THE small congregation of a rural church in Somerset has won a legal battle to sell the Victorian font for more than £100,000, in order to pay for repairs and restoration to the church building.
The PCC of St Peter’s, Draycott, near Cheddar, could not afford repair bills of about £170,000, and 18 months ago decided to sell the font. Its architectural value had been brought to their attention by a researcher into the works of the architect William Burges (1827-1881), who had traced one of his works — the font — to St Peter’s.
The decision to sell faced opposition from the Victorian Society, the diocesan advisory committee, and the Council for the Care of Churches. Despite this, the PCC, led by the Priest-in-Charge of St Peter’s, the Revd Stanley Price, submitted a faculty petition to the Chancellor of Bath & Wells diocese, Timothy Briden.
This week, Chancellor Briden issued his judgment in favour of St Peter’s, but said the PCC must offer the font for sale to museums, so that it can stay in the public domain. The church is hoping it will sell for a price of £110,000. If the font is not sold after six months, the PCC may offer the font for sale by public auction.
Mr Price said on Monday: “It is with regret that we are having to sell this beautiful work of art, but we need the money to ensure the church’s future, and to continue its ministry of service to the whole community. If we don’t repair the church, the likelihood is it will close, and then the font will be lost anyway. We are not going to let that happen.”
Draycott is a small village with a population of 1000, and about 40 regular churchgoers. Mr Price said: “We are a forward-looking church, and the sale of a piece of our past will guarantee the work of the church in the future.”
Cartoon: Noel Ford