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Devil Folklore

The Devil has long featured in British folklore, where his supposed sinister acts have marked the landscape. There are innumerable Medieval tales of devil-stones flung at churches and mounds earth dug up to bury villages, all allegedly orchestrated by the devil for the purpose of seducing and gaining souls.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Hindhead

Legend has it that this large hollow of dry sand heath, known as the Devil's Punch Bowl, was created by the Devil. It is said that the Devil became so agitated by the upsurge of churches being built in Sussex that he retaliated by digging a stream from the English Channel to flood the area. However whilst digging up huge lumps of earth, he was disturbed by a cock crowing and abandoned his mission in fear of being caught.

Ariel photo of Devils Punch Bowl, Hindhead
Devil's Punchbowl is said to have been created by the Devil whilst trying the flood the area. © Tom O'Donoghue via Flickr

Silbury Hill, Wiltshire

The tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe is found in Wiltshire, commonly known as Silbury Hill. According to folklore the hill is said to have been dropped by the Devil who was carrying earth to bury the whole village of Avebury. The priest of Avebury however, prayed for redemption, and the devil was forced to drop the load of earth short of the village.

Black and white photo of Silbury Hill, Marlborough
Silbury Hill is said to have been created by the Devil when carrying earth to bury the village of Avebury. © Historic England Ref EAW034896

Cley Hill, Wiltshire

Cley Hill rises dramatically from the flat fields south west of Warminster in Wiltshire. An old legend tells that the Devil was angry that the citizens of Devizes had converted to Christianity, and decided to bury the town under a pile of earth. However on his way he was discouraged by an old man who tricked him into thinking the journey would be too long, so the Devil abandoned his journey, dumping the pile of earth beside the road.

Ariel photo of Cley Hill, Wiltshire
The legend of Cley Hill claims that it was formed by the Devil when attempting to bury nearby Warminster under a pile of earth. © Historic England Red JEH_22040_24

Devil's Arrow, North Yorkshire

These standing stones in North Yorkshire are the second tallest in the United Kingdom. The name Devil's Arrow comes from the common belief that the Devil was shooting or throwing arrows from a neighbouring hill at the town of Aldborough a few miles away but, much to his frustration, he fell short of his target. It was also said that human sacrifices were made on top of the pointed stones, where the bodies were left to rot.

Photo of Devil's Arrow - one of the standing stones in Boroughbridge
The name Devil's Arrow comes from the common belief that the Devil was shooting or throwing arrows from a neighbouring hill in Aldborough. © Historic England Ref AA045765

Devil's Chair, Wiltshire

The largest prehistoric stone circle in Britain can be found in the Wiltshire village of Avebury. By the Late Medieval period, when most of England had converted to Christianity, non-Christian monuments like this were commonly associated with the Devil. The largest stone at the southern entrance became known as the Devil's Chair. Local legends attribute mystic powers to the stone, such as the power to beckon the Devil if you run around it anticlockwise 100 times.

Black and white photo of the Devil's Chair, Avebury, Marlborough
Non-Christian monuments like the Devil's Chair in Avebury were commonly associated with the Devil. © Historic England Ref AA083102

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