The small town of Cleobury (Pronounced Clibbery) Mortimer lies in Shropshire. Set in the retaining wall of the churchyard of St Mary’s there is very worn carving of what appears to be a seated figure with bent arms. As you can see from the photograph below the figure faces directly onto the main road through Cleobury. This figure has been defined as a Sheela Na Gig by the Courtauld Institute of Art . There is a record of the figure on the internet here on the institute’s “Public Monuments and Sculpture” pages. After speaking to Dr. M.W.Baldwin of Cleobury’s history society he informed me that the definition of the carving as a sheela na gig was a tentative one. After having seen the figure it is very hard to say what it originally represented as it is too worn to be able to identify any features. There does appear to be a cleft at the bottom of the carving, but it’s hard to distinguish any legs. There also appear to be two pillars either side of the figure. The pillars may be legs which would make the figure splay legged or equally they could be part of something the figure is seated on. Dr Baldwin also mentioned that the figure is fairly near Church Stretton which would make the figure part of the Shropshire sheela na gig cluster. The church is of the right age being from the late Norman period according to some information in the church. There is also a font or tub set into the wall of the porch which was found in a local garden. The church is also famous for it’s twisted spire.
The position of the arms seems to count against this figure being a sheela as they appear to b holding something over the abdomen/chest. This may indicate that the figure is very worn representation of Christ holding a bible. These Christ figures tend to be seated as well. All in all this figure is really too worn to make a hard and fast judgement as to whether it is a sheela na gig or not although some of the features suggest otherwise.