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English Folktales


Joseph Hempsall's Ghost

Here's an interesting piece of Cambridgeshire folklore I found in a book called "Folktales of the Fen Country". Joseph Hempsall was a true born "Fen Slodger". He lived in a small cottage on the Soham side of Wicken Fen during the late 17th century. Every evening Hempsall would cross the fen, known locally as "Big Bog" to drink with his friends at tavern in Wicken. Read More »

Kentish Longtails

The inhabitants of Strood in Kent were once nicknamed Kentish Longtails. Though this could relate to the belief in medieval mainland Europe that the English had tails, there is a folk tale relating a curse placed on the people of Strood by Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Read More »

Kersal Cell

Kersal Cell (2)

The Grade II listed Kersal Cell which dates from 1563 is the second oldest building in Salford and was the home of the English poet John Byrom (also known as John Byrom of Kersal and John Byrom of Manchester) (Born 29 February 1692 – Died 26 September 1763). Read More »

King Herla

In this tale Herla was the King of the Britons in ancient times. The tale seems to date from the medieval period but may have had earlier origins.

One afternoon after a hard days riding, Herla, the wise King of the Britons took leave from his men, and rested for a while among the ancients trees, part of the great forest that had stood in his kingdom for millennia. Read More »

The Lambton Worm and Penshaw Hill

The Lambton Worm

Around the time of the crusades (in some accounts) in the area around the river Wear, there is a tale told about a fearsome dragon, which terrorised the area and was dispatched with cunning by a brave warrior. Read More »

Leeds Town Hall

Leeds Town Hall

Beneath the front steps of Leeds Town Hall is the old Central Charge Office or Bridewell (a general term for a small prison), the reputed haunt of the ghost of the notorious burglar and murderer Charles Peace. Read More »

The Lyme Regis Black Dog

Black Dogs

This old story provides an explanation for the naming of the Black Dog Inn near Uplyme in Devon. The black dog seems to be a spirit guardian of treasure. Read More »

Mab's Cross

The remains of this 13th century (earliest known mention 1277) stone cross can be found on Standishgate and is thought to have been a medieval waymarker between Chorley and Wigan.  It was moved from its original position on the other side of the road in 1922 when the road was widened.  The cross’s name is derived from its legendary association with Lady Mabel Bradshaw.  T Read More »

Meg Shelton the Fylde Witch

Meg Shelton (Mag Shelton or Margery Hilton) the Fylde Witch (Fylde Hag) who died in 1705 is said to be buried beneath a large boulder in the grounds of St Anne's Church, Woodplumpton. She was buried in a vertical position, head first with the boulder placed on top to prevent her from digging herself out of the grave, which apparently she had done twice previously. Read More »

Molly Leigh

Molly Leigh

In St John’s graveyard, Burslem, can be found the last resting place of Molly Leigh, a local woman accused of being a witch but dying before she could be brought to trial. Her body is the only one positioned North to South, putting it at a right angle to every other grave in the cemetery. The story of Molly Leigh is a mixture of fact and folklore that has grown over the years. Read More »

Muchelney Abbey

The abbey is associated with a folk tale that has many variations around the country, most notably at Borley, on the site of an old monastery. Read More »

Old Mother Nightshade of Gedney Dyke

Until the middle of the 20th century the villages of the Lincolnshire fens were isolated, insular places. Everyone tended to know everyone else and a stranger in town would be cause for much suspicion and gossip. It was during the early 18th century, that an old fenwoman who lived in the village of Gedney Dyke, became the subject of much gossip and rumour. Read More »

Radcliffe Tower

Radcliffe Tower

Radcliffe Tower is all that remains of a fifteenth century (1403) manor house and is a Grade I listed building. At twenty feet high, this ruined remnant of the manors demolition in the nineteenth century is linked to a tragic tale of a stepmother arranging the murder of her husband’s daughter and is reputed to be haunted by a phantom Black Dog. Read More »

Raven’s Castle

Raven’s Castle is a cluster of rocks on the moors about 6 miles north of Slaidburn and close to the Lancashire border with Yorkshire. John Roby in his ‘Traditions of Lancashire’ (1872) set the following folk tale amongst these rocks. Read More »

Sedgley’s Beacon Tower

Sedgeley Beacon Tower

Sedgley Beacon lies some 237 metres (777 feet) above sea level in the heart of the West Midlands. It is said that the top of Beacon Hill is the highest point between Sedgley and the Ural Mountains in Russia. Commanding views were once enjoyed right across the industrial Black Country and beyond to the Clee and Malvern hills and the mountains of Wales. Read More »

Southend-on-Sea Ratman

I thought I'd tell you of a local legend in Southend-on-Sea that I heard growing up and thought you'd enjoy. In our town, there is a pretty grim underpass that's been there for years, and has developed a reputation for being crime-ridden and basically a no-go-area after dark. However, more interesting is the ghost said to haunt it. Read More »

Southport Phantom Voice

John Roby recounted the following story entitled ‘The Phantom Voice’ in his ‘Traditions of Lancashire’ (1872) Read More »

Strange Lands By Andrew L Paciorek

Strange Lands

Andy Paciorek is one of Mysterious Britain & Irelands favourite contributors and his amazing artwork can be found illustrating articles throughout this site. Read More »

Stretford Great Stone

By the entrance of Gorse Hill Park from Chester Road is a large boulder known as the Great Stone. This stone gave its name to Great Stone Road (beside which it stood until 1925) and the old Great Stone Farm. There are many stories, legends and theories concerning the origins of the stone. Read More »

The Black Lady of Bradley Woods

Hundreds of years ago there lived a poor woodcutter in Bradley Woods with his pretty young wife and their baby boy. They lived very happily together until the woodcutter was pressed into military service for the local lord.  He was sent to fight in the wars that were then raging in England. Read More »

The Lady With The Lantern, St Ives

‘The Lady With The Lantern’(1) is a story which appeared in English Fairy and Other Folk Tales’ by Edwin Sidney Hartland [1890]. It is reproduced below complete with footnote. Read More »

The Lost Child

Robert Hunt in his 'Popular Romances of the West of England; or, The Drolls, Traditions, and Superstitions of Old Cornwall' (1865) gives an account of the lost child of Trefonick which was given to him thirty years earlier by an old woman of the parish. Read More »

The Mumby Boggart And The Crafty Farmer

A farmer bought a new field, which was inhabited by a squat, hairy boggart, a kind of troll. The boggart refused to allow the farmer to plant anything in the field, claiming it was his and the farmer had no right to it. The farmer, in turn, pointed out that he'd paid good money for the land and by right he ought to be able to use it. Read More »

The Siege of Lathom

Siege of Lathom

Nothing now remains of the original Lathom House, the last Royalist stronghold in Lancashire, which was besieged by Parliamentarian forces for three months in 1644. Read More »

The Smuggler's Leap

"Near this hamlet (Acol) is a long-disused chalk pit...known by the name of 'The Smuggler's Leap.' The tradition of the parish runs that a riding officer from Sandwich, called Anthony Gill, lost his life here...while in pursuit of a smuggler. A fog coming on, both parties went over the precipice...The spot has, of course, been haunted ever since". [Lewis's History of Thanet, by the Rev. Read More »



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