This folktale from the White Peak is one of many that involves a hob. Hobs are “working class” fairies akin to Scottish Brownies and German Kobolds, part nature spirit and part household spirit. If you get one in your house it will do the chores – provided you reward it every night with ale and porridge. The cave to which the hob in this story runs is called “Thirst House”. We don’t know whether “Thirst” is a corruption of “Hob o’ th’ hurst” (hob of the wood) or whether it derives from the Old English “Thyrst”, meaning giant; hobs were sometimes size-shifters rather than shape-shifters, and on a farm they could do the work of ten men. Elsewhere in the Peak District you’ll find references e.g. to “Hob Hurst’s House”, pointing to the same possible etymologies.
There’s nothing in Chelmorton village itself to reflect this tale, though the village and especially its lovely church merit a visit, but if you’re fit enough to walk down Deep Dale you can see Thirst House cave… allegedly an entrance to the Otherworld where fairy folk dwell.Joe Swindells lived alone on his farm near Chelmorton. He was a good farmer, and he regularly took bags of his produce to his sister and brother-in-law and their children, who lived in the village. But he had no time to clean his farmhouse. He’d have liked his nephew and niece to play around the farm but his sister wouldn’t allow it for health reasons.
One moonlit night, Joe was returning from his sister’s house with an empty bag when he saw a hob. He tiptoed forward, dropped the bag over the hob and picked it up. The hob cried “Let me go, let me go!” but Joe said he only wanted it to look after his house, and promised to leave the traditional bowl of porridge and mug of ale in the hearth every night for payment. But the hob kept crying out “Let me go!” until kind-hearted Joe put down the bag and let the hob run away.
It ran to the cave in Deep Dale, and was so grateful to be released that it put a blessing on the stream there. Anyone who bathes in that stream on Easter Eve will have their ailments cured.