A VILLAGE church is planning to hold a big celebration later this year in recognition of 500 years of continuous use of its font.
The event is being hosted by the vicar of St John the Baptist church, in Mayfield, the Rev Ray Owen.
He said: “It is hard to imagine that our font was first used just five years after King Henry VIII came to the throne and has christened babies, children and adults in Mayfield ever since.
“To celebrate we are planning a special baptism thanksgiving service, led by the Bishop of Stafford, on June 8, complete with a local child being baptised.”
The vicar is hoping as many people as possible who were christened in the church will attend the event.
The font has a wooden cover which was originally put on it to prevent the theft of holy water, as laid down in a 12th century law. This was to stop the water being used in charms and magic potions
The church’s history can be traced back to the Doomsday Survey of 1086, which recorded a priest in Mayfield. He was one of just 25 priests in the whole of Staffordshire.
The old Saxon church was replaced with a Norman stone building during the reign of Henry I. It was a simple rectangular construction with no aisles, built under the direction of the Prior of Tutbury and would have probably been paid for by rents and manorial rights.
During the early part of the 14th century the church had fallen into disrepair, and the Bishop, Roger de Norburgh (Norbury), ordered that urgent repairs be carried out.
These were supervised by John Rollestone was a wealthy landowner at the time, and a friend of the Earl de Ferrers, who had overall responsibility for the church.
Several generations of the Rollestone family trebled the size of the knave, added the chancel and finally, in 1515, added the church tower. In mid 17th century the unique three-sided communion rail was commissioned, which is still used today.
Rev Owen said: “It’s a lovely piece of handicraft, but it isn’t the ideal shape for communion, to be honest. It does cause a bit of a traffic jam as those who have taken communion can’t leave the side bars until the whole line has finished.”
In 1663 the Greaves family came to Mayfield and were to become patrons of the church for some 200 years.
The church has a silver chalice dated 1665, which is believed to be a gift from the family.
On December 7, 1745, a section of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army, retreating from Derby, passed through the churchyard, terrorising the villagers, who took refuge inside the church itself.
The Young Pretender’s men did not enter the church, but fired several shots at the west door, which can be clearly seen.