Basin

Stone and Lead
1250 - 1299
870 x 425 mm

Dating back to the thirteenth century, this 700-year old font was discovered on a farm allegedly being used as a feeding trough for cattle.

Today the font can be found in the twelfth century Priory Crypt of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell, but it was originally used in the St John Commandery Church of Hogshaw in Buckinghamshire. Just as the Clerkenwell Priory was largely demolished during the English Reformation so to was Hogshaw Church. In 1547 the Church was closed on the orders of Henry VIII and the land was seized by the Crown. Hogshaw Church was later demolished, and the font was removed to the nearby garden of Fulbrook Farm. It was on this Farm that the font was rumoured to be used as a feeding trough for the farmers’ cows.

On its re-discovery in the mid-twentieth century the assistant keeper of the British Museum, Mr Wilson authenticated the date of the font confirming that this magnificent stonework was from the late thirteenth century.

The stone font is octagonal in shape and each vertical face is decorated with simple pilasters. The eights sides of the font have Christian symbolic meaning. The eighth day of creation is associated with renewal, regeneration, and resurrection: qualities that correlate with the sacrament of baptism.

In 1960 the font was presented to the Order of St John by the landlords of Fulbrook Farm, Corpus Christi College in Oxford. Alongside the approval of the farm tenants, the College requested that the font be erected in the Norman Crypt, the historic surroundings being suited for the stonework. A Knight of the Order personally collected the font from Fulbrook Farm and brought it to Clerkenwell for restoration.

The font base was designed and built in 1960 by the architects John Seely, Lord Mottistone and Paul Edward Paget; the original design of which can be seen below. With the advice of Mr Wilson from the British Museum, the architects designed a font pedestal that was true to the period.

The Order of St John was ardent that the font be erected in the Crypt for June 25th 1960 when it was used once again for the celebration of a Holy Communion to open the annual St John’s Day ceremonies.

For more information:

Pencil design for the font pedestal by Seely and Paget Architects
Original Design of Font Pedestal by Seely and Paget, Architects.
CC Museum of the Order of St John, London.


The Museum of the Order of St John would like to thank all those who have supported and continue to support its work. In particular, the Museum would like to thank the following for their generosity: