Robert K Wilson

The Crooked Spire

My work has taken me travelling in Britain for the last few weeks and by chance I had to visit Chesterfield, Derbyshire (just south of Sheffield).  I have not been back there for a look around since I attended the Art College after leaving school. The Art College was swallowed up by the Technical College many years back but I did have a quick tour around the town stopping off at the church of Saint Mary and All Saints to take yet another photograph - this time on my iPhone.

A photograph of the Crooked Spire on the Church of St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield.



 Close photograph of the Crooked Spire, chesterfield

Many of you reading this post will know of the crooked spire - I still find it fascinating. There are quite a few 'old wife's tales' as to how the twist happened - here are two of them.

The first story describes the devil flying across the country late one night when he was caught in a violent thunderstorm. He was forced to land on the spire and wrap his tail around it where he hung on. When the storm passed he flew away. The spire had been twisted with his weight, and the severity of the storm, and it has stayed like that ever since.

The second tale says that the Spire owes the twist to its admiration of a virtuous maiden of unrivalled beauty. It bowed as she entered the church, and afterwards it could not straighten up and resume its normal position.

The church of St Mary and All Saints was built in the 14th century. It is believed that the spire was originally clad in oak, and stood straight for at least 300 years. This means that a common explanation for the twist – the use of unseasoned timber – is false, because wood seasons in around 50 years.
The generally accepted theory is that when the oak was replaced with about 33 tons of lead, the uneven expansion and contraction of the side facing the sun gradually caused the entire structure to deform. The spire has now reached a 45° twist and leans almost 3m (10 feet). Thanks to Ian Brown for this explanation.

What I didn't know is that there are many twisted or crooked spires on churches around Europe. 

Here is link a to some others;