Saxon Baptismal Font at Toller Fratrum, Dorset, England
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Researcher - Gerald Duke. Date of visit 24th April 2004

This web page departs from the format of this series because although I wanted to see this font, the scholarly work has already been undertaken. There is a link at the bottom of this page to the more detailed work of Baptistaria Sacra. Instead, I wanted to try and give a feel for the immediate area surrounding this little church in its truly rural and medieval setting.

In medieval times, the manor of Toller Fratrum, or Toller of the Brothers, belonged to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. Here they had their storehouses. It was used by them from the time of their founding in the 11th century.

The Church of St Basil was rebuilt in the 19th century and is seen in the centre of the picture below. It stands isolated on a little promontory overlooking the river Hooke shortly before it meets the larger river Frome at Maiden Newton. To its west is a more recent Manor House and thatched outbuilding. Both the work of John Samways, who bought Tollar in 1540. He lived there until his death in 1585. John Samways also held property in Martinstown including Carrants Farm were the researcher lives today. The west third of the house was rebuild by the Royalist Sir Thomas Fulford, son Sir Francis Fulford who married the heiress of John Samways.

It is a fine example of 17th century domestic architecture. The thatched stable block was formerly the brothers' refectory and there is also a large barn with a granary on staddle stones in front. This is all surrounded by a small agricultural settlement.

The dedication is one of only three in England to Basil the Great, who is more commonly honoured by the Eastern Church.

Approximately 1.4 km (a little short of 1 mile) to the south, at Wynford Eagle, is the church of St Lawrence where a 13th century baptismal font is found. This was a subsidiary chapel to the Church at Toller Fratrum.

View of Toller Fratrum from the Maiden Newton to Crewkerne Road

17th Century Manor House, built by Sir Thomas Fulford and the researcher's pony at the end of the old refectory.

The Church of Saint Basil to the east of the old refectory.

Inside looking towards the alter from the font View of the baptismal font looking south west

The authorities differ on whether this fabled font and relief is late-Saxon or early Norman.
It is covered in human and and animal figures, all in a primitive style.
The figures are described according to Yapp beneath the photographs .

Possibly creatures attacking a man,
a fallen Goldern Calf, slain Amalekites
Christ or Saint Michael, with cross
leading souls from Hell
Moses saving the Israeites in
the battle of Amalekites
To release amplet and access page for source code - press here.
Dorset Natural History and Antiquities Society volume 109 (1987), The Iconography of the Font at Toller Fratrum, W.B.Yapp, 1-4
John Hutchins, The history and antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3rd ed., edited by William Shipp and James Whitworth Hodson, Westminster: J.B. Nichols and Sons, 1861-1873.
Arthur Mee, ed., Dorset: Thomas Hardy's country. The King's England. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1939, p. 263.
John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner, The buildings of England: Dorset. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, p. 424
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset, Vol. 1, West Dorset. London: HMSO, 1952, p. 257.
Baptistaria Sacra
Dorset Historic Churches Trust
Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem

Copyright Gerald Duke 2004