Eardisley and Castle Frome Fonts
There is no mistaking that the fonts at Eardisley and Castle Frome came from the same masons yard, if not the very same hand. The similarities between the two fonts are striking especially the carving of the two lions which represent the apostle Mark with his tail between his legs. Both the church at at Castle Frome and Eardisley have origins back to the early 12th century with the fonts (according to pevsner) coming a little later.
The Eardisley font, we are told shows the Harrowing of Hell with Jesus pulling Adam from the entanglement of evil. With cross in one hand and dove on the other shoulder. The other side shows two men fighting, with a spear stabbed through one of the knights legs. Stories say that it depicts the dual between Sir Ralph de Baskerville who owned the land around Eardisley and his father in law of Clifford Castle who stole some of Ralphs Land in 1927. Lord Clifford was mortially wounded at the hands of Ralph de Baskerville who ended up seeking pardon from the Pope in Rome by donating said lands to the Cliffords and giving money to the church. Ralph was so mortified by his wrong doing, he became a monk to repent and lived out his days at the priory in Gloucester.
The church at Castle Frome is believed to date from about AD1125 built by Roger de Lacey. For a church of this period in Herefordshire with ties to the Herefordshire School of Romanesque Carving it is surprisingly plain. It retains it some Norman Arch doors and windows but had later gothic alterations.
The font is believed by some to be later than the church itself. Pevsner puts it at no later than 1170 and shows the four evangelists and the baptism of Christ. With the tangled vines representing the struggle through evil. Pevsner describes is as "prehaps the most remarkable font anywhere" and it is "one of the master works of Romanesque Sculpture and would arrest attention in any country" Whether or not you think Castle Frome of of Eardisley is the better example, I'll let you decide!
I find the base the most interesting, it is constructed from a much darker stone, it seems a high quality Raglan Mudstone. I like to think of it as the “Hereford Sphinx” 3 preaching men with a strange body, but recognisable in their chevroned armour. I believe this base predates the main font and may show the hind legs in a position of someone sat upright, some further modelling and investigation will be needed to expand upon the hypothesis
Feel free to check out my Sketchfab page where I am doing my best to record the Herefordshire School of Romanesque Carving
Work in progress sketch of the font. I got a bit cold sat on the floor and the vines were driving me mad!