Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) moved to Croft Rectory at the age of 11. About a mile from the rectory there are three ponds called Hells Kettles, the local people believed that these pools were bottomless. It has been suggested that the author’s vision of Alice falling down a deep vertical hole into an underground land was inspired by these pools.
The kettles were formed by underground water dissolving gypsum deposits.
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“Ther are certeine pittes or rather thrée litle poles, a myle from Darlington, and a quarter of a myle distant from the Tese bankes, which ye people call the Kettes of hell, or the deuil’s Ketteles, as if he shoulde sée the soules of sinfull men and women in them: they adde also that the spirites haue oft béene harde to crye and yell about them, wyth other like talke sauouring altogether of pagane infidelitye. The truth is (& of this opinion also was Cuthbert Tunstall Byshop of Durham) that the Colemines, in those places are kindled or if there be no coles, there may a mine of some other vnctuous matter be set on fire, which beyng here and there conſumed, the earth falleth in, and so doth leaue a pitte. In déede the water is nowe and then warme as they saye, and beside that it is not cléere, the people suppose them to be an hundred faddame déepe, the byggest of them also hath an issue into the Tese. But ynough of these woonders least I doe séeme to be touched in thys description, & thus much of the Hell Kettles.”
Raphael Holinshed’s Second Booke, of the hystoricall description of Britaine,
“The kettles next morning were boiling and foaming,
A groan in the deeps was full ghastily booming,
A sulphureous stench was ymixt in the air,
And the carles they were cowed and said many a prayer.”
The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Darlington