Fairy wells, by Victor Coysh

From his Random NotesLa Fontaine des Faies and Le Gibet des Faies.

A romantic relic of bye-gone belief is still left to us at L'Ancresse, though probably few people are aware of its existence. It is the Fairies' Well—a tiny pool of crystal clear water upon the summit of a small knoll—a hougette—situated on the right hand side of the path leading to Fort Le Marchant, and very close to the old shooting range. The hillock has been all but been destroyed by the inevitable quarrying, but the little well is, luckily, still intact. Folk-lore tells a strange story of this spot: It is said that in the days of the Little People, who inhabited the dolmens and sea caves, the Faires despaired of happiness, because the human beings, especially the witches, had invaded their haunts, and their fairy rings had been destroyed by the mad dancings on Friday nights.

They resolved, therefore, to repair to the Fairies' well where, whosoever drank of its waters, at once forgot the past. They did so, but, alas, still remembered their sorrows. In despair they left the spot, and hanged themselves on blades of grass. That is why the fairies are no more.

All of us, at some time or other, must have seen the old, stone-capped wells, which abound in the country parishes, and which present such a picturesque appearance. It is said that around the isolated wells, that is, those which do not abut on a wall, the fairies used to dance, au clair de lune.

Folklore tells us that on Friday nights the elfin multitude would issue from their dwelling places, particularly the Creux ès Fees dolmen at L'Erée, and the cavern known as the Creux des Fies at Albecq, and would go a-dancing. The menhirs, those great standing stones still to be seen here and there were favourite haunts for their merry-making, and the site of Victoria Tower was another. It was only the unholy doings of the Witches' Sabbat that put an end to their innocent frolics.

This story appears to be a folk memory of what was itself just a memory in the 1860s: MacCulloch's Gibet des Faïes. In Guernsey Folk Lore, pp. 128-9, he describes a dolmen of the kind known as a trilithon, which according to those 'who remembered seeing it in their youth,' consisted of three upright stones supporting a fourth which overhung the others. This was known as the Fairies' Gallows, and nearby was La Fontaine des Faïes, a natural source of fresh water which never dried up: 'it is said to have been below the surface in a kind of artificial cave formed by huge blocks of stone, and entered by two openings on different sides. The proprietor of the land many year ago broke up the stones for building and converted the spring into a well.' This is since thought to have been closed over. See Kelling, Martin, Pixies and Faeries on Guernsey, 2008.