Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Frensham
Inside the 13th century Church of Saint Mary the Virgin at Frensham is held a beaten copper cauldron. The medieval 19 inch deep cauldron is believed to have been used for the brewing of Church Ale and has apparently been kept in the church ‘from beyond the memory of man’. There are several stories concerning the origins of the cauldron and how it came to have spent the last several centuries in Frensham Church.
One folk tale says the cauldron belonged to Mother Ludlam, the White Witch of Waverley who lived in a small cave near Farnham. One day the devil wearing a disguise tried to borrow the cauldron from Mother Ludlam, who, recognising her visitor true identity, refused the request. The Devil then stole the cauldron and fled the scene of the crime with Mother Ludlam in pursuit. The Devil dropped the cauldron on Kettlebury Hill after creating the hills known as the Devil’s Jumps around Churt with his huge leaps. In order to protect her cauldron from the Devil, Mother Ludlam placed it in Frensham Parish Church after she had recovered it from Kettlebury Hill.
Alternatively the cauldron was left in the church by someone who had borrowed it from Mother Ludham. In order to avoid her anger for not returning it on time, he fled into the church for sanctuary and the cauldron has remained there since.
Other origin stories refer to the cauldron as belonging to the fairies who, like Mother Ludham, would loan it out. One such story has a man borrowing the cauldron from the fairies on Stony Jump (one of the hills known as the Devils Jumps), but when he did not return it they cursed him. The cauldron was tasked to follow him everywhere he went and eventually he fled to Frensham Church where he died and so the cauldron remained.
The following version of the tale dates from the 19th century, though I am uncertain whether it is older that those above or not.
According to ‘English Fairy and Other Folk Tales’ (1890) by Edwin Sidney Hartland, ‘IN the vestry of Frensham Church, in Surrey, on the north side of the chancel, is an extraordinary great kettle or caldron, which the inhabitants say, by tradition, was brought hither by the fairies, time out of mind, from Borough-hill about a mile hence. To this place, if any one went to borrow a yoke of oxen, money, etc., he might have it for a year or longer, so be kept his word to return it. There is a cave where some have fancied to hear music. In this Borough-hill is a great stone lying along of the length of about six feet. They went to this stone and knocked at it, and declared what they would borrow, and when they would repay, and a voice would answer when they should come, and that they should find what they desired to borrow at that stone. This caldron, with the trivet, was borrowed here after the manner aforesaid, and not returned according to promise; and though the caldron was afterwards carried to the stone, it could not be received, and ever since that time no borrowing there.’