IT is not often that ecclesiastical institutions start jostling about whose construction is the biggest, but our note about the font cover in St Cuthbert’s Church, Darlington, in Memories 340 might have set something off.

“You wrote that at 15ft high, Darlington’s is the tallest in the county,” writes John Heslop from Durham City.

“I wonder which county you have in mind because Durham Cathedral has a taller oak font cover, created around the same time as St Cuthbert’s as part of Bishop John Cosin’s refurbishment of the ruinous state of the cathedral following the Commonwealth period.

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“I have seen the cathedral font cover put at 40ft, and a question asked of the cathedral website produced the answer 15 metres. Whichever is correct, it beats 15ft.”

And so it does. Durham’s is bigger than Darlo’s.

Baptismal fonts are usually placed just inside the main door of a church or cathedral as they symbolise the start of a journey.

Elaborate covers for fonts became fashionable in the 17th Century as way of enhancing the importance of the baptism by making the font look more impressive and by creating a drama out of lifting the enormous cover on a pulley and chain.

The fonts of Durham and Darlington are both carved from oak around the same time – 1662-3 – and were an attempt to replace the woodwork that had been lost during the Reformation. Bishop Cosin, who was bishop from 1660-72, replaced much of the lost woodwork in the cathedral with grand oak carvings.

So we should have said that Darlington’s 15ft cover is the tallest of its kind in a church in the county and that nothing can match the enormity of the cathedral’s structure.