The Highest Cliffs in England are in Devon


The Highest Cliffs in England are in Devon

Hangman cliffs, the highest cliffs in England consisting of Great Hangman and Little Hangman are situated near Combe Martin on the north coast of Devon.

Great Hangman is 1,043 feet (318 m) high with a cliff face of 800 feet (244 m). It is the highest sea cliff in England and the highest point on the South West Coast Path. Little Hangman is 716 feet (218 m) high and overlooks the village of Combe Martin. Both cliffs lie on the South West Coast Path and are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The cliffs are made from a considerable thickness of sandstone known as the Hangman Grits (or more formally the Hangman Sandstone Formation) laid down during the Devonian Period. They were subsequently folded during the Variscan Orogeny and the strata is seen locally to dip southwards at between 25 and 35 degrees. There is an abandoned working of iron ore below Great Hangman at Blackstone Point.

No early forms of the place-name Hangman here are recorded: its first mention, as Hangman Hill, was in 1792. However, there is a fanciful derivation of the name, based on a local legend. The legend says that a sheep rustler was walking over the hill carrying a stolen sheep over his shoulder. He stopped to rest on a rock and the struggling sheep caused the cord tied around its legs to tighten and grip round the man’s neck, strangling him. In all likelihood the name ‘Hangman’ is a mixture of Celtic and Germanic languages. ‘Mynedd’ in Celt means hill and ‘hang’ is the Germanic word for slope. There are other examples of hills being called ‘man’ from Celtic origin e.g. Old Man of Hoy or East/West Man in Purbeck. The literal translation for Hangman would be sloping hill.

In fiction, Great Hangman is part of the setting of Meet the Tiger, the first in a long series of novels by Leslie Charteris featuring “The Saint”. Simon Templar stays on Great Hangman in an abandoned World War I pillbox so he can find out about a Chicago gangster staying in Baycombe aka Combe Martin.

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