British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain
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Corndon Hill

Corndon Hill

These early Bronze Age standing stones have been called Mitchell's Fold since the mid 19th century.  Earlier reports from the previous century refer to it variously as Madge's Fold, Medgley's or Medgel's - a fold meaning a pen for farm animals.  In the mid 18th century, two writers noted some of the many stories about it.  One wrote in a letter to his brother, "They say a great personage, I believe a Giant, used to milk his cows in that enclosure."  Stukeley learned that another story was that, "the report of this place is that a cow here in these stones gave milk to all the honest and good folks of the neighbourhood, but one of evil life milked her into a sieve, whereupon the cow disappeared, and never came more."

The legend was still widely known in the district over a hundred years later, and it had grown in the telling.  By late 19th century the story was that the cow was sent by the fairies to help the country folk at a time of the great famine; she would appear at night and morning at Mitchell's Fold to be milked: 'A beautiful pure white cow she was... and no matter how many came there to milk her, there was always enough for all, so long as everyone who came tool only one pailful." Her milk saved everyone from starvation, but then came disaster:

Well, at last there came an old witch, Mitchell her name was. A bad old woman she was, and did a deal of harm, and had a spite against everybody. And she brought a sieve and milked the cow into that, and of course the poor thing couldn't fill it. And the old woman milked her, and milked her, and at last she milked her dry, and the cow was never seen there again, not after. Folks say she went off into Warwickshire like a crazy thing, and turned into the wild dun cow that Guy earl of Warwick killed; but anyhow they say she was sadly missed in this country, and a many died after she was gone, and there's never been so many living about here, not since.

Her punishment for such a wicked deed was to turn the witch to stone.  Then they set up stones all around her to fence her in, forming the present circle - this explanation seems to mean that the name Mitchell's Folk means 'the pen enclosing the witch Mitchell,' rather than 'the pen in which Mitchell milked a cow'. There had once been more stones than could be seen in the later 19th century, one old villager recalls to Burne;

It's best not to meddle with such places. There was a farmer lived by there, and he blew up some of them and took away the pieces to put round his horsepond, but he never did no good after.