A CARVED stone figure up to 2,000 years old has become a public centrepiece in the village where it was discovered.
The rare sandstone sculpture, dating back to the days of the Romans in Northumberland, has been placed on open display at Acomb village green near Hexham - after lying hidden in a villager’s barn for the last four years.
Former market gardener John Hutchinson kept the rare figure under wraps after being entrusted with its safekeeping when its owners emigrated to Canada and left the carving to Acomb Parish Council.
When the parish council restored the village green to its former glory in a major clean-up, John, 76, offered to return the stone.
And now Acomb Man is concreted firmly into his place of honour - right outside John’s home on The Green.
In 1970 flooding on the riverbank at Howford on the North Tyne dislodged Acomb Man from the earth and he was found by Commander Hugh Oswald, who lived at Acomb House.
The figure was placed on a corner of Acomb House but when the Oswalds left Acomb the figure stayed behind.
The Phellew family moved in but then emigrated to Canada - and John was entrusted with its safekeeping.
“Old man Phellew told me he didn’t want to take it with them, so he said we could keep it and do what we would with it,” said John, who has lived all his 76 years in the village.
“I kept it in my barn for four years - the people from Newcastle University wanted to take it but I told them it was staying here where it belongs.
“Then when the parish council did up The Green, they said the carving could be put there on display.
“Now it’s been concreted in, right outside my house - and it should be a real attraction for visitors. It’s certainly good to see it there.”
Hexham historian and prehistoric rock art expert Stan Beckensall said the Newcastle Museum of Antiquities had confirmed the Romano-British stone’s authenticity and believed it may represented Hercules holding a club and bag.
Archaeologist Paul Bidwell, from Arbeia, declared it was “in a native style and not really identifiable”, and therefore possibly unique. He also agreed it could depict Hercules.
The 2ft 10in-long, 16-inch wide, 14-inch-thick stone has been worked with a pick at the top to throw the figure into clearer relief.
A number of other ancient relics have been found in the Acomb area, including an 8,000-year-old Mesolithic artefact and a 4,000-year-old slab held at St John Lee Church.
The area at Waters Meet, where the Rivers North and South Tyne come together, is known to have been a Bronze Age burial site.