The Font is said to have been given in 1560 by Elizabeth Holden, the wife of Ralph Holden, brother of Sir Thomas Holden who held the living at that time.
It bears the initials of the donor (EH), the Arms of Towneley of Towneley and the Arms of Towneley of Royle (Elizabeth Holden’s mother being a Towneley of Royle).
The basin is original, the stem and base are modern. It would originally have had a cover which was raised by means of a rope and pulley. It had been ordered in the 13th century that all fonts were to have a locked cover.
Fonts were generally made octagonal. The octagon was said to be the figure of regeneration because, according to a Benedictine monk of the 13th century, “the whole creation ended in seven days, wherefore the next number may be taken as symbolic of the new”.
The Panels of the Font (clockwise from the north)
- The initials EH, Elizabeth Holden, the donor.
- A platter and a pitcher held in a hand, used for baptismal purposes for salt and water.
- A goat walking, with a collar and a bell, part of the Stansfield Coat of Arms. (Jordan Stansfield married a daughter of John de Towneley).
- Arms of Towneley of Towneley, with silver background, black horizontal stripe with 3 black stars above. The Towneley motto, Tenez Le Vraye = “Hold to the truth”, which is now the motto of Burnley Borough Council.
- A heart in the centre between two hands above and two feet below depicts the five sacred wounds of our Lord.
- Arms of Towneley of Royle, with silver background, black horizontal stripe with a cross and 3 black stars above.
- Five escallops, three above two. The escallop is also called St James’ shell and was a Pilgrim’s badge.
- A pair of shears which represent the memorial of a pious lady whose name has been lost.
Similar fonts are found in St. John the Baptist, Tideswell; St. James, Altham and St Leonard’s, Padiham.
Designs 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 were also on the octagonal font in St. Peter’s Parish Church, Burnley. This was destroyed by a fire in 1991.
During the rebuilding of the church between 1772 and 1777, the font was buried inside the church to create more space. It was covered in dirt and several coats of whitewash where it remained for three generations. It was re-discovered in the1850s and restored by the generosity of Dr Ralph Holden (whose memorial plaque is on the south wall). The original site was in what is now the Community Hall but it was moved to its present position during the re-ordering of the church in 1998.