Arthur Conan Doyle, Exhibition stand

The Cottingley Fairies

In the summer of 1917, in leafy Cottingley Glen near Shipley in West Yorkshire, Elsie Wright aged 16, and her cousin Frances Griffiths aged 9, claimed to have taken photographs of fairies. The photographs showed the fairies flying around the glen in the company of the girls.

The photographs were later seen by Arthur Conan Doyle, who included them in an article he was writing about fairy lore. The article was published in the Christmas 1920 edition of the Strand magazine.

Doyle had an intense interest in other spiritual worlds and came from a family who were fascinated by fairies. His artist uncle Richard was famous for his fairy illustrations.and they were also sketched by his father Charles. Doyle went on to write The Coming of the Fairies (1922) which contained three extra photographs taken by the girls.

His writings on the subject were met with a mixed response, but it was not until the 1980s that Elsie and Frances admitted that the pictures were faked. Ironically, they revealed that the images were cut from the pages of Princess Mary’s Gift Book, a wartime fundraising volume to which Doyle himself had contributed a story.

Some modern versions of the paper fairies were made by the children from Bunny Warren Pre-school Nursery group who meet in Fratton community centre. There was also an exhibition case featuring objects and documents from the Collection and a storytelling session for the children.

Bunny Warren storytelling session

Storytelling session at Bunny Warren Nursery to celebrate the Cottingley Fairies

Display stand

Items from the exhibition

The coming of the fairies map

A map of the Cottingley Beck and Glen.showing where the fairies were 'found'.

Elsie and the leaping fairy

Elsie and the leaping fairy

Elsie being offered a posy

Elsie being offered a posy

Iris and the dancing gnome

Iris and the dancing gnome

Conan Doyle in the garden at Bignell Wood

In the garden at Bignell wood where Conan Doyle hoped to attract fairies

To see more images and find out more about the collection, email: sherlock.holmes@portsmouthcc.gov.uk