The Devil Steps

Local folklore

Looking down The Devil Steps - Summer 1961
Harry Emery
Looking up The Devil Steps - Summer 1961
Harry Emery
Looking down The Devil Steps - Winter 2010
Eileen Gamble
Looking up The Devil Steps - Winter 2010
Eileen Gamble
View up steps, refurbished in 2020
Susan Mansfield
View down steps, refurbished in 2020.
Susan Mansfield

As a child my brothers and I often played on and around the Devil Steps.

Local residents would tell many different tales of how the steps came by such a mysterious name but folklore told the story that pedestrians who had to ascend such steep steps could be heard uttering words only fit for the devil’s ears.

At the base of the steps

It is known that in Elizabethan times,  the low ground at the base of the steps used to be a brickfield.  The bricks made there were used in the building of ‘Jarvis Hall’ and probably part of St Mary’s Church.

At the top of the steps

‘Crescent House’ in Mount Crescent, is located at the top of the steps and my auntie lived there with her family.  ‘Crescent House’ can be seen from Thundersley Park Road, at the summit where ‘Jarvis Hall’ is located.

Finding The Devil Steps

The Devil Steps are in a wooded area that lies between Hill Road and Mount Road.   A public footpath leads through the woodland to the bottom of the steps and this is a regular walk for many of the local residents.   Following the footpath through eventually leads you into Mount Road, just beside the Bread & Cheese Public House.

The devil steps today

In the 1960s I remember the steps as being somewhat frightening and very, very steep.  I also remember that the surrounding woodland was very dense at that time.

The visit I made in 2010 to take an up-to-date picture left me with a completely different feeling. The steps no longer seemed frightening or steep and the woodland in the surrounding area was quite sparse.  However, I did consider that this could have been the difference between the summer and winter foliage.

Generally speaking, I felt quite sad that the steps had been allowed to fall into disrepair.  No longer was it a place I felt frightened of but now I felt that it needed some special attention to bring things back to how I remember them.  Perhaps a visit during the coming summer to take some new photos will highlight the difference 50 years can make to my childhood memories.

Update – 14th May 2020

The  following update about the condition of the steps has been supplied, along with photos,  by Susan Mansfield.

I went to visit the steps a few days ago. I am familiar with the steps as I have lived in this area for a long time. The railings have recently been renewed. The steps are concrete, quite wide and it feels safe. One way to gain access to the steps is walk up Hill Road, turn right into a wide footpath, going past the side of a house. Follow the footpath across the stream, turn left straight away to find the steps. At the top of the steps, follow the footpath, turn right at the end, and you will come to Mount Road. Turn left to get to the Bread and Cheese pub on London Road, or right to head in the direction of Boyce Green Golf Course.

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  • As a child in the 50s I also played there. The steps used to be very dark, I was frightened of them because I was told that if while going up them you stepped on one with a bit of sunlight, then the devil would get you. Also near by was a large pond with a ducking stool, not sure if that is still there.

    By Marina Birt (12/03/2021)
  • Crescent House, occupied by Barwicks for many years is now abandoned, is it not?

    Ed. The house has had a small extension and the outside updated and we believe new occupiers have moved in.

    By Leslie CARTER (25/10/2020)
  • My parents had a house built in Thundersley Park Rd in the mid 1950s. Our “garden” comprised some 1.5 acres, which stretched right through to Mount Crescent. Apart from the signpost, the crescent consisted of nothing but an overgrown strip of no-man’s land running down the hill between us and the grounds of Moxley House. That it was originally intended to be a proper road (as could be seen from an original pre-WW 1 sketch map included in our deeds, showing the whole area mapped out for development) was given further proof by a line of magnificent mature lime trees – clearly deliberately planted – which marched down the hill towards a patch of “spare” land. As a child, I remember being told that Devils Steps was so-called because of an optical illusion, which meant that from the bottom, they looked like a vertical wall. We used to play in the woods below the steps, which included a pond with a fallen (but still living) willow across it. Happy days!

    By Ross N Clarke (19/08/2020)
  • I was born in Thundersley Grove early 60’s & lived there until I left home in the early 80’s. Spent time in both Coombe Woods & the Glen. Remember the Devil Steps. Really lovely to see the pictures that have been posted. I now live in Spain (14 years) so it’s really nice to look back & relive memories.

    By Debbie Davis nee Saward (27/06/2020)
  • I lived most of my childhood in Southwell Rd, Benfleet ( from approximately 1972 until about 1987, until moving to Kimberley Rd) and I, my sister and friends were always playing in the woods and using the Devil Steps! We were so scared of them! Great memories! I’ve now lived in Arizona USA for about 25 years.

    By Samantha Hardy (07/06/2020)
  • I had no idea that the Devil Steps were as widely known as they are. I thought it was just a thing my friends and/or family concocted. I grew up in 199 Thundersley Park Road from 1985 onwards and it’s good to see the old haunts are older than I’d imagined.

    By Chris Stock (18/03/2014)
  • I too used to sometimes play around the devils steps, but mostly in the more interesting (to me) surrounding areas. I lived in the original 197 Thundersley Park Road. The bungalow was called ‘The Chimes’ and is what the current cul-de-sac is named after.

    By Michael Reed (12/01/2014)
  • I too used to play around the Devils Steps while growing up in the late sixties and early seventies. I used to live at 199 Thundersley Pk Rd. Just down from the ‘Bumps’ the ‘Butterfly Field’ and ‘Big Ben’. Great memories.

    By Phil Murphy (17/09/2013)
  • Yes, whilst visiting the Barwicks at Crescent House, I have made a couple of trips up and down the Devils Steps, very interesting to read the history on this site. Les Carter, Batemans Bay, Australia.

    By Les CARTER (19/05/2013)
  • I too remember playing on the devil steps as a child (born at and lived in Thundersley Park Road). My older sisters told me that the devil lived under the steps and would ‘get’ you if you lingered on them!  I ran up them 2 at a time – I must go revisit them soon and the surrounding woods!

    By sandy (06/08/2011)
  • The Devils Steps form part of the ancient footpath from Bread & Cheese Hill, across Boyce, to St Marys Church Benfleet. I always imagined they were called the Devils Steps because they were often used as an excuse during inclement weather (when the steps became treacherous) for Churchgoers to “back-slide”.

    By David Hurrell (06/08/2011)
  • I have lived in Benfleet for the past eight years, and now, due to a reduced work load I now find some time for walks. I heard about these steps from a work colleague who used to live around there some years ago, ain’t Google just wonderful…and BCA has been added to my favorites bar…Thank you.

    By D Drury (24/03/2011)
  • Hi. I was really pleased too find your photos of the Devil Steps, they are exactly as I remember them. As chilren we used to spend hours playing and exploring in that area. To my shame, I used to ride my pony up and down the Devil Steps…thankfully he was very sure footed and we never came to harm. I cringe to think of it now though! I used to live in Hill Road. Thanks for the memories. Best wishes. Carol.

    By Carol (10/03/2011)

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