One of the fairy houses at Fairy Row, near Gelt Wood, Cumbria
THOMAS Sanderson writing in an essay 1828 had this to say about fairies:–
“The fairies are a sort of intermediate beings between men and spirits, very diminutive in stature, but active and fond of gambols. They have their habitations under ground from which, in a summer evening, they frequently issue to enjoy, in our meadows, their favourite diversion of dancing. They are said to be of a fair complexion, with dishevelled hair, floating over their shoulders, and are always clothed in green attire.”
In Cumbria, fairies belong to the same species as boggles, boggarts, wraiths, ghosts and dobbies. They are the creatures caught out of the corner of your eye and are to blame for as much bad luck as good luck. From Mr Sanderson’s description they sound as delightful as the fairies of your childhood but take care. It is generally recognised that Cumbrian fairies at least must be treated with respect, if not caution.
The county is wonderfully rich in fairy traditions. There is Fairy Rock on the coast at Saltom, near Whitehaven, which has associated with it the tale of a fairy queen who falls in love with a human - resulting of course in dire consequences! And a little further up the coast is Moresby Hall where a fairy guards lost treasure; answer the fairy's questions correctly and you will gain access to the gold. And we have one of the most beautiful artefacts from the fairy world thanks to the butler of Edenhall, near Penrith, who snatched an ornate goblet from fairies he found dancing near St Cuthbert's well. The goblet - known as The Luck of Edenhall - survives to this day and can be seen on permanent display at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Each summer fairy houses appear in Gelt Wood near Brampton (see picture above) - although the precise location is kept secret!
See our Google Map of Fairy Folklore in Cumbria.