Family Lessons 32: Ingleton Font

The oldest feature of Ingleton Church is the ancient font from circa 1150. It is carved out of a local gritstone found and delightfully depicts biblical scenes, including Gabriel’s visitation to Mary, the birth of Christ, her enagagement to Joseph, the slaughter of the innocents and the flight to Egypt. Although the information board suggests they are all connected to Mary and the nativity, there is one scene that resembles a man fighting a lion, which is surely Samson (two pictures down). 

Ingleton Church is built atop a steep hill overlooking the River Greta, in which the font was found 150 years ago. One theory is that it was rolled down the hill at the time of the Reformation because of its association with Mary and graven images. I suspect the Commonwealth was a more likely period, though the tale’s essence rings true. It is hard to imagine some other reason for so ornate a church furnishing having been removed from a building and essentially destroyed. It was thought that such items were too compromised by their artistic representations; the Church of Rome was a false church of which this font had been a part, and it was not found and restored until Victoria’s reign. So when my 5x great-grandfather, Thomas Davidson of Gillhead was baptised here in 1778, this font was being itself baptised in the river while he would have been dipped in some plainer vessel. Much as I admire the font for its artistic and historical merit, the puritans dispatched it down the hill to save their children and my ancestors the temptation of making it a focus of devotion and veneration. Might they have reckoned that old font an idol rather than the God who saves? I love art, but it ought to point us to the Great Artist and not become a substitute for Him.