Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Netherwitton Fairies

If there's one village in Northumberland that's full of fairies, it's Netherwitton, and after visiting it I can see why the faery folk are so attracted to this lovely little village. Infact it doesn't seem to have changed much in the past hundred years, with it's charming old cottages, little stream winding through the village centre, and lovely little wooded areas creeping in at the edges. The first of the Netherwitton fairy stories is about a milk maid, and took place in the time of George the third, so somewhere between 1760 and 1801 to be precise.
"Many years ago, 'ere George the Third was king', a girl who lived near Nether Witton, returning home from milking, with her pail on her head, saw many fairies gambolling in the fields, but which were invisible to her companions, though pointed out to them by her. On reaching home, and telling what she had seen, the circumstance of her power of vision being greater than that of her companions was canvassed in the family, and the cause at length discovered in her weise [a circular pad worn on the head to save it from the pressure of the pail, made from stocking, or a wreath of straw or grass] which was found to be of four-leaved clover: persons having about them a bunch, or even a single blade, of four leaved clover being supposed to possess the power of seeing fairies, even though elves should wish to be invisible; of percieving in their proper character evil spirits which assumed the form of men; and of detecting the arts of those who practised magic, necromancy, or witchcraft."
Our second story set in the village of Netherwitton, like the above story, can be found in the Local Historian's Table Book, Volume 3 of the Legendary Division (1846):
"A cottager and his wife, residing at this place, were one day visited by a fairy and his spouse, with their young child, which they wishes to leave in their charge. The cottager agreed to take care of the child for a certain period, when it had to be taken thence. The fairy gace the man a box of ointment, with which to anoint the child's eyes; but he had not on any account to touch himself with it, or some misfortune would befal him. For a long time, he and his wife were very careful to avoid the dangerous unction; but one day, when his wife was out, curiosity overcame his prudence, and he annointed his eye, without any noticable effect; but after a while, when walking through Long Horsley fair, he met the male fairy and accosted him. He started back in amazement at the recognition; but instantly guessing the truth, blew on the eyes of the cottager, and instantly blinded him. The child was never more seen."
I didn't spot any fairies or meet any milkmaids on my wander around Netherwitton, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find them in this magical village. Perhaps I should return with a four-leaf clover tucked under my hat next time!

Sources & Further Information
Local Historian's Table Book, Legendary Division, Volume 3
Dictionary of British Folk-tales, Katharine Briggs
The Fairy Mythology, Thomas Keightley


Ent said...

I like your blog a lot - I should defiantly go a visiting as much as I can and take more photos for my own blog. If I am ever Northumberland bound I know where I shall turn to first for destinations...

Diermhyrate said...

What a fantastic blog, very interesting, I have been to northumberland once and felt such a wonderful enchanting energy there,next time I visit I will most definitely have to visit Netherwitton.

The Faery Folklorist said...

Thank you Ent and Diermhyrate! I'd definitely recommend a visit to Netherwitton, it's such a magical place! I wish there were more places like these that haven't changed much in the last hundred years or so :)