Apse corbel A5 (Image courtesy of Conway Library).

Image of the feature "III. Exterior Features: 3. Exterior Decoration: c. Corbel tables, corbels: Apse corbel table (24 corbels)" at Kilpeck.

by George Zarnecki.

The corbel table is chamfered and carved with a row of sawtooth on the chamfer and another on the face above. It was supported originally by 24 corbels; three in each of the short straight bays of the apse and six in each curved bay. Twenty-three corbels remain; the westernmost in the S straight bay is lost. Sections of the sawtooth-decorated table may belong to Cottingham's restoration.

The apparently simple design has two variations. In both, the raised triangles of the sawtooth on the upper chamfer are inverted, pointing downwards. The first type has the raised triangles on the chamfer similarly inverted and syncopated with those on the face above, giving the appearance of a row of lozenges along the arriss. The second has the raised triangles on the chamfer upright, with their points at the top and also syncopated with those on the face above, producing the appearance of a depressed zigzag running along the corbel table.

In the following descriptions the corbels are numbered anticlockwise, starting at the SW and ending at the NW. This differs from Thurlby's numbering system, taken from 'A short tour', which begins at the SW angle of the nave and goes anticlockwise around the entire church in a single sequence. There is also some disagreement between Thurlby and the present author concerning precisely which corbel is lost at the very start of the sequence. Thurlby's numbers are given in brackets, preceded by a T.

A1. Removed.

A2. (T28). A female exhibitionist, or sheela-na-gig, shown frontally with legs apart and long arms passing behind the legs to hold open the labia of her huge vagina. Her head is very large, with a broad bald head tapering to a pointed chin. Her eyes are oval, bulging and drilled.

A3. (T29). Ball-shaped beast head with cat-like ears and long nose terminating in a beaked upper lip. The mouth is open and grips a rod. The eyes are oval, bulging and drilled. Lewis's 1842 print of this includes clawed feet in the lower angles of the corbel, but these are no longer present.

A4. (T30). Muzzled bear's head with beading on the muzzle. Projecting from each side of the mouth is a small human head.

A5. (T31). Male human head with all features; the eyes, moustache, mouth and short beard, slightly higher on the left side of the face than the right. The eyes are oval, bulging and drilled. The nose is thin and straight but obliquely cut at the end, and the mouth is small with lips slightly open.

A6. (T32). Inverted deer's head with curved antlers and a flat pig's snout drilled for nostrils. Thurlby interprets this as an ibex which, in the Bestiary, lands on its horns if it falls down a mountain, protecting the creature from harm. The moralisation of the story compares the beast to those learned in the Old and New Testaments who are similarly protected by their twofold knowledge. 'A short tour' disagrees with Thurlby's interpretation on the grounds that the beast has antlers rather than horns, and suggests that it is likely to represent a dead stag, carried upside-down after the chase.

A7 (T33). A hound and a hare, shown side by side and turned slightly away from one another. The hound has long ears flopping forward either side of its drilled eyes. The hare, or rabbit, has long upright ears and front paws shown in shallow relief stretched out in front.

A8 (T34). Bald and earless human head with oval, bulging and drilled eyes, and the jaw lost from the upper lip downwards. Traces of arms and hands are visible to the left and right of the missing jaw. In Lewis's 1842 print, he is shown pulling the mouth with both hands.

A9 (T35). A grotesque and powerful image of a bird-headed man inserting its beak into the mouth of a globular human head, shown inverted at the bottom of the corbel. The bird-man has a head like a beakhead with drilled eyes, catlike ears, and grooved decoration on the brow. His shoulders and arms are human, and he rests on his elbows, bringing his hands up alongside his beak and holding something in them, on which he gnaws - perhaps a bone.

A10 (T36). A pair of small birds shown from above, heads to the top of the corbel. With their beaks they grip a serpent that curves around the top of the corbel, its head hanging down on the left. Their wings are folded on top of their bodies.

A11 (T37). Grotesque beast head with drilled eyes and a straight nose superimposed on a wrinkled muzzle. The wide grinning mouth shows pointed teeth.

A12 (T38). Composite human lion head surrounded by a curly mane. In the centre of the brow is a bead, an unusual motif (see section VIII). The eyes are oval, bulging and drilled, surrounded by grooves for eyelids. The nose is humanoid with drilled nostrils and the mouth is slightly open and turned down at the ends.

A13 (T39). Agnus Dei. A lamb walking to left with a cross supported on its left foreleg. This axis of the apse lies between this corbel and the previous one. There is another Agnus Dei corbel over the S nave doorway (SN8).

A14 (T40). Human head with bulging cheeks above ridges running from the sides of the nose tip. The mouth is wide, straight and slightly open, and a short beard outlines the chin and jawline. He has small ears alongside his drilled eyes and hair short in irregular tufts.

A15 (T41). Grotesque beast head entirely covered with a symmetrical ridged design. The eyes, towards the sides of the head, are oval, bulging and drilled. The mouth resembles a duck's beak.

A16 (T42). Ram's head with curly horns decorated with transverse reeding to either side of its long, thin, smooth head, and bulbous drilled oval eyes.

A17 (T43). Simple dog-like beast head with slanted drilled oval eyes, small ears, slightly open mouth and drilled snout.

A18 (T44). Thin human figure with a large round head and very long arms, playing a rebec or viol held by the neck in the left hand with the body against the left shoulder and played with a bow held in the right hand. The legs are shown in low relief at bottom left. Thurlby notes the resemblance of this figure to A2.

A19 (T45). A pair of standing, clothed lovers embracing, the man on the right. She caresses his buttocks with her right hand, while he holds her right arm at the elbow with his left. They are cheek-to-cheek with lips parted for a kiss. Thurlby interprets the figures as dancing together to the music of A18, and suggests that the left figure is the man, whose advance on his partner's bottom is being restrained by the hand on the arm. He also suggests that the woman is resisting a kiss.

A20 (T46). The head of a pig (?) with drilled snout, holding a man in its mouth, his head projecting at the right and his legs and feet at the left.

A21 (T47). A slim human figure, possibly female, clad in a tunic and short skirt and carved diagonally across the corbel, as if falling to the right, with right arm raised and legs bent at the knees. The head is bald with drilled eyes.

A22 (T48). A grotesque beast head decorated with a pattern of ridges. The nose is long and the mouth bifurcated, with teeth remaining on the right. The eyes are oval and drilled and the ears cat-like. There are losses to the bottom and lower left of the head.

A23 (T49). Human head with perfectly round mouth showing a fleshy tongue, and moustache-like nasolabial ridges. The eyes are oval and drilled, the left slightly lower than the right.

A24 (T50). Bird-headed man similar to A9, with its beak inserted in the mouth of a man on whom it crouches. The bird-man's head is decorated with fishscale-like feathers.