Monday, 11 May 2009

The Fairies O' Rothley Mill

One of the first local folklore stories I heard when I moved to this area was the tale of the Fairies O' Rothley Mill. A History of Northumberland by John Hodgson (1827) describes Rothley Mill as the dwelling place of Queen mab and her fairies, and that the mill is their great council hall, and the eye of the kiln their kitchen, where they cooked pottage and burnt the husks of oat that the miller had laid out for drying. They considered this their payment for guarding and cleaning the mill, but the miller was none too happy and one day decided to disturb them:

"While they were preparing their supper one night, [he] threw a sod down the chimney, and instantly fled. The falling mass dashed soot, fire, and boiling pottage amongst them ; and the trembling fugitive, before he could reach the dingly verge of the glen, heard the cry - "burnt and scalded! burnt and scalded! - the sell of the mill has done it" and the old mother of the family set after him, and just as he got to the style going into Rothley, touched him, and he doubled up, was bow-bent and a cripple to his dying day!"
Some Sources claim that it was the miller's son Ralph who committed the offense, by dropping a stone down the kiln and into the fairy porridge. Folk Tales of the North Country by F Grice (1944) gives a more detailed description of the faeries:

"They were lovely to see, none bigger than daffodils, but beautifully formed, with long flaxen hair flowing over their shoulders. Their mantles were as green as the sycamore buds in March, and each rode on a dapper little horse, cream-coloured like a primrose, and beautifully harnessed. They had saddles, bridles, and reins, all neatly stitched and sewn, and from the harness hung little bells no bigger than a raindrop, and each chiming with a pretty sound."
A quick check on the Keys to the Past website confirmed that Rothley Mill is still well and standing, or at least a building of the same name is standing in the same location. So off we wandered to Rothley, the weather was warm, the birds were singing, and the nearby car park was filled with cyclists having some sort of cycling race and probably wondering what on earth we were up to wandering the streets armed with maps and rucksacks.

Below are some photos of the beautiful woodland glen where the story is said to have taken place. The area around the mill itself is private property so I could not take any closer photos or see if the kiln itself is still standing, but the rest is open to the public and can be reached by public footpath from Scots Gap.

Sources & Further Information:
History of Northumberland, Hodgson
Folk Tales of the North Country, F Grice
County Folk-Lore vol IV, Balfour & Thomas
Dictionary of British Folk-Tales, Briggs
Denham Tracts I

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Having visited the spot, it easy to see why the little folk might be thought to live there.