The Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley Fairy Collection
The majority of the following collection of evidence of fairies was compiled between 1847 and 1902 by explorer and amateur scientist, the independently wealthy Sir Bertram Eldritch-Cholmondeley.
Some items had been added to the collection after the death of Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley by his granddaughter (fairy flit gun and the fairy film) with the final fairy ‘popping stone’ fossil being added very recently by the author of this site.
The entire collection is available for touring exhibition.
Please contact email@example.com for further information.
Sir Bertram Eldritch-Cholmondeley
When not involved in philanthropic pursuits, Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley travelled the world in search of evidence of all things fae. He followed international tales of fairies and sometimes, but only rarely, returned with physical proof. The small collection was housed at his manor, Eldritch House in Cheshire and was available to view on request, although many at the time felt that the collection itself was a myth, and academics and other scientists scoffed at his claims.
One notable visitor to the see the collection, however, was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was very taken by the exhibits, and so was thrilled (and ultimately fooled) when he thought he had discovered his own evidence when Elsie Wright and Francis Griffiths presented him with the infamous ‘Cottingly Fairies‘ photographs.
It was Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley’s dearest wish to capture and converse with a live fairy, however he discovered that the merest contact with humans was deadly to the creatures.
He did manage to successfully hunt and capture a few creatures, but they did not last long when confined and so his collection, rather morbidly, only contains dead fairies.
On his death, the collection was packed away into storage and not seen again until discovered in 1996 when Eldritch House, which had been left to decay, was finally condemned for demolition and the building was cleared.
A collection of early photographs of Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley in his ‘fairy hunting uniform’.
These fossil fairies were the catalyst that set Sir Bertram Eldritch-Cholmondeley on his path to creating his unique collection. The fossils are from Welsh slate beds over 2 million years old and are believed to be the first solid evidence of the mythical ‘little people’ that appear in folk-lore and legends around the world. Palaeontologists at the time managed to determine the gender of the fossils by comparing the relative size and shape of their pelvic bones.
More scientific information about the individual fossils can be found below the photographs.
1: Betony and Orpine
Betony: Nympha Dryades Hesperida betonica officinalis
Orpine: Nympha Dryades Satyrida sedum telephium
A fossil record of two wood-sprites. The lower fossil is an Orpine, approximately 3 cm tall with a wingspan of 4cm. The upper fossil is a Betony, which would have stood about 3cm tall with a wingspan of 3.5cm. This nymph was male.
Both of these creatures had moth-like wings, indicating they were nocturnal.
4: Bogbean: Nympha Naiais Agrion menyanthus trifoliata
A beautiful skeleton of a water-sprite. This creatue would have been 4.5cm tall with a wingspan of about 5.5cm. The wings of Bogbean are similar to those of a damselfly, giving this fairy the ability to dart and hover over stretches of still water indicating an omniverous diet, hunting and catching prey on the wing to suppliment a diet of pond-side plants.
2: Moorking: Nypha Naias Aeshna sceptum-carolinum
A superb specimen of a water-sprite. Moorking would have stood 9cam tall with a wingspan of about 8cm.
It’s twin pairs of wings, similar to those of a dragonfly would have enabled this creature to hover and dart indicating the Moorking was omniverous, cathcing prey in flight as well as eating water plants and fungi.
Moorking is the biggest known British fairy.
3: Vervain: Nympha Dryades Satyrida verbena officialis.
An almost complete skeleton of a tine wood-sprite. This creature was only about 3 cm tall with a wingspan of about 4cm. The wings of Vervain were similar to those of a small butterfly indicating that these tiny fairies were more suited to a woodland galde habitat, collecting nectar to supplement a vegetarian diet.
5: No information survives for this fossil
6: Orpine: Nympha Dryades Satyrida sedum telephium
Orpine was approximately 3cm tall with a wingspan of around 4cm. Like Betony, Orpine had wings that resemble moth wings – stubbier with an extra layer of fur-like scales suited for colder times of the day, particularly the night, and so it is assumed that this fairy was nocturnal.
Cabinet of Fairies
A small cabinet containing seven examples (the whereabouts of the eighth example are unknown) of fairies trapped in amber, preserved in a similar manner to the more well-known insects trapped in amber. These samples were collected on an exploratory trip to the rain-forests of Brazil after descriptive stories of sacred Curupira stones deemed to be magic talismens by shamans reached Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley. The amber is thought to be 1.7 million years old.
(Brazilian softwood amber contains fewer of the impurities that turn other amber’s yellow-brown, yet it retains traces of chlorophyl, hence the green tinge to some of the amber.)
Fairy ‘exorcism’ Box.
This box was discovered buried under an old warehouse in Southampton, England. The warehouse dated back to 1436 so it is thought that the box is of a similar age.
The contents of the box (described in more detail below the pictures) are thought to be the tools and talismans used to rid a building of mischievous fairies. It is therefore assumed that fairies were active and known about in medieval England and were considered a pest.
In the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, itinerant ‘fae-bellers‘ (so called as they could be recognised by the staff they walked with always having several small bells attached) travelled the country seeking buildings and homes (and more importantly, rich and superstitious building owners) to rid of mischievous spirit creatures. This could be a lucrative job for an elderly woman in particular and there were several celebrated fae-bellers, who were attached to rich estates and considered very powerful amongst well-to-do households.
The term fae-beller, is also where the word ‘fable’ originates – tales of strange spirits and creatures.
1. Warding mandalas on the box
The crudely-made oak box is decorated with mandalas and marks that could have significant ritual meanings.
2. The box contents
The box contains many intriguing and significant objects.
3. The Ritual
This fantastical drawing outlines the ritual needed to capture a fairy. The stars with their arcane symbols where drawn in the corners of the room containing the infestation and when all other symbolic items were in place, the ritual was read from this document. Beside the fairy we see it’s familiars, a cat (slyness) and a demon (untrustworthy nature). Accompanying the fairy are a doggoose and a mermaid, both mythical creatures related to fairy folklore. The doggoose being the fairy representation of the underworld and the mermaid it’s representation in the sea.
Daylight is not useful for finding fairies, they are creatures of dark corners and twilight, therefore ‘exorcisms’ were conducted by night and so candles were an essential part of the process. There is also more magical power in candle-light than in natural light.
5. ‘Fairy wood’
A piece of yew wood with a natural hole was believed to be the most reliable way of seeing a fairy. More powerful than a witch-stone, or hag-stone, these pieces of yew were vital for any fae-beller and were prized and valuable items.
6. Lead box
This small lead box, roughly fashioned, was marked with simple but powerful containment symbols.
7. Lead box contents
The box contained what appears to be a tiny humanoid shape wrapped in rough cloth. There was also an iron nail (now heavily oxidised with age).
Iron is known to weaken spirit creatures and it is thought that the mummified object is a caught fairy that has been treated and mummified then placed in the lead box along with the iron nail before the box was closed and sealed.
8. Elemental Bottles
These four bottles contained substances that represented the four elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The contents of the bottles would have been used in cleansing ceremonies once any fairies had been caught and the building cleared.
9. Flint Arrowhead
Elf-bolts or elf-arrows were thought to protect the owner of the arrowhead from the fae. The inclusion of an ancient flint arrowhead in this box will have protected it’s contents from fairy interference. These arrowheads were also thought to cure illness caused by fairies.
10. Incense burner
Used in the ceremony to help create a purifying atmosphere. Some herbs are considered toxic to fairies, but not humans.
(see The Four Royal Plants below)
When persuasion to leave failed, belligerent and stubborn fairies would have to be captured. This cage made of brass and iron alloy would have served to contain any spirit creature it was placed over, so that the creature could not move about and could be dealt with.
12. Wooden Cross
The inclusion of this Christian symbol showed that fae-bellers were ‘catering for all tastes’. The use of a cross to help rid the building of ‘malevolent spirits’ would reassure any Christian home-owners that the ceremony was Godly and therefore sanctioned by the church. However, it is not believed that crosses cause any sort of distress to fairies.
13. Smudge Reeds
After the ceremony was complete and the fairies banished, the fae-beller filled the corners of building with smoke from burned herbs to clear away any remnants of negative energy.
14 a, b, c, d: The Four Royal Plants
These representations of the ‘royal’ plants (so called because it was believed that they ruled over the plant kingdom) would have been used to identify the plants that were most effective in the exorcism. The plants would be collected locally to make sure they are fresh and an incense made from their dried leaves would be burned in the shallow bowl shown above. Sometimes an infusion of the leaves would be ingested by the fae-beller to induce a trance-like state in which she could converse with the fairy folk to discover their grievances and try to reason with thm to leave.
Display Cabinet – Pinned Fairies
This glass fronted cabinet contains the entire collection of Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley’s actual fairies. Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley managed to catch 20 fairies during his world travels, however contact with humans quickly proved deadly to the creatures and he wasn’t able to study them alive. Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley therefore decided to pin the fairies, in the way a lepidopterist would pin a collection of butterflies for display.
Fay-Away ‘flit gun’.
An unusual addition to the collection from Titiana Eldritch-Cholmondeley.
This 1920’s flit gun was sold to gardeners to keep stray fairies away from flower displays. Made by Wilson’s, a niche garden tool supplier to the wealthy, the ‘fairie flit’ gun was used in a similar pumping manner to a bicycle pump. It was filled with an unknown (hopefully harmless) liquid deterrent, and sprayed at any member of the fae family that threatened to damage plants. This is the only known example of this sort of deterrent delivery device.
Film of fairies
Very early film footage of small fairies sporting in a garden, phasing in and out between the real and spirit worlds.
This short snippet is all that could be saved from a badly deteriorated reel of film discovered in the attic of an abandoned house in 1967. The film canister was marked ‘Phenomena 1896′ .
This fossil, in slate, appears to be the iron-pyritised skeleton of a lizard-like creature with wings! The creature would have measured approximately 40cm from tail tip to snout with a 50cm wingspan.
The fossil was found deep in a slate mine in North Wales near a village called Llandarog. For many years this fossil was kept secret, as the miner who found it feared it was an ill omen that would bring bad luck to the village. Rather than keep it himself, he sent it to his brother for safekeeping as he thought it would be worth a lot of money if he could sell it to a fossil collector.
Soon after the discovery of the fossil, there was a terrible disaster when the mine collapsed killing half of the miners working there (including the man who found the fossil) and precipitating a huge landslide, which engulfed much of Llandarog. The village and mine were abandoned, but remain as a monument to those killed in the tragedy.
After the tragedy, the miner’s brother donated the fossil to Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley’s collection. Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley gladly accepted the donation and added the fossil to one of his cabinets. Within months of receiving the fossil Sir Eldritch-Cholmondeley cut himself with a gardening knife, contracted lock-jaw and died.
This fossil is unique.
‘Popping stone’ fairy fossil
A ‘popping stone’ is a sea-polished stone nodule that, when cracked open, is found to contain a fossil. The nature of these stones means that they will cleave along the weakest plane, which is where the fossil is. Popping stones usually contain ammonites.
This stone was found on a beach on the south coast of Sussex, England in 2015 by the website author.
This is the fossil of a relatively large fairy. It is a full skeleton, with some petrified bone-like traces and the iridescence from the creature’s wings still visibly preserved in the matrix.