Edric Salvage (‘Wild Edric’), a Shropshire landowner whose name is recorded in the Domesday Book, was involved in a revolt against William the Conqueror in 1069, though by 1072 he had made peace with him. Later he rebelled again, thus forfeiting his estates; his death is not recorded.

A romantic legend about Edric was recorded in the following century by Walter Map (c.1180). It happened once that Edric, returning late from hunting, lost his way in the Forest of Clun and wandered there till nightfall. At length he saw a large building at the edge of the forest, and a light shining inside it; coming closer, he saw many tall, lovely ladies dancing in a circle, and all sweetly singing, though he could not understand the words. He rushed in, caught hold of the fairest of them, and in spite of the fierce resistance of the others he managed to carry her away.

After three days and nights of total silence, she at last spoke to him, saying she would be his wife and would give him luck, health, peace, and plenty, but on one condition: if he should ever reproach her about her sisters, or about her life in the woods, not only would she leave him but he would lose all his good fortune, and his life too. He willingly agreed, and they were married; he took her to William the Conqueror’s court, where her beauty convinced everyone she was of fairy race, but he was careful to say nothing about how he had found her. All went well for many years, until one day that Edric came home from hunting and did not find his wife there to greet him. When she returned, he shouted angrily, ‘I suppose it was those sisters of yours that kept you so long?’ Instantly she vanished and, though he searched desperately, he never found her again, and pined away with grief.

This tale of Map’s fits a common medieval pattern, where a human hero wins a fairy bride, only to lose her because he breaks some taboo she has laid on him. Map adds that Edric’s son was named Elfnoth, and was the only man born from the marriage of a human and an elf who ever lived and prospered.

Later stories about Edric are quite different. According to a servant girl from Rorrington in the 1860s, he and his wife Lady Godda, and all his followers, are still alive in the depths of the lead mines of western Shropshire, imprisoned there for his foolishness in ever trusting the Conqueror; they cannot die till all wrongs have been righted and England is as it was before the troubles of his time. Meanwhile, they help the lead miners by knocking underground to show where the best lodes can be found, or to warn of danger.

If they are seen above ground, it is a sure sign that a serious war is about to break out, and the direction in which they are going indicates where this war will be. The girl who talked of this said she had seen them herself, in 1853 or 1854, just before the Crimean War. She had been walking near Minsterley with her father, a miner, when they heard a horn blowing. Her father told her Edric and Lady Godda were about to ride past, and she must on no account speak till they were gone, or she would go mad; she should cover her face too, but not her eyes. She was therefore able to describe the riders, who were in colourful medieval attire. Her father said he had seen them before, heading south, in the times of Napoleon.

Charlotte Burne got this story at second hand from the girl’s former mistress, since the girl herself could not be traced and Burne never found another informant who knew it; however, she felt confident that its similarities to sleeping hero traditions showed it was authentic folklore. From her book it passed into the general corpus of Shropshire tales, being repeated by one author after another, often with updatings of the alleged apparitions of Edric to take account of the two World Wars.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008