A magnificent carved font from 1530
St Mary’s octagonal font is richly decorated, and is made from two large slabs of Derbyshire marble.
The font was given to St Mary’s in 1530 by a local draper, William Leryfaxe. Much of the font has been deliberately damaged: a chisel or axe was used to chop off the figures and words that once adorned the panels. This damage was likely done in the 1540s when Protestantism in England began to actively reject Catholic images, or in the 1640s when Puritanism brought similar destructive tendencies.
Running anticlockwise around the outside rim of the font is an inscription, which (in modern English) reads:
‘Pray for the souls of William Leryfaxe draper, and his wife’s which made this font of his own proper costs the 10th day of March the year of Our Lord 1530’
It is likely that St Mary’s old font had been destroyed when the tower fell in 1520, and William’s donation should be seen as part of the general wide-scale refurbishment of the church that was sponsored by local civic figures in the years following.
However, it is likely that the font was also a personal choice for the Leryfaxes: William’s wife, Anne, had recently given birth to the couple’s son, Robert, and the font may have been provided specifically for Robert’s baptism in St Mary’s. Indeed, the church reopened for services and sacraments only seventeen days after the date William Leryfaxe bestowed the font to the church.
WHERE TO FIND THE FONT: at the north-east end of the nave.