Today the Lincoln imp sits cross-legged on a pillar in the Cathedral’s Angel Choir for all to see.
Tales of how he came to be perched there have emerged over time. There are several versions of the story however all of them share the same basic plot: Satan sent the imp to Lincoln Cathedral to could cause trouble. The imp carried out his orders, and began destroying the Angel Choir. When an angel appeared to prevent him causing further mayhem, the imp jumped up onto the pillar and threw rocks at the angel. In order to put a stop to his mischievousness, the angel turned the little imp to stone.
Some versions of the imp story date to the 14th century and are contemporary with the construction of the Angel Choir. The presence of the imp in the Cathedral acts as a moral symbol and is a constant reminder that ultimately good will triumph over evil.
Lincoln’s imp is a well known emblem of the Cathedral and the city, to the extent it has been adopted as the symbol of Lincoln and by the 1930s was established as the nickname of the local football club. The imp began a commercial life in the late 19th century, when local jewellers James Usher and Son began advertising a range of ‘charming and very appropriate souvenirs of Lincoln’ featuring the imp. Lincoln imp merchandise is still available today in the Cathedral’s shop.
Recently Lincoln Cathedral received a surprise when a carved wooden replica of the famous imp was received through the post – all the way from Western Australia! To add to the mystery, the letter accompanying the imp was tantalisingly brief, stating that it was being returned as its custodian had died and that it was removed on behalf of the cathedral during one of the wars. Experts in the Cathedral’s Works Department believe the imp is a Victorian copy and is at least 100 years old. The Young Journalists from Monks Abbey Junior School are due to investigate the mystery of the wandering imp, and their report will be online soon as a Highlight of the Week.