Jersey is a British Crown dependency near the coast of Normandy, France. It is rather a small island, but still a major tourist destination. Nice old buildings, fascinating nature and culture attract many people on all seasons. And if you go there, you may notice something unusual – some of the older chimneys have little steps on them. What are they for?
Chimneys were always a big part of the house. They must be safe, functional and, preferably, beautiful. There are a lot of traditions and customs relating to chimneys and cleaning them. For example, in many places in Europe touching chimney sweep’s buttons brings good luck. Many people think that those little steps on Jersey’s chimneys are actually for chimney sweeps, but that’s actually not true – they are for witches.
Yeah yeah, sure – witches don’t exists. But are you sure about that? What if they do and they won’t find a place to rest on your chimney?
An old Jersey’s folklore says that witches get tired as they fly to their sabbats. And so they look for a comfortable place to rest. These ledges, known as witches’ stones, are perfect for that – they are high above everyone, allowing the witch to see the town and other witches flying by. People would create these ledges for witches, thinking that they will not attack places that provide a place to rest.
Of course, this is just a folklore, but a rather nice one. However, these ledges actually have a practical function as well. Because these of house of Jersey used have thatched roofs, they are not very well sealed around the chimneys. Today it is not a problem, but back when the roofs were actually thatched, rainwater would run down the side of the chimney and into the house. This would not only cause a tremendous mess, but could also damage the wooden structures of the house. And so these ledges were created to stop the water from running down the side of the chimney.
It is believed that the practical application came first and then locals started creating fairy tales about witches resting on these ledges. But the tradition stuck really well – even houses that never had thatched roofs now have witches’ stones. In fact, even new houses built today have this feature. If not witches have a place to rest, tourists have a thing to wonder about.