Curiosity of the Month

A recent enquiry at Buxton Museum prompted my discovery of a very peculiar item. Despite working at the museum for nearly two decades, I was unaware that the collections contained something known as The Sheldon Duck. A quick check of the museum database confirmed that we did indeed have a photographic print of said creature, along with its story. I’m sure that you will be astonished as I am to learn of this lesser-known Derbyshire legend. Whether or not modern science can support such a remarkable claim is another matter; I shall merely present it to you so you may judge for yourself.

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The text in the print reads:

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.

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