Devil’s Chimney

Devils Chimney | Drone footage by Read Maurice Cheltenham Estate Agents

One of Gloucestershire’s biggest mysteries must be the enigma of the Devil’s Chimney. The rock pinnacle stands above a disused quarry in Leckhampton on the outskirts of Cheltenham.

For generations the Devil’s chimney has been popular landmark for locals and a destination for Sunday walks but it has defied all investigation into its origin.

Some believe that the chimney is (as the local historian D.E Bick noted wryly in Old Leckhampton , published in 1971) a “rude creation of some fanciful shepherd.”


Home of the devil

Shaped like a crooked chimney there are others who believe it is the home of the devil who is reputed to reside deep in the ground below.

Angered by the many churches in the region, Old Nick would sit on top of Leckhampton Hill and hurl stones at pilgrims on their way to prayer. According to local legend, his wicked ways backfired as the stones hurled themselves back at him burying him into the ground for posterity piling the heavy stones upon each other to ensure he could never escape.

Visitors would climb to the top and leave a coin as insurance against the wrath of the Devil, to protect the chimney from further erosion and, some believe, ensure the privacy of its most infamous inhabitant.


Unofficial record

Generations of young people have climbed the rock, including thirteen brave souls who hold the unofficial record for the largest number of people to stand on the top at the same time.

Sadly, owning to the gradual erosion of the landmark, climbing has been prohibited.

A more scientific derivation of the rock’s origin is offered by the 19th Century geologist S. Buckman.

Mr Buckman attributed its curious shape to differential erosion over many years which has left a column of harder rock free-standing as the softer rock has been worn away around it.

The second theory, and probably the most fun, is that the whole thing is practical joke dreamt up by bored quarry workers of the 18th Century looking for a way to immortalise their work, and readily adopted by the city fathers as great publicity for the newly emerging Spa resort.

The Chimney withstood an earthquake in August 1926 but the shudder left a few distinct cracks. In 1985 it was repaired and made safe from further erosion at a cost of £25,000.

The Devil’s Chimney stands half a mile south of Cheltenham off the B4070.

Source: BBC Gloucestershire

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