Legends of the Three Shires

A collection of myths and legends from Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire

Doxey Pool

Doxey Pool, The RoachesA rather sorry-looking Doxey Pool as I found it in June 2010, in flagrant contempt of the rule that it should remain full to the brim even in the driest of summers


Doxey Pool, on top of the Roaches, is, like many such small moorland pools, said by some to be bottomless, and its level never falling even in the driest summer. It is also rumoured to be inhabited by a malignant water spirit or mermaid.


Following the pony track we shortly come upon the margin of a small tarn, called Doxy Pool, dark and deep, many hundreds of feet above any known spring in the district, and which, no matter how hot the summer, is always full to the brink. This is a favourite drinking place of the grouse, and the soft sand near the water’s edge, is often found covered with the impress of their numerous footmarks.

Philip Lancaster Brocklehurst, Swythamley and Its Neighbourhood, Past and Present, Desultory Fragments Collected From Various Authors, Robert Hardwicke, London, 1874, p 46–47

And then, behold! at the summit of this ridge, close by where the sappers and miners have raised their flagstaff cairn, is a lonely, rush-fringed tarn called Doxey Pool, whose peat-coloured water catches the sunlight like a shield of steel. Still we have the awful cataclysm of crags around us, scattered like the brooding monuments of a dead world, the Necropolis of fabled giants.

Edward Bradbury, All About Derbyshire, Simpkin, Marshall And Co., London, 1884, pp 191–2

Not very far from the Morridge mere is another moorland pool where a mermaid, or water spirit is said to bathe. This is Doxey Pool on the moor above the rock escarpment called the Roaches, which rises many hundreds of feet above any other known spring in the district. In 1949, Mrs Florence Pettit visited this pool one morning for a swim before lunch, in the company of a friend from Buxton. She wrote afterwards that just before she was to enter the water:

…a great ‘thing’ rose up from the middle of the lake. It rose very quickly until it was 25 to 30 feet tall. Seeming to be part of the slimy weeds and the water, yet it had eyes, and those eyes were extremely malevolent. It pointed its long boney fingers menacingly at me so there was no mistaking its hostility. I stood staring at the undine, water spirit, naiad or whatever it was while my heart raced. Its feet just touched the surface of the water, the weeds and the air. when I dared to look again, the creature was dissolving back into the elements from which it had formed.

Many years afterwards, when discussing her bone-chilling encounter with a local rambler, she asked him if he had ever visited The Roaches, and he replied, ‘Not likely, there’s a haunted lake on the top’.

David Clarke, Ghosts and Legends of the Peak District, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich, 1991, p 64

This lakelet, at an altitude of 1500 feet, is supposedly connected to the Mermaid’s Pool at Morridge. A mermaid has been sighted at Doxey Pool, as well as other fabulous creatures. “Doxey” could refer to the Anglo Saxon pronunciation of oxen, therefore the oxen’s pool, or it could be named after a local family, still in the area, called Doxey. The name also colloquially refers to a lady of easy virtue, perhaps the mermaid. The pool never seems to increase or decrease in size, the water is always very cold and very clear and no animals are said to drink from it. Just like the Morridge pool, no birds are supposed to fly over it.

Doug Pickford, Magic, Myth and Memories in and around the Peak District, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, 1993, p 102

A couple of other peaty tarns over on the Staffordshire side of the Peak also have associations with mermaids. Doxey Pool lies on the Roaches in the Staffordshire moorlands, and has an evil reputation involving an unpleasant spirit known as Jenny Greenteeth, which the circular pool called Blake Mere can be found close to the Mermaid Inn high on the Staffordshire moors east of Leek, and is thought to be bottomless.

Roly Smith (Author), Andrew Bibby (Editor), Peak District: Northern and Western Moors, Frances Lincoln, London, 2005, p 137


Doxey Pool is about four kilometres from Blake Mere, and the legend about the mermaid in the latter seems to be more firmly established than the former. Though I had heard of both the Doxey Pool mermaid and of the underground passage from friends of mine, the only printed references I have been able to find are the above, quite modern ones. Neither of the 19th century sources describe anything other than the pool itself. The fact that Philip Brocklehurst makes no mention of a mermaid supports the idea that the legend only appeared after the Blake Mere one, perhaps not until the early or mid twentieth century.

It’s possible the association with a mermaid may have arisen because of the story of the underground passage: after all, if there were a mermaid in Blake Mere, it would be natural for her to travel between the two.

The account by Mrs Florence Pettit is certainly a bizarre one, and may account for the mention by Roly Smith of the creature that inhabits Doxey Pool being ‘Jenny Greenteeth’, a generic name (particularly in northern England) for a malignant water spirit said to live in small pools and drown children.

As to the origins of the name ‘Doxey’, the Oxford English Dictionary gives several variant spellings of doxy, including doxey, with these meanings to choose from:

Originally the term in Vagabond’s Cant for the unmarried mistress of a beggar or rogue: a beggar’s trull or wench: hence slang, a mistress, paramour, prostitute; dial., a wench, sweetheart.

There is, sadly, no story to relate the pool to any doxy in any of these modern senses of the word, unless, as Doug Pickford suggests, it is a darkly humorous reference to the mermaid being a mistress or lover. It may come from a surname, as Doug Pickford also suggests, and there is a village called Doxey in central Staffordshire, whose etymology is suggested as either deriving from the Old English for “duck’s island” or the dock plant; either may apply to Doxey Pool.