Lincoln Imp

Photo credit: Peter James Samuel Cooper

The Lincoln Imp is a small devilish creature who was sent from the underworld to cause havoc. In theory, to put an end to this destruction, an angel turned the imp to stone. The imp has been watching from his position on an arch inside Lincoln cathedral for a few hundred years. Visitors spend a long time hunting for him so I won’t say which arch…

Last October I noticed some plans for a Lincoln Imp Trail. A design for a large impish creature was unveiled. Its facial features were too small and it had an unfortunately positioned leg which was regarded as phallic by some observers.

I emailed the imp makers to suggest they looked closer at the real imp’s face. Maybe they could reconsider their design? They thanked me for my feedback but claimed their imps were not based on any specific imp(!) It must be a coincidence that their imp has been designed to perch with hands resting on one leg. Sitting in that position fits a character who peeks out from an arch of greenery, artistic license would allow some movement.

Recently the full size imps have appeared in the city. The tale of the hilarious phallic statues has reached the national press. Not all publicity is good – but maybe a shameful council that plans to close Lincoln’s Usher Gallery will realise that people really do need to be more visually literate.

A Wild in Art spokesperson said: “The mischievous response on social media is in the spirit of the imp and shows that people are looking forward to this event”.

Lincoln Imp, carved limestone.

“Once decorated the sculptures, which are based on Lincoln’s iconic imp will make a vibrant, colourful and fun art trail celebrating the city.”

Now they’re saying it’s based on a specific imp, will they admit it lacks any mischievous spirit? It’s dispiriting to think that sculpting skills were so much livelier in previous centuries. My own stonemason ancestors must be whirling in their tombs.


I’m sure I once made a linocut of the view along Park Street, with Sanctuary records on the left and Ruddocks ahead. It’s filed somewhere safe…? 

Ruddocks is an art materials shop, book shop, stationers (etc) and the place where you would always meet one or more friends. We used to ogle pastels, paints and inks before buying materials to make our school and college homework. 

In recent years they’ve hosted art classes, including life drawing sessions with Roy Ridsdale. His classes were the only useful part of my foundation year at Lincoln College of Art. Life drawing is often dismissed as a waste of time. It isn’t, unless you’re in a badly lit room with an uninspiring tutor. I’ve seen videos of some life classes that look similar to watching Sid Vicious teach guitar lessons. Anyone would be bored in a class led by someone waffling about something they don’t understand… but maybe drawing can’t be taught. Learn by doing.

Ruddocks is closing soon, after 145 years. I bought all of my favourite pens there in the 1970s & 80s, also some very useful craft tools during my last visit (5 years ago!). There’s a whole essay to be written about the loss of creativity and crafts in schools, while C21st life is being dumbed down. 

Anyway, this linocut, of a view further down the High Street, was made in 1979. There’s a clue at the bottom corner: