Old carving goes on show

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Is this medieval carving a woman, a dog or a mixture of both?

That is one of the questions raised at a special display at St Mary’s Church at Chilton this weekend as part of National Heritage weekend.

Visitors to the rarely-opened 15th century church in Church Field Road will be asked for their opinion of the carving which is only seven centimetres square.

“Until recently, we thought that the tiny head represented a woman wearing a linen wimple headdress,” said Valerie Herbert, who has organised the event together with Margaret Maybury, who is also a Friend of St Mary’s.

“Then it was noticed that she was sticking out her tongue and had an unusual jaw.”

The display also puts the spotlight on three other strange beings in the church, including a unicorn and another mythical creature which is half-dragon, half-serpent.

The event marks 150 years since the church re-opened after a major Victorian restoration, and images on show include a rare photograph from the 19th century when the walls were decorated with a riot of patterns, symbols and texts.

The timeframe spans from the Iron Age, when there was a settlement near the church, to the 1990s when it stood isolated in the fields.

The display takes in a copy of the entry in the Domesday Book that lists an earlier church, as well as a 1940 spy plane photograph of the area. It also illustrates how recycling has benefited St Mary’s.

The church will be open from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, and from 10am to 2pm on Sunday, followed at 3pm by St Mary’s harvest festival service.

It will then be moved on Monday to St Gregory’s Church in Sudbury where it will remain for a week.