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  St. Peter's Church Draycott, Somerset
The Font- Provenance

The following is an extract from a letter from a researcher tracing the origins of the Font, the work of architect William Burges (1827 - 1881). Burges' principal clients at the time of the building of St Peter church were the Reverend John Augustus Yatman (JAY) of Winscombe Hall, who was the benefactor of several local churches in the mid 19th Century, and his brother Herbert Yatman of Haslemere in Surrey.

It is known from the date carved on the font, that the font was executed in 1860 and that its measurements were recorded in Burges' Notebook Number 30, as 'Yatman's Font'. Burges had employed, on a piecemeal basis, various stonemasons from 1858 onwards, and on both religious and secular projects. In most locations, the work of carvers were not restricted to individual pieces and were usually worked within larger overall commissions. That was true of the work at St. Augustine's Canterbury for Beresford Hope and, for Lord Carrington, at Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire, at this time. The designs for the font and the fact that Burges provided them to JAY, in the form of a 'beauty parade', probably in late 1859/early 1860,would tend to suggest that Burges envisaged the designs being produced in multiples. Indeed, he gave JAY the option as to the type of carving on the main body of the font either of the Ages of Man or The Virtues, indicating that one type looked better than another. lt would also tend to indicate that Burges had already seen the results of that varied carving, either because he had himself commissioned 'guinea pig' carvings, or because he had, in fact, already got the font made up and knew its superiority of execution. Either way JAY picked out the most expensive of the designs, costing some 36 Pounds and additional 5 pounds for the font top and carriage. This latter point evidences that the piece was carved in London and not locally. lt is apparent from the gestation period of the font's design and execution, that it could not have been originally intended for St. Peter's at all.

The Yatman family had been responsible for assisting the funding for restorations in Rowberrow in 1851/3, under the architect J.E.Cox, a close friend of JAY, as well as at St James' Winscombe. When the brother of Anna Victoria Turner died in Tientsin, China, in late 1860, the Regiment funded the design and construction of a Memorial slab, for Banwell Church, but left the designer to the wishes of the family. Burges was chosen for that role and the designs are evidenced in his drawings. The record of that commission is evidenced in the Work column of Burges' Diary Abstract in 1861, as 'Turner's slab' and exists as a painted, but very restrained stone memorial to JAY's brother-in-law, Charles Turner. However, in respect of any separate commission for the newly developing St. Peter's in Draycott, where the architect was a Frome based gentleman, C.E.Giles, there is no record in the Diary Abstract of Burges' involvement, whether in respect of the font or at all. There is equally no record of Burges ever working with C.E.Giles in Somerset or elsewhere. The Consecration document described the style of the Church as 'simple early English'. C.E.Giles himself was not a member of the Ecclesiological Society which Burges himself had joined in 1845. Whilst the Consecration document, in August 1861, referred to the successful raising of funds for the project, there is no indication as to persons outside of the new Ecclesiastical district partaking, or indeed to what extent. It is understood that the vicars from the adjoining parishes did contribute, having been the principal initiators of the project. Equally, in the Consecration documents, there is no record of either a font or Burges' involvement. Given his importance as the pre-eminent art-architect at that time, and his standing within the Ecclesiological Society, it is inconceivable that there wouldn't have been mention of him, more particularly in a church which was purportedly built to stave off the potential flow of congregants to the non- conformist churches in the locality.

Equally, given the date of its original design and execution, I believe that it is probable that JAY intended it for St. James', where the existing Medieval font would not have necessarily met his approval, being very restrained and without decoration. Certainly Burges himself would likely have passed comment on its lack of innate 'Gothic' character. That was why, in Burges' notebook, the reference, along with measurements, is to 'Yatman's Font', because Burges considered it as another work for his principal client, to do with as he willed and not specifically executed for a named location. However, it would appear that the congregation did not agree and the Medieval font continues in St. James' to this day. Thus, once JAY failed to incorporate the font in his designs for St. James', it is believed that, latest 1864, after the renovations at St. James' were finished, the font was provided to Draycott. lt is not clear whether it was formally gifted, or sent on semi-permanent loan. Given the description of the Church in the Consecration document, it is highly unlikely anyway that Burges would have personally conceived such a font for the new Church. Not only would the Church not have been in his own developed vernacular, his treatment of the neo-Gothic form of the font was out of keeping with the general design ethos of the Frome architect, let alone the design brief C.E.Giles would have had for St. Peter's.