The font now in use replaced the original one shortly after the church was built. In January 1686 the vestry was informed that an anonymous donor was 'piously inclined to give another font' if a more convenient place could be found. Room was made for the new font, which was installed some time in 1686; it was decided to offer the old one to the church of St. Anne, Soho.
The new font and its cover are attributed to Grinling Gibbons. The white marble font consists of an ovoid bowl raised on a stem realistically carved to represent the Tree of Knowledge, with the serpent entwined about it, Adam standing on one side and Eve on the other.
The bowl is decorated with three kidney-shaped panels carved in low relief to represent (a) the Baptism of Christ, (b) St. Philip baptising the Eunuch of Candace, (c) Noah's Ark afloat (Plate 23b). The cover was described by Hatton as being 'finely carved . . . with a spacious Angel descending from a Celestial Choir of Cherubims, all gilt with Gold'.
In 1687 the vestry ordered that the position of the cover should be altered for the benefit of Sir Thomas Clarges, who 'thought himselfe much injur'd . . . it being too high and hindred his sight'. According to Brayley the cover was stolen about the end of the eighteenth century and hung up at a spirit shop near the church, but the vestry minutes make no mention of this. It was probably sold with the other old fittings in 1822 after the removal of the font to a position behind the seats in the central aisle, where the cover could not be hung. The font is shown in this position in contemporary illustrations, but in 1878 it was moved into the lobby under the tower, which was made into a baptistery, and enclosed with a railing.
During the restoration of the church the font was moved to its present position in the northwest corner.
William Blake was baptised in this font in 1757.
Pictures above (c) Hugh Valentine