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  • Writer's picturemysteriesofmercia

The Mystery of the Ribbesford Archer

A mysterious scene is carved into the tympanum above the door to St Leonard's Church in the Worcestershire village of Ribbesford. A crouching archer, his head protected by a Norman style "nasal" helm, takes aim at a monstrous creature while a hound - or a deer - skips towards him.

Undoubtedly the work of the Herefordshire School masons during the early 1100s, the sculpture shares details with other church carvings such as the doorway at Kilpeck and the font at Eardisley. But what does it actually show?

Folklore gives us one explanation. John of Horsill, Lord of the Manor, was out hunting one day between the church and the river Severn. He saw a fine buck and fired at it, a perfect shot that went straight through the deer. The arrow continued towards the river when a gigantic salmon leaped out of the water...and was pierced through by the Lord's shot!

"John of Horsill" appears to have lived during the 15th century so even if this story were true - the carving was made 3 centuries earlier. Nobody knows what the lobster/bird beast is, and the smaller animal could be a hound as well as a deer. Some say its a beaver, it certainly has legs and a rudimentary tail...what do you think is going on here?

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