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Magdalen Bridge and College, Oxford

Magdalen Bridge and College, Oxford

Photo: John Mulcaster Carrick, 1859

The Black Diver of Magdalen Bridge

29 April 2021 (Updated 2 September 2021)

An unfortunate chimney sweep might be behind the ghost reportedly seen at Magdalen bridge.

The figure is of small stature, with a black face, brown coat and a grubby collarless coat. He is seen standing on the parapet of Magdalen bridge, wildly waving his arms before pitching backward off the bridge into the water below.

A murdered chimney-sweep

This has been associated with an event that took place during the Oxfordshire election celebrations of 1754. The Whig victory in the election had triggered wild celebrations amongst Whig supporters in Oxford, who clashed with a group of disgruntled Tory supporters in the area of Magdalen bridge.

One of these was a young chimney sweep who was had climbed onto the parapet of the bridge to get a better view as he jeered at the Tory supporters passing by.

According to reports, a Tory supporter named Captain Turton was passing through the crowds in his carriage. The captain took umbrage at being jeered at by the chimney sweep and, pointing his pistol out of the carriage window, fired at the sweep at close range. The chimney-sweep was killed instantly, his body tumbling backwards into the river.

Interestingly, there is another ghost connected to the 1754 Oxfordshire elections. The Tory candidate was Sir James Dashwood, whose ghost is said to haunt the pond near his family seat at Kirtlington!


  1. 'Oxfordshire Ghost Stories' by Richard Holland (Bradwell Books, 2013, ISBN: 9781902674735)