Quirky Dorset 20 – This Way Up!

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

So, today we reach the last part of this week’s ‘Quirky Dorset’ set, and entry number 20 in the overall series 🙂 ! And this is another of those quirky, odd things which you often find in churches. This is The Upside Down Font 🙂 !

The Upside Down Font

The Upside Down Font
The Upside Down Font at Melbury Bubb

So, what do I mean by ‘upside down’? Well, it doesn’t mean that the water basin part is on the floor; no, that is at the top where it should be. It is more about the carvings around the sides, as they are upside down. These carvings feature various animals who appear to be trying to bite each other. In fact it is difficult to tell exactly what the animals are but there seems to be a stag, a serpent, a horse (that appears to have paws rather than hooves), a lion, a wolf, a couple of dragons and so on, but if you look at the pictures, their feet are all at the top and their heads are at the bottom!

The Upside Down Font
The Font and the Interior of the Church

The font stands in St Mary’s Church, which itself stands in a village with the very Dorset name of Melbury Bubb. There are a number of theories that have been put forward over the years in an attempt to explain this quirky design. One such theory put forward by Arthur Mee suggests that the carvings were deliberately made this way in order to represent the overthrowing of cruelty with love, as in the gospels. This is based on the fact that they all seem to be hunting each other in the carvings. Another, that it represents creation being overthrown by sin.

Perhaps a more likely explanation is that it was just a medieval form of up-cycling by the Normans, and that the font was at one time the base of a Saxon cross or column, designed to be used the other way up. Even here, there are differences of opinion – did the mason make a mistake and hollow out the wrong end, or did he carve it that way deliberately because it suited the shape better?

Yet another suggestion is that it was deliberately and symbolically turned upside down because the carvings around the side are more pagan than Christian. There is an old saying that goes, ‘The truth will out’, but actually in this case I don’t think it will and we shall never know the truth.

The village church
St Mary’s Church, Melbury Bubb

I just love these curiosities in Dorset, and I love the fact that we will never really know the truth because the only way to do that would be to go back to Norman times and talk to the mason who did the work. History is loaded with unsolvable puzzles and conundrums, and it all adds to the wonder and intrigue we feel as we explore these ancient sites.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.


  1. Fascinating! I don’t know that I would have noticed without it being pointed out. There is much about historical artefacts that has me scratching my head

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