Artifact of the Week: “Lincoln Imp” Door Knocker

By Claire Layton

There is always something to learn in a museum; people working in museums are no exception to this truism! Working in a museum (even one as seemingly small as the Hillary House with a finite collection), allows for surprises and new discoveries daily. This little grotesque door knocker, located on one of the bedroom doors upstairs, is one such item that we pass by daily, with its history not readily apparent to the untrained eye. However, while going through the archives this past week, we found a handwritten story that describes the history of this door knocker. Here is the story of the “Lincoln Imp”…

A few hundred years ago some imps who were controlled (or not!) by the Devil escaped, and two of them got into Lincoln Cathedral, an ancient church in the old city of Lincoln in England.
The imps got into all sorts of mischief, breaking stained glass windows, turning over pews, etc. But when they began tripping the dignified clergymen, the guardian angels of the cathedral decided to put a stop to the imps’ shenanigans. They turned the imps to stone!
One of the imps was sitting on top of a pillar at that moment, with one foot resting on his other knee. He is that way still, and representations of the “Lincoln Imp” can be found in many shops in Lincoln today.

There are many variations to this story, though they have the same basic premise. The differences among the stories are likely due to the nature of oral history, with this story being told and retold since the 14th century. Regardless of a general consensus regarding the details of the story, the Lincoln Imp remains a symbol of Lincoln, used for company logos and the Lincoln City Football Club. The Imp prevails as a representation of the triumph of good over evil.

References

BBC. (2005, 01 09). BBC Myths: The Lincoln Imp. Retrieved 07 14, 2017, from BBC Myths: The Lincoln Imp: http://www.bbc.co.uk/lincolnshire/content/articles/2005/08/16/lincoln_imp_feature.shtml