The village of Sheldon is home to a bizarre, lesser known Derbyshire legend – The Sheldon Duck.
The story goes that in 1601 a duck was witnessed entering an ash tree and mysteriously disappearing. This odd tale was passed down the generations and the site became known as the ‘Duck Tree’.
In the early 1900s the Duck Tree became unsafe and was cut down. A local joiner purchased the tree to cut into boards – only to find an oddly duck-shaped impression on the wood inside!
The boards themselves have been lost to history. They were displayed for a time at Ashford-on-the-Water Post Office – but were later incorporated into mantelpiece by the timber merchant who felled the tree.
A photographic print at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery shows the alleged duck. Is the story true? We’ll let you decide.
This print at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery reveals the story of the Sheldon DuckRead on for a transcription of the text.
A Sheldon tradition, now nearly 300 years old is verified from Ashford-in-the-Water, as to a duck having been seen flying towards an ash tree in that village, which it entered, and from that moment mysteriously disappeared. Sheldon is a small hamlet lying to the west of Bakewell and is noted for nothing in particular but the magnificent country which surrounds it, and the difficulty of getting supplies up there in during the long dreary winter.
The duck went into the tree in the year 1601, and the tale handed down from one generation to another from that day to this. The tree was always known as “the duck tree” and stood near the residence of Mr. Harry Buxton, overhanging the road. It having become partially decayed at the bottom, it was resolved to cut it down, Messrs. Wilson & Son, joiners, of Ashford, becoming the purchasers.
The tree was taken from Sheldon to Ashford and operated upon. The lower portion was thrown aside as being to a great extent useless, but lately it was resolved to cut it up. Two boards taken from the centre gave unmistakable evidence of the genuineness of the Sheldon tradition about the lost duck. On one side of each of these boards, about an inch in thickness, was the perfect form of a full-sized duck. The body measures eight inches across, and the length from tail to beak is twenty-one inches. The neck is five inches long. There are holes in both boards at the point where the duck’s brains would rest, as if these agencies rotted the timber. This also occurs where the lights and liver settled. The duck appears to have gone head-foremost into a hole which was known to be in the tree, and couldn’t get out again. In the course of time the parts became united and thus there was an end of the duck. An indelible impression of its full form was, however, left in that extraordinary prison where the duck was confined. Mr Samuel Ashton of Ashford, Bakewell, Derbyshire, is now in possession of the two boards.
This story first appeared on the Buxton Museum blog