Header image  




IN 1898, travel writer and photographer Edmund Bogg visited Langwathby, near Penrith. It was an apposite time for him to visit. The village was about to get a modern water supply, brought to each household by lead pipes. This meant an end to the daily visit to the local spring to collect water. It would be more convenient but Bogg realised it was also the end of a more traditional way of living. In visiting (and photographing the well), he also recorded the legend of fairies who danced round the well in the evening. Here is the extract from his book, Wanderings on the Old Border, Lakeland and Ribbesdale:

"But as we passed over the meadows towards Langwathby, a very sweet series of pleasant pictures, suggestive of country life of the olden time, came under our notice. The water for household purposes, to drink, etc., had to be obtained at a well, a large meadow's length from the village, some three or four hundred paces distant. The stream, or well, issues from a sandstone bank. It is a most secluded spot, and from the fountain, which is overhung by the branches of a large elm, not a vestige of house or habitation can be seen. It was spring time on our visit, and the little dell, being protected from the biting east winds, and opening to the south, daffodils, primroses, and cowslips were in full bloom. Many a scene of childish fun and frolic has this spot witnessed. It is also the meeting place of lovers; youths and maidens have met here for centuries to whisper the old, old story, and plighted their troth, to walk hand in hand together in good or evil repute the rest of their lives. Countless generations, passing to and fro, has this old tree witnessed, and children have sheltered, playing beneath its boughs, or resting on the green sward.

"The old men bent their weary steps thither to rest and muse on days long gone by, and recount stories to the young children, how the water sprite and elfin people were wont to visit this spot in the moonlight and career in circles, and dance to the melody of elfin music; but in this matter-of-fact age of steam and electricity, the fairies have fled, yet as a proof of their former existence, the aged men point to the deeper green of the fairy circles, still to be seen, thus testifying to their nocturnal visit. Now the smiling faces, and troops of village girls with hoop and pail, will soon cease to congregate at this spot, for this is an age of waterworks and reservoirs, and the small village of Winskill is to have a constant supply of water brought to their doors, and the old-time trysting place will be a thing of the past. But an elderly native remarked to the writer: 'When we du hev't watter brow't et toun, we sall still gan dune to fetch et frae t'well; hisen't it a vast mure nataral te heve t'watter pur hout et grund, then te hev it out et lead pipes,'* and he grumbled sorely about this innovation of the Waterworks Committee."

Wanderings on the Old Border, Lakeland and Ribbesdale. Edmund Bogg, 1898.

* (He was quite right of course! Lead pipes were subsequently blamed for a variety of health problems - )

If you know where the spring was/is or know any more about the fairy legend, do let me know.