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24 September 2014

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Lincoln Cathedral and the Lincoln Imp
Lincoln Cathedral and the Lincoln Imp

The Lincoln Imp

I'm sure most people have seen or heard of the Lincoln Imp in the Angel Choir at Lincoln Cathedral but there are many different stories about the Imp which are not very well known.

Lincoln Imp Facts

You will find the Lincoln Imp high on a pillar in the Angel Choir in Lincoln Cathedral.

The Lincoln Imp stands 12 inches high.

A fictional book called 'Winterman's Company' has been written by local author David Lightfoot about the Lincoln Imp.

Lincoln City football club's nickname is he Imps.

Lets start with the basic story which is the background for all of the stories on the Lincoln Imp. It starts with Satan sending the imp to Lincoln Cathedral to cause trouble.

The imp was destroying the Angel Choir when an angel appeared but the imp jumped up onto a pillar and started throwing rocks at the angel. The angel then turned the imp to stone as he is today.

The above story is the general story and is the most commonly told version but there are other versions. This next story is practically the same just more detailed. The story goes back in the 14th Century Satan sent two Imps down to earth to do evil work. Firstly the two Imps went to Chesterfield and sat on the church spire twisting it (that is why in Chesterfield you will still see the crooked spire).

After vandalising the spire the two imps headed to Lincoln Cathedral. When they arrived the devil instructed them to cause as much mayhem as possible. The Imps started by smashing up tables and chairs and tripping up the Bishop and then they started destroying the Angel Choir. An angel appeared and told them to stop. One of the imps was brave and started throwing rocks at the angel but the other imp cowered under the broken tables and chairs. The angel turned the first imp to stone and this gave the second imp a chance to escape.

The Lincoln Imp.
The Lincoln Imp

Another story is that the imp was blown into the cathedral by strong winds and because he was one of the devil's creatures he began causing mischief such as dancing on the alter and annoying those in the Angel Choir until they could take no more and turned him into stone and he sits at the top of a column near the Angel Choir with a mischievous grin on his face.

Another version of the story with two imps is that they were sent by the devil to cause trouble in the cathedral and they soon started to annoy the angels in the cathedral. The angels told the two imps to leave but the first started to throw things at the angels and the second hid. The angels turned the first imp to stone but this gave the second imp a chance to escape. The second imp is said to have escaped with the help of a witch. The imp went off with the witch on her broomstick but the witch was so fond of the imp she turned the imp into a black cat.

This account gives more details to the story. The Lincoln Imp is said in legend to have been sent by the devil to plague the clergy in the cathedral. He was blown in the great west doors by the west wind and blew out the candles, scattered the hymn sheets and attacked the choristers. He flew into the angel choir and when he threatened to pluck out the angels feathers the smallest angel turned him into stone.

Another story is that the imp travelled around the country blown by the wind looking for places to cause mischief and then he came to Lincoln cathedral and started destroying the angel choir. He then went up to the top of the nearest pillar to admire his handy work where an angel turned him into stone. This is why the imp is sat cross-legged and has a evil grin on his face.

All of the stories do seem to have the same basic details however there are some big differences between the stories which is most likely due to fact that the legend has been around for hundreds of years. No matter what stories people hear thousands of people come to see the imp and it has been used for company logos and the Lincoln City football club. It is now recognised as a triumph of good over evil.

last updated: 01/09/05
Have Your Say
Do you know any other stories of the Lincoln Imp?
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Sally Bailey
How great is Lincolnshire! I miss it dearly

Charles D. Butts
When I was in England with the 381st Bomb Group, US Airforce in WWII I visited the Lincoln Cathedral and, of course, heard the story of the Lincoln Imp told by an old Scotchman who apparently sort of made a few shillings by telling the tale of the Imp. I bought two or three brass images of the Imp and brought them back to Texas after the War. It was interesting to look up onto the pillar in the cathedral and see the Imp and imagine him throwing rocks at the Angels. This is one of my fond memories of my service in England.

Aingeal Stone
I visited the Lincoln cathedral while on vacation and not one of my photos of the imp turned out! They were either blurry or too dark. I had no problem with any of my other photos taken in the cathedral.

Karen Dodson
Hi, My family have always had a Lincoln Imp in their garden shed. It is over 100 years old - is there a way of telling if it has come from the Cathederal? Thanks

Colin Smith, Essex
I`ve been to Lincoln several times and heard the same stories about the Imp. But one holds a certain ammount of truth, and that is that it may have been a disgruntled mason, who believed they were creating a building far too beautiful for even the church - so he added one feature to "blemish" the edifice. It went overlooked for some reason.Also, i heard tales that the Imp comes back to life on moonlit nights, seeking a way out of his holy prison - is that true???

Colin Hare
Though the above is as I have learned, you may care to know that a former City Sheriff is implicated in its popularisation; he presented a tiepin with the Imp on to the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) whose horse won the Derby when he was wearing the tiepin. When asked what had brought him luck, he said it was the Lincoln Imp, and thus sales rocketed - enough for James Ward Usher to be able to bequeath funds for building the Usher Gallery to house his collection of fine watches and jewellery.

Jan Waldron
The Antiques Roadshow is visiting Lincoln Cathedral on 19th March. I'm keen to hear of any stories from locals about the imp, the Cathedral or Lincoln itself!

not so much about imps but trying to find out history about a figure i have " the devil looking over lincoln".

my granda has three imps onis ontop of a fireplace brush and the other a mantlepiece center piece but they do not look like any pictures ive seen hes got a spoon and it say lincoln imp on it and it has a small imp on top made in 1994worth 135 pounds
i have two brass ash trays with four imps round the edge of the ash tray.looks like they were set into a table please help with info

Denise Troxell
My Grandad was a WWII pilot whose plane was shot down. He sent my mother a brass doorknocker of the lincolshire imp with the accompanied booklet before he was killed. I was in England in 1975 and visited the Lincoln cathedral. My Mother gave me the doorknocker several years ago along with the booklet inscribed by my Grandad to my Mother.

lyn varey
i was born in lincoln 34 years ago my dad has allways called me the lincoln imp i thought he just made it up 4 me as i left lincoln just after i was born i would love 2 see the imp

Craig Askew
Perhaps it was noe of the above sories. Maybe a atone mason was asked to fashion an imp from jurassic limestone and thats that. Whatya think?

As a child I had a story book called 'The Lincoln Imp', It was about 2 children who went to stay with their uncle Bill in his boat on the R. Trent (I think) and during their holiday they visited the cathedral. There was also a Famous Five type mystery involving the Imp, but I can't remember the details. I wonder if anyone else has read this book and remembers the name of the author?

its very small.

Charlie R. Wolf
I heard that the imp kept undoing the stonemasons' work, so he was turned to stone so he could no longer interfere with the construction of the cathedral.

I think it's cute :)

Alan Bissett
I have a regimental Cap Badge of the Lincoln Imp.I have Been told its from the Lincolnshire Regiment,but can not find any reference to support this. Any Ideas Please.

i was a choirister from St Peter ad Vincula, Bottesford was back in 1954/55 and on a visit to the cathederal we were shown a small imp about 6 inches high BUT upside down i\along one of the cloisters. Can you please comment on this and reply to me via the e-mail on here in australia, thanking you in anticipationJohn Douglas

i have been out at night near lincinsure cafidrel and have heard the imp laughing and the story i have heard is that the devil sent down the imp to desroy every thing at night and to look like a statue in the day

Harry Mattison,Grantham(me again)!
What coulour is the Imp?I think it's got a red face,black horns and green clothes!(P.S I do not know where the spoons are made!)

Harry Mattison,Grantham
I have seen the first Impand have heard loads of stories about him but one of my cousins says it got it's leg trapped in the doorso thats why he's holding on to his right leg!

Hannah, Grimsby
We have the other imp in our church its called st james,church, Grimsby

beckie shorten, lincoln
I;ve never seen the imp i keep looking but i canyt find it

yes and i love them

Nicola Bishop, Lincoln
Two imps & the west wind went out to play & cause trouble. The 1st imp was turned to stone while the second escaped with the west wind. The west wind missed his friend & still goes searching for him. That is why when you go to the cathedral, if you listen, you will hear the west wind whisteling round outside, looking for his friend.That is the story my friends & i grew up with & must say i like the most.

there is one outsideaswell

Heather Poirier
I have a brass spoon inscribed with Lincoln Imp which probably came from my mother's family in NZ. On examination I noticed something the bottom of the handle is the Masons Symbol, square. compass and G. On the back is the number 4180.Can anyone tell me who would have owned this number? I would like to think Joseph Usher! A mason friend is going to enquire as to whether he was a Mason.

i live in lincoln and never seen the imp ironic

There is an almost identical imp alongside one of the doors at Notre Dame in Paris.

The second imp turned up years later, turned to stone and sitting on the old Lincoln County Registry Office in St.Catharine's Canada (near the old town of Lincoln).

John Moss
During a guided tour of the Cathedral in 1977, I was told that a stonemason, tired of creating gargoyles, decided to create an image of an imp instead.

Tony F
Serena - I have also heard the same story that the wind is waiting for the Lincoln Imp, though I think it is waiting at the far eastern end of the cathedral, outside the SE corner of the Angel Choir. If you stand there on any day, even a totally still day, the wind can still be felt.........waiting!

i have two small silver lincoln imps that my father had brought back from WWII and i only new that he had called them lincoln imps . . . i had no idea what they were or if they are worth anything today??

Leanne :D
I went to see the imp when I was holiday we were almost finished but I wanted to see it so we rushed back and eventually found it. I also heard that his brother/ friend only escaped half way and a another imp in a long corridor is actually the above or so this is what we were told by the tour guideIt was a great day out and I have a little imp necklace :D yay!

the imp is cool

i heard that two imps were messing in the garden of the cathedral and the bishop took his staff inside the cathedral and froze one of the imps that had snook ino the cathedral.

Do you know that there is an exact copy at Lincoln College in Oxford?

I was originally told that the imp had taken refuge in the Cathedral, and hidden in the angle's choir, but he was so cold, that he froze to stone up there. I was only three, but have seen the imp a few times since, and I can believe that he was hiding up there - we had to look quite hard!

does he comes alive every year

the stories just a myth its just trying to make people scared but its not true its stupid

I have heard darker versions of the Imp, the main one being that the cathedral architect actually designed the cathedral to worship evil and that the imp is waiting for the anti christ to be born.... In Lincoln. (I do not really believe this, but you never know).

ie been 2 lincoln as a trip wiv skool and we went 2 the catheral n the castle we saw the imp coz i put 20p in a box n it lit up da imp

i heard the imp was satans son sent to earth with another imp for a day out. a modern version of the myth

does anyone know when the lincoln imp brass spoons were made?please.

i have heard that the imp was sent by the devil 2 lincoln cathedral and when he heard the choir singing made fun of them so a brave member sang very high pitched and loud. It echoed round the cathedral and was so bad it turned the imp 2 stone . The choir put it at the top of the pillar and it is still there 2day !

My uncle had a lucky Lincoln Imp, silver about 1 inch high. It was pinned to his flying jacket. He came home on leave and when he went back to camp the imp was found on the bathroom floor. The family never saw him again, his plane was shot down, his remains are in the Reichswald Forest war cemetary.

my wife is known as 'THE EVIL IMP' and we live in licolnshire! could it be that SHE is the second imp, the one that managed to escape?

It's written down on the cathedral wall when the imp will arise from his crumbly stone mould , 2025 when the angel wil lcome back and take him

Lincoln Imp
I am still around causing havoc. I reside in Scunthorpe on the front of 'The Lincoln Imp' bar. Ahuuu

Is it true that the second imp is to be found in St. James Church in the centre of grimsby? I have seem the imp myself (made from stone obviously) just below the tower and wondered if this was correct.

Judy NestiCibellis
I just purchased a small brass spoon with the "Lincoln IMP" words on the bowl and his figure on the top of the handle. He was so unusual, I couldn't pass him up. On the back, has what appears to be a serial number. Anyone have a clue on who it's maker is or value?

Robert C. Rainwater
I am the owne of a small IMP. It is about 5 inches tall and made of brass. It eventley was a "door knocker" f some type. It is hinged as a regulsr knocker would be.

Many years ago a friend gave me a brass doorknocker and the words "Lincoln Imp" were inscribed below the figure of a little creature holding a skull in his hands. Sometime later I was doing some artistic work for a wax museum in Niagara Falls New York, USA. One of the designers told me that there was a collection just acquired by "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" that was housed in the same building. I couldn't believe what I saw! There were boxes and boxes of occult items that had belonged to a private collection on the Isle of Man. Eventually he picked up a little bag and said, "I'll bet you've never seen anything like this before". There was a Lincoln Imp just like the one I have always had on the door to every house I have lived in. He went on to say..."Of course some people know about the curse associated with this piece"... he never went any further. Tonight I was looking at my doorknocker and just thought that I would see if there was anymention of it on the Internet. Best Solstice Blessings to everyone!

John Presock
i once heard that the lincoln imp was once playing in mud and it sank into hell.

Polly Jane Hardy
All of this information, and different interpretations of the legend are proving incredibly helpful for my culture and folk studies essay on the Lincoln Imp, thankyou!

Shari Cragg, Canada
My mother owns a pair of brass Lincoln Imp candlesticks.Her father told her that they were made especially for him by a friend before they left England after WWII. The only vague reference I can find on the internet is from Barbara Cunningham who is listed on this site. Can anybody help?

George Randall
I was told that if you were a pilgrim kneeling before the saints tomb asking for your sins to be forgiven if you looked up over your left shoulder you found the Imp looking down on you to remind you to remain good;after the saint had forgiven your sins

serena Lyall
The story I was told as a child was that the Imp rode on the back of the wind. The wind waited while he went inside the cathedral to commit mayhem. An angel turned him to stone but the wind is still to this day waiting for the imp out side the front door.

shaun kavanagh
all these storys are in tresting , i brlive in wich craft and good n evil, but not the devil or god, or the rest of the trash, some one made the lincoln imp out of stone, and people startead telling storys of it

jade wood
Ive started collecting this naughty imp,so far I have a silver charm, a toasting fork and a pr of antique brass nutcrackers..and an inkwell, anyone want to sell anymore, let me know!

I have had a small brass Imp on one leg in the shape of a door knocker,the backing is Cross of St George,incidentally the Family name on Mother;s side is Usher,ie ''The Jeweller'' !

Sue Mitchell
The version I know begins like most others with the devil sending the imps to create havoc at the new cathedral, and God sending an angel to sort them out. However, one of the imps fell in love with the angel who saw the potential for good in him. The imp begged God to let him stay with his love. This was not possible because of all the evil he had done. He repented, and promised to change his evil ways, so God took pity on him. To protect him from Satanic reprisals, God turned him into stone and set him high up in the Angel choir, there to await the final judgement when the pair will be reunited. So it was a triumph of love over evil. --

He comes alive every year!

~*~ yaz ~*~
thats there was 2 imps and 1 of the imps dared the other imp to go in the cathedral and cause trouble,and he did ,then the angel turn him into stone

Bob Win
The imp is a clever tourist atraction.

Shirley Kirby
I understand that the legend was a clever marketing ploy by jeweller James Usher to help sell his Imp souvenirs in the 19th Century.

Barbara Cunningham
We have 2 little brass Imps left to us by my husbands mum. We live in South Africa but all have roots in Great Britain. Where would these have been cast & do they have any value. These imps are candlestick holders and are approx 15cms tall standing on a ball decorated with a crest of some sort

j. bruns
How interesting! I just purchased an Ivorex piece entitled "The Lincoln Imp" but didn't know any back-ground until reading this. I love all things English & had long wanted this piece. Fascinating!

Alice/Ric Larson
We recently discovered that we were the owners of a Lincoln Imp, brass, standing on what appears to be a compass, about two inches high and no markings on the bottom. We found this little guy at a small antique shop in "Roseville" Illinois, USA. Any information would be most appreciated, Thank-you Ric Larson

Tom Smith
why is the imp a symbol of Lincoln?

Lisa Calladine - United States of America
I'd like to purchase a book on the Lincoln Imp.

kathrine bloom
why is an imp the sign of lincoln

Alan Manning
while living in Broadstairs with my wife in 1989. An old lady of ninety gave my wife a statue of what we thought was a little Demon. We put it away and never gave it another thought untill we moved to Mablethorpe in 1991 when we happened to show it a friend of ours who said it looked like the lincolnshire imp. Not knowing anything about it i checked the website and found the imformation on your site. The little imp we have is approx 4inches in length and made of rough brown pottery. How old it is we do not know. the old lady who gave it to us had it as a child. I wonder how it got to Kent. It seems a long way from its home. If anybody has any imformation on it, please let us know. Yours Alan manning

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