The Town That Knew Too Much: The Devil’s Chimney

Nick Hilton
Jul 21 · 2 min read
The Devil’s Chimney, pictured from up on Leckhampton Hill

This is an episode about a limestone pillar left standing like a single, spindly finger in an abandoned quarry on Leckhampton Hill. Locals say it’s the chimney the devil uses to funnel his pipe fumes after locals buried him in a pile of stones (though, in reality, it’s only a couple of hundred years old).

The Devil’s Chimney says a lot about the town it overlooks, Cheltenham. It tells of a folklore and a sense of right and wrong. It is a story which lies as metaphor and underpins this episode, which ranges from the fogs of pre-history through to almost the presentation. An introduction, you might say, to the town that will be the subject of this documentary.

To synopsise this episode, it starts with a look at the town of Cheltenham, as viewable from the vista up on Leckhampton Hell. From that jumping off point we look at the archaeological history of Gloucestershire from early human settlements and monuments (like Belas Knapp) through to its vogue as a Regency spa town. Spa fever and spa water laid the foundations for the town’s economic expansion and prosperity — we look at the water cure and promenading and all this semi-quackery that the Georgians enjoyed. As a diversion, we also take in the Hare and the Minotaur statue in central Cheltenham. With all this beautiful architecture and abundant culture, the town would eventually play host to GCHQ. The episode concludes back on Leckhampton Hill, looking at the Devil’s Chimney and considering how evil slips through the cracks…

Contributors to this episode:

Anna Leszkiewicz, Phil Cox, Jill Waller, Geoff Dyer, Dr John Harcup, Catherine Curzon, Sophie Ryder, Richard Aldrich, Sir David Omand.

The Town That Knew Too Much

A Podcast About Britain Secret Spies

The Town That Knew Too Much

The Town That Knew Too Much is a documentary podcast about how a nice little town in the British countryside became one of the most important spying centres in the world

Nick Hilton

Written by

Writer. Podcast entrepreneur. London. Interested in politics and the media. Co-founder podotpods.com Email: nick@podotpods.com.

The Town That Knew Too Much

The Town That Knew Too Much is a documentary podcast about how a nice little town in the British countryside became one of the most important spying centres in the world