THE font where a famed Victorian County Durham poet is said to have been baptised could have been installed in the church during the 20th century, it has emerged.

Poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning was baptised at St Helen’s Church, in Kelloe, near Durham in 1806.

But during recent building work, it emerged the font, thought to date from the 18th century, could be a more recent addition and may have been installed after the baptism of Kelloe’s most famous resident.

Keith Pounder, secretary of the Parochial Church Council, said: “Somebody has commented that its not as old as it seems to be.

"They think it’s more modern so what we’re going to do is get the architect to investigate the history of it.”

The church, which celebrates the connection with a plaque, placed in 1897, is Grade 1 listed and according to its citation, the stone font bowl dates from the 18th century.

The Northern Echo:

Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning

An architect is drawing up plans for the third phase of the restoration project, which could include moving the font and some pews to make space for a "community hub", where, where people could sit and have a drink.

One parishioner, who said the plans had angered members of the congregation, said: "A plaque in the church celebrates the connection with Browning but churchgoers are concerned that, if recent plans are allowed to proceed, this connection would be broken."

Mr Pounder added: “The architect is drawing up plans for phase three of the restoration project, which is mainly for work to enhance the church as a community hub.

“The parochial church council has not yet received the plans, but when they are received, they will have to be approved, and then must be further approved by the Diocese.

“There will then be a consultation with the congregation. As part of the project, the age of the font will be researched."