Large images please wait for them to load.
|I finally managed to
visit Binstead with my wife in June 2008.
The visit was very informative as we photographed other pieces of sculpture in the church which firmly put the sheela and animal head figure in a Romanesque context.
The church was thought to have served the workmen in the nearby quarry and from Herringbone work in the walls is thought to date from the mid 12th century around 1150.
Nearby lies Quarr Abbey, a Cistercian house dedicated to the Virgin Mary which was founded in 1131, by Baldwin de Redvers, finally being consecrated 1 June 1150." 2
Due to the low status of the church and the nearness of the higher status building it would seem likely that sculpture was more likely to originally have been part of the fabric of the abbey. Only a few ruins remain of the original abbey which was dissolved in the 1500s. The present abbey building dates from 1908. As we have seen in other churches,sculpture is frequently re-used. It would seem likely that the the romanesque fragments were rescued from the abbey ruins and re-used at some point in Binstead church rather than being part of the original Romanesque incarnation.
The head on which the figure sits is definitely an animal head grasping its snout with its paws. This is a common romanesque motif and can be seen on many other churches (e.g. Penmon on Anglesey in Wales). This along with the other fragments in the church appear to be Romanesque in style. The sheela figure appears also appears to be Romanesque in style although it is very weathered. Unlike the animal headbelow it is not a corbel being carved in the round. (Compare to the Holdgate sheela na gig in Shropshire).
"The Idol" an older name
There are number of carved corbels inside the church along with a grotesque hunched figure on the end of the church abovethe romanesque fragments. These are thought to be Victorian although some of the interior corbels have been carved in a Romanesque style. Two of the interior corbels, which are crudely carved, appear to be pipe player which may also be an angel, while the other appears to be drummer although both are hard to make out.
The following information is from visits made by Keith Jones and Paul Sivell a local resident.
Notes from Keith
Notes from Paul
"The Idol" an older name
Binstead Limestone. The sheela has always been known locally as the "Saxon Idol". I was first shown it and told this as a child by my father in the mid 1950's.Pictures copyright Paul Sivell of Arbutus
|A closeup of the animal head
head on which the sheela sits. Although the sculpture is very weathered
two paws can be seen either side grasping the snout and there may also
be the remnants of a bridle on the snout. Compare this to the head at Penmon
This is a fairly common Romanesque motif and can be seen on many other churches.
Embedded above windows at the end of the church are two Romanesque figures of a Dragon and Griffon. These appear to be voussoirs taken from arch. These along with the sheela and animal head on which it sits are thought to have come from nearby Quarr Abbey
The sheela above the gate. Photo copyright Rachael Piper-Harding
Herringbone masonry in the walls of the church.
1. Reported by Paul Sivell a local resident
'Parishes: Binstead', A History of the County of
Hampshire: Volume 5 (1912), pp. 151-155. URL:
accessed: 20 February 2009.
to the sheela index