Weird Suffolk: The Onehouse fairies

Sunset in Onehouse, Stowmarket. Picture: iWitness24/Scott Usher

Sunset in Onehouse, Stowmarket. Picture: iWitness24/Scott Usher - Credit:

Fairies are, as all self-respecting Suffolk folk know, regular visitors to the county with the area near Stowmarket in particular being popular with the gossamer-winged folk.

At Onehouse, the village which suggests it is populated by one lonely home but which in fact boasts its own community – of humans and fairies.

Once upon a time, fairies were not the beautiful and benign beings that we think of today and most people were keen to avoid them at all costs and would do whatever they could to keep themselves safe from fairy visitations.

Clothes were worn inside out to protect people from fairy tricks, herbs were used (did you know that four-leaf clovers ‘dispel glamour’ and allow you to see a person as they really are, including fairies?), people would head to running water if they suspected they were being followed by a fairy (who are unable to cross a stream or river) and stones with holes in them tied to stable keys were used to protect horses from night-riding.

Scythes were placed uppermost in chimneys, scissors were hung over cradles, axes kept under pillows and doors bolted with iron because it was believed that changelings and fairies would be driven away by metal: but in Onehouse, a fairy made it clear to a ploughman that iron was no hurdle to him.

While he ploughed a field in the village, “a fairy quite small and sandy-coloured came to him and asked him to mend his peel”.

The peel was a flat iron with a handle to take bread out of an oven and the fairy enticed the help of the man by promising him a hot cake from his oven if he could help him mend the broken handle.

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In Arthur George Harper Hollingsworth’s The History of Stowmarket from 1844, the tale continued: “The ploughman soon put a new handle in it, and soon after a smoking hot cake made its appearance in the furrows near him, which he ate with infinite relish.”

Another tale from Hollingsworth, a vicar, read as follows: “The house in which A W-------- now lives, was the scene of fairy visits and officiousness. A man lived there about 100 years since, who was visited constantly by a fairy.

“They used his cottage for their meetings. They can-not abide dirt or sloveliness, so as it was kept tidy and clean, they cut and brought faggots for the good man, and filled his oven with nice dry wood every night. They also left a shilling for him under the leg of a chair. And a fairy often came to him and warned him not to tell any one of it, for if he did the shilling, wood, and fairies would never come to him again.

“Unluckily for him he did tell his good luck, and then his little friends were never seen by him more. The fairy wore yellow satin shoes, was clothed with a green long coat girt about by a golden belt, and had sandy hair and complexion.”

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