The church of St Helen’s, Bilton in Ainsty is situated on the B1224 York to Wetherby road. Although the church dates from Saxon times, it was considerably altered under Norman influence.
As you enter to church through the porch walk over to the vestry in the top right hand corner. The twin sheelas are situated corbel table, near the eastern wall. Formerly both corbel tables in the vestry, and Lady Chapel. were on the outside wall prior to the extension of the church in 1869.
The sheela nearest to the east wall has very broad shoulders, and haunches. Although it is claimed by Roberts ‘with her arms held on her abdomen’, her hands holds the lower part of the genitalia, which broadly occupy her trunk up to her neck.. The other is said to be ‘badly damaged hacked at, presumably because, the right arm and the hand held beneath it suggest a very patient posture.’ Although the head and shoulders are reasonably well defined, the damage to the lower half of the sculpture is so bad, it is difficult to determine any features. There are several very interesting carvings found inside the church including a Saxon Cross, various corbels including monsters, and a mermaid stresses puller.
The church is kept locked, although a key is available from the Old Vicarage, Bilton.
Text and photographs by Keith Jones