The font is at the heart of any church, and is often one of its most ancient stones.
The commonest type of font in Sussex dates from Norman times, and is a square bowl of marble, supported by a big central shaft and a column at each corner. The sides of the bowl are usually carved with a line of arches and columns.
The font at Felpham (above) is typical. The bowl is black marble from the Weald, with an arcade rather crudely cut in the sides. The central shaft is limestone, and the corner shafts are in light blue marble. It dates from about 1200, so it was probably installed when the north aisle was added.
Stoughton church has a similar font (right), probably slightly older. One side has the branches of the tree of life rambling all over it, but all the tendrils derive from the central stem.
The other main type of Sussex font is the tub, circular and standing on a single shaft.
The tub font at Tortington (left), dating from the 12th century, is particularly large and heavily carved. As usual, an arcade runs round the top, but the mason has replaced every other column with a floral motif such as the honeysuckle visible in the picture.
The 15th century brought a building boom in England and many fonts date from that period. The typical design is an octagonal bowl with the panels carved with quatrefoils, on an octagonal stem with tracery. The font at Climping (below) is an excellent example.The font at Chidham (right) is a rather shapeless tub, round at the top morphing into square at the bottom, mounted on a pyramid of square blocks. It was discovered buried under the church during restoration work in the mid 19th century. It is so plain it could be any date: the church guidebook says possibly Saxon, the Victoria County History says 1660.
The old font at Ford is a rough square block of Bath stone, which still has the hasps for a padlock, to prevent witches from draining off the holy water for their satanic rituals.
Witch-proofed fonts are quite common, but Ford has a second font that is very unusual.
Tucked away behind the chancel arch is a tiny pottery font, barely a foot across, with a lid like a casserole. It is supported by a column so long and slender it is a miracle it was not knocked over and broken years ago. It dates from the early 19th century.