Baptism, preaching and music

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London, St Martin Ludgate, font

The fontGlossary Term, where infants were baptized as members of the church, follows the usual form of the 17th and 18th centuries: a marble bowl on a baluster-like stem. Those of the City Churches are usually treated as display pieces, with deep-cut foliage carving (as here), sometimes combined with cherub heads or figure reliefs. The timber cover is also typical, with a low decoratedGlossary Term baseGlossary Term and an ogeeGlossary Term or double-curved top. Less common is tht the bowl has two inscriptions: one in Greek, translatable as 'wash my sins, not my face only', the other recording its donation in 1673 - that is, some years before the church was built. The explanation is that it originally served a wooden 'tabernacleGlossary Term' or temporary church, many of which were provided for homeless congregations awaiting church new buildings. Other unusual features are the little railed enclosure and the marble sculpture behind of a pelican and its young, symbolic of Christ.

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London, St Martin Ludgate, pulpit

The pulpitGlossary Term is of oak, of a standard hexagonal shape with raised panels on each face, which in this instance take the form of an inlaid disc with a foliage border. It originally sat beneath a broad, flat canopy or sounding board called a testerGlossary Term, which was meant to help the preacher's voice carry. Its original setting would have included an enclosed desk for the Parish Clerk, who led the congregation through the services. The present staircase with its very slender balusters is almost certainly later, perhaps of the 18th century.

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London, St Martin Ludgate, chandelier

A chandelier or candelabrum of brass gave lightGlossary Term for services on dark mornings and evenings. The very beautiful example here, like something that might be found in a ballroom or country house stair-hall, came to the church via St Vincent's Cathedral in the West Indies, probably in 1777: a reminder of the links between the City's trading economy and the British Empire overseas.

St Martin's must have been quite well-off, as it was able to supply an organ in time for the completion of the church. The present instrument is a replacement of 1847, but the staircase with its solid square newelGlossary Term posts, closed stringGlossary Term and thick balusters appears to belong to the 17th-century work. It occupies the usual position, at the west end facing the altar.

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London, St Martin Ludgate, organ



Moulded foot of a column or pilaster. An Attic base is the form used on an Ionic column, with two large convex rings joined by a spreading convex moulding.

Closed string

A sloping member of a staircase covering the ends of the treads and risers, with a continuous upper edge; hence a closed string staircase. Compare open string.


A distinctive phase of English Gothic which developed at the end of the 13th century and continued into the later 14th; sometimes abbreviated to Dec. Named from its elaborate window tracery, which abandoned the simple circular forms of Geometric in favour of more varied patterns based on segments of circles. Dec tracery makes much use of ogee or reversed curves, which were combined in the 14th century to produce reticulated and flowing tracery composed of trefoils, quatrefoils and dagger shapes. Similar inventiveness is seen in the patterns produced by the lierne and tierceron vaults of the period, in the three-dimensional handling of wall surfaces broken up by canopy work and sculpture and in imaginative spatial planning making use of diagonal axes.


Vessel in a church or chapel for baptismal water, usually of stone or lead.


Compartment of a window defined by the uprights or mullions.


Central or corner post of a staircase. A newel stair ascends round a central supporting newel; in Scotland called a turnpike stair.


A double curve, bending first one way and then the other. An ogee or ogival arch, especially popular in the 14th century, is pointed at the top. A nodding ogee curves forward from the wall face at the top.


Raised and enclosed platform for the preaching of sermons. Three-decker: with reading desk below and clerk’s desk below that. Two-decker: as above, minus the clerks’ desk.


Canopied structure in a church or chapel to contain the reserved sacrament or a relic. Also an architectural frame for an image or statue.


(lit. head): Flat canopy over a tomb or pulpit, where it is also called a sounding-board.