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  • Writer's picturemysteriesofmercia

The Crooked Spire of Chesterfield

The twisted spire of the Church of St Mary and All Saints is a familiar site for visitors to the town of Chesterfield. How did it end up this shape?

Folklore gives us lots of different explanations, most of them involving the Devil. In one story he curled up around the tower for a rest but was startled awake by the sound of the church bells ringing out, making him lash his tail against the spire. Another tells how he demanded a local farrier fit shoes to his cloven hooves, but yelped in pain when he left as the good Christian smith had driven the nails deeply in, so the Devil kicked the spire in frustration.

The weirdest tales have the spire itself as a sentient being. It apparently cursed itself by curling round to look at a bride as she arrived at her wedding, but stranger still is a similar tale that tells how the spire heard a wedding guest remark that a bride really was a virgin, so wrenched itself round to see her! I was told that the spire will untwist itself on the day another Chesterfield virgin arrives to be married - it's still waiting.

In reality there are several theories as to how the spire ended up in this shape. The use of unseasoned "green wood" for the rafters, unskilled workers on the project during the Black Death, the south side receiving more sunlight and causing uneven expansion, but the addition of 33 tons of lead cladding in 1680 can't have helped!

An iconic medieval Midlands landmark - with its folklore still being told today.

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