Until the great flood of 1839 the Fairies Chapel was hidden behind a ledge of rocks, at the base of which lay a natural excavation formed by the water. This had a pulpit, reading desk, and seats. Like other spots of the same secluded character in Lancashire, it has “legendary lore”.
According to the Rev G.R. Oakley, it all started on a wild night in 1180, when a witch magically summoned Robert of Huntingdon, who was the rightful heir to the Earl, his late uncle. However, the ring which would prove his rights had been stolen.
The Witch told Robert that she could find the ring. Robert however, refused the offer of magic, so she told him to look into the holy well of St Chadde to see his future, and perhaps change his mind. Robert crossed himself and gazed into the well, little knowing that she had charmed it to show him as a lord! However, the well showed the truth, he would become the outlaw Robin Hood! Enraged at the trick, Robin went to kill the witch, but she escaped on her broomstick.
Luckily, the Fairy King came to Robin’s aid and gave him his Uncle’s ring which he was told to throw into the coven’s cauldron at the Thrutch. This Robin did, the cauldron flew into pieces, and fell into the river. The Fairy King shrivelled the witches into hideous elves, who rushed after the cauldron into a fissure in the rock. The King said, “There, you have a chapel for your evil worship. And long may it be ere any mortal be so foolish as to seek you out in your wicked den.”
According John Roby, the next encounter with the fairies happened in a winter when Edward IV was on the throne. The Corn Mill was frozen and Ralf, the miller, had nothing to do. He took to ridiculing the fairies and plotting to poach a hare, but the fairies were listening. When Ralph eventually caught the hare he was left holding an ugly elf. He had been lured to the Fairies Chapel! An invisible fiend told Ralph that he would forfeit his soul unless he brought Eleanor Byron, the fiend’s heart’s desire, to the Dell.
Ralf obeyed, and the fiend tried to make her sign away her soul in her own blood. She screamed and was saved by her fiancé, Oliver Chadwick. Eleanor married her Oliver, but the fairies got their revenge. On their wedding day he was involved in a fight and killed.
With a stunning flash of blue you may see today’s fairies in the form of the Kingfisher, darting under the waterfall, and the Grey Wagtail hopping from rock to rock looking for insects.
Nikon D80 – Sigma 10-20mm lens – ND4 grad