Homes for household fairies, brownies, and hearth spirits
Hob Houses are the dwellings of the helpful and friendly household fairies known as Hobs or Brownies, (known in Scandinavian countries a nisse or tomte, names which go back to Viking times and beyond). These house were believed essential for keeping these helpful spirits happy and content, encouraging them to remain with the family, and not stray elsewhere.
Hob Houses were once a common sight in the living rooms of rural cottages throughout the country, they would usually be found on the mantle pieces, or by the hearth, and particularly bread ovens. The coming if industrialisation and the move of people from the countryside to the urban centres seems to have brought a decline in their popularity. However some were still to be found in the quarters of domestic servants, as late as the beginning of the twentieth century.
Some Hob Houses are discreet, standing almost unnoticed, lost among the clutter of the mantelpiece - quiet homes for shy fairies. Others are larger, and almost ostentatious in their decoration, made by those who might suppose they would attract a better class of brownie.
The form taken by Hob Houses may be modest, or even crude, while at other times they are complex and extravagant. Various styles and representations are to be found, there seems to be no standard or proscribed form. Their design appears to have been dependant wholly on the abilities of the maker.
The houses are always constructed from natural materials, usually wood - any fairy would be offended by modern synthetic materials, and justly refuse the offered accommodation. They are usually flat - two dimensional representations resembling human houses, and commonly finished with simple painted, or applied decorations. It is hardly suppressing that later mantle clocks followed the shapes and forms of some styles of Hob Houses.
Known in Yorkshire as hobholms, a localised variation - hoboils may be derived from this. In Cornwall they are called pixie dens. In Wales ty bwgan. Gaelic - taigh-sìthe, pronounced tay-she.