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English Folktales


Fairy Ointment

Once upon a time there was, in this celebrated town [Tavistock], a Dame Somebody, I do not know her name, and as she is a real character, I have no right to give her a fictitious one. All I with truth can say, is, that she was old, and nothing the worse for that; for age is, or ought to be, held in honor as the source of wisdom and experience. Read More »

Gormire Lake & White Mare Crag

Surrounded by the dense Garbutt Wood, Gormire Lake is the result of glacial activity and is one of the few natural lakes in Yorkshire. Gormire Lake has a few little known gems of folklore attached it. One tale involves a witch who was being chased across the moor. Read More »

Grassington Bargest

The following story was published in ‘English Fairy and Other Folk Tales’ by Edwin Sidney Hartland [1890], under the title ‘Billy B---‘s Adventure’ and Robert Hunt’s 'Popular Romances of the West of England' was cited. Read More »

The Green Children of Woolpit

Woolpit Village Sign

This story was told by medieval writers (Ralph of Coggestall and William of Newbridge), about the discovery of fairy children in the South of England in the twelfth century.There are two versions of the story, one placed in Suffolk and one in Norfolk, with only a small distance separating them. Read More »

Hoghton Tower

Dating from 1560-1565, Hoghton Tower is a Grade I listed fortified manor house situated on the highest hill in the Hoghton area. The following tale by John Roby was published in his ‘Traditions of Lancashire’ in 1872. He refers to it being left to decay and by the middle of the 19th century it was derelict. Read More »

Ince Hall, Ince-in-Makerfield

Ince Hall, wigan

John Roby in his 'Traditions of Lancashire' (1872) relates the following tale which he entitled 'The Haunted Manor House', which he identifies as being Ince Hall in Wigan. As Roby acknowledges, there are a few buildings known as Ince Hall which leads to confusion when trying to identify the exactly where this tale is said to be based. Read More »

Jack o' Legs

This folktale was kindly brought to our attention by Alma Oakley of Weston in Hertfordshire.

Weston churchyard is reputed to be the final resting place of the Weston Giant: Jack o' Legs. Two stones mark his grave. One is positioned at his head and another at his feet, a distance of eight feet apart. Read More »

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 »

Leddy Lister

The following account of the story is extracted from‘Legends Superstitions of the County of Durham’ by William Brockie (1886). 'A retired farmers wife at Hedworth, who went by the name of Leddy Lister, was commonly held by the people round about to be a witch. Read More »

Lee Green Scar, Extwistle

According to Leslie Chapple 'Romantic Old Houses and Their Tales', ‘In 1902, in a lecture to the Burnley Literary and Scientific Club, Mr. 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 »

Nogworth Cross

Only the base remains of The Nogworth Cross (aka Northwood Cross) which can be found beside a lane near Shay Lane and the Todmorden Road.  According to ‘A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6’ (1911), ‘In the Extwistle part, on the high moorland, are some tumuli and the sites of supposed British and Roman camps; there is another camp above Thursden. 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 »

Osebury Rock

Osebury Rock (or Rosebury Rock) is a remarkable cliff with dense woodland on the River Teme which, according to Edwin Hartland in his ‘English Fairy and Other Folk Tales’ (1890), has an association with fairies. 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 »



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