The Clevedon Figure
The Clevedon Figure

This figure can be found in at the Church of St Andrews in Clevedon, North Somerset. The church is thought to date from the 12th century but has been added to over the years. There is some doubt over the date of the foundation with several dates possible from 1090-1170. The masonry however is late Norman. The tower was originally short and quite stubby and was raised to its present height in the 17th century. There is a rich corbel table surrounding the tower (see below) with each corbel being carved. However the carvings are now so worn as be almost indistinguishable from the ground. The variation in carving can be seen from the different outlines of the corbels. Despite the number of carvings on the church nothing has been published on them 1. The majority of the carvings are heads which can be found in double, treble and janiform styles. One corbel is very abstract and it’s very hard to tell what it is meant to represent.

The alleged sheela figure can be found on the right hand side of the church as you walk in through the main gate. It is one of a number of corbels (see below for examples) which are just above head height under the eaves of the church roof. The figure hold a foot in each hand in an acrobatic position which is very similar to a figure in Lower Swell. There are no immediate genitals visible but there is a small cleft in the middle of the groin and there also appears to be the remains of a large cigar shaped area of stone immediately in between the legs. This could indicate that the carving has been defaced at some time. If this was originally a vulva then it would be similar in relative size to the Oaksey Sheela however it could equally be a mega-phallic male. Unfortunately it is now too worn to be sure either way.

Is this a sheela na gig?

The truth of the matter is it’s impossible to tell. Romanesque sculpture includes both splay legged exhibitionist figures and non exhibitionist splay legged figures. For example the figure at Rock church in Worcestershire is splay legged and impaled on something. While the it is suggestive it is not overtly exhibitionist. A number of the
capitals in Anselms Crypt in Canterbury Cathedral are also non exhibitionist splay legged figures. Unfortunately this figure will have to be filed under “maybe”.

Bulbous Eyed Head
Bulbous Eyed Head
Cat Corbel


Bird Corbel


Abstract Corbel


The Tower at Clevedon Church
The Tower at Clevedon Church