The Legend of Ellesmere Lake

If you have ever travelled on the A495 between Whitchurch and Oswestry as I have when visiting my family in Wales, the chances are that you have driven past this lake and not realised there is a legend attached to it.

It is said that where the lake is situated there once was pasture land and prosperous farms but these were submerged due to the selfishness of one of the inhabitants who brought divine judgement down on them.

According to Charlotte Burn who recorded many folklore stories throughout Shropshire in the nineteenth century, an old woman named Mrs Ellis had a water pump on her property, she refused to sell or allow any of her neighbours the use of the pump to gather water, thus creating great hardship. One night it is said that the well overflowed and the following morning no sign of the pump or the old woman could be found, all that could be seen was the huge lake named after her Elles-mere.

Another variation of this story concerns a farmer who acquired a farm where the mere is now situated and that there was a well on this land that the locals used for free. The farmer put a stop to this and started charging the locals a halfpenny for every bucketful drawn from this well. Divine judgement occurred one night, the well started overflowing, then by next morning all that could be seen was the mere which remains to this day.

One factor that may have helped to create this story amongst the locals was that a paved causeway could be seen running into the mere at one time, it can no longer be seen but it does support the theory that there may have been dry land here at one time. Apparently back in the 1830s people could remember seeing this causeway and I wonder whether it has anything to do with an artificial island that was created in 1812 when soil was excavated from nearby Ellesmere house when the gardens were being made there.

The soil was transported to the mere and an island was created named Moscow Island as Napolean had been forced to withdraw from Moscow in that year.

As with many lakes and meres that can be found throughout the North and West of England, this one was said to be inhabited by a creature known as Jenny Greenteeth who was said to catch children with her long arms who strayed to close to the waters edge, she would then drag them underwater and eat them with her green teeth. This story was thought to have been created by parents who would tell their children about the legend and in doing so would scare them away from lakes and meres and thus avoid the chance of their children falling in and drowning.

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3 Responses to “The Legend of Ellesmere Lake”

  1. My Brother Bernard Foster drowned with 2 other men on ‘the mere’ 50 years ago on June the 13th 1964. We were told the water was 90 feet deep at the point where their boat overturned while my brother and his friend were changing places, is the Mere as deep as this ?
    My other two brothers and myself intend to visit the place of our eldest brothers death on his anniversary.
    Regards,
    Rita Glynn

    • Hi Rita, Sorry to hear about your brother’s death in the mere, as to the depth of the mere I am uncertain. Perhaps the local authorities or local sub aqua club would have this information.
      regards Gary

    • Hi, I understand that at its deepest point the mere is approximately 19 metres deep (around 60ft).

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