The Darley Dale Figure

Photography copyright Charles Wildgoose used with permission

This figure is approximately three miles west of Haddon Hall in the village of Darley Dale. The type of figure is almost identical in style if not execution to the acrobatic style figure in the stables at Haddon Hall. The legs are held high in the air while the buttocks or sexual organs are held apart by the hands. The figure either is wearing a cap or has a head of hair in a "pudding basin" style cut. Though the face of the figure is weathered you can still just make out the eyes and mouth and what appears to be a protruding tongue.

Is this a Sheela na Gig?
Initially I was inclined to describe the figure as a sheela due to it's similarity and proximity to the Haddon Hall figure. However it is very weathered and could equally be an anus shower or indeed simply a non exhibitionist acrobat. The figure can be found inside a modern extension to the church which houses what was once one of the main doors to the church. It occupies a central position on the keystone of the arch. It is the style of arch which dates from the Tudor period which seems to indicate a much later date for this figure. However we must be careful using the arch as dating evidence. As can be seen in the photograph above the figure appears to have been cemented onto the keystone. A small ridge of mortar can be seen directly below the figure and another ridge of mortar can be seen above the figure's right shoulder. The church history goes back to pre-conquest days and the remains of Saxon knotwork and Norman masonry can still be found in the walls. This begs the question is this a reused 12th century figure? The style of the figure could well date from the 12th century however the figure could equally be contemporary with the arch. It's worth noting that the nearby Alderwasley figure is associated with Tudor chapel which has a similar archway. Unfortunately there is doubt as to whether either of these figures is a sheela na gig. Again due to weathering we cannot be exactly sure.
There are many old gravestones in churchyard and not a few empty stone coffins. One of the table tombs which is said to house the remains of a weaver is strangely decorated with a pentagram, Star of David and the tools of the weavers trade (See below). There is also an ancient yew purportedly being 2000 years old although there is some doubt about it true age. 

The church is usually locked but access can be gained by phoning the church warden or the Rector whose telephone numbers can be found on the door of the church. 

My thanks go to Mrs D.Church for taking the time to show me around the church at such short notice.

 

The figure's position on the keystone of a Tudor style arch

The "Weavers Tomb" in the churchyard one end has a five pointed star whlile the other has a six pointed Star of David. The carvings on the side of the tomb are thought to be representations of tools used in the weaving trade.
A lion sculpture near the above figure.
Photograph copyright Charles Wildgoose used with permission

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