Griffiths, Frances 1907 - 1986


Frances Griffiths was a photographer active in the 20th century, famous for co-creating the "Cottingley fairies" photographs.

Frances Griffiths was born on 4 September 1907 in Bradford, Yorkshire, the daughter of a soldier named Griffiths and his wife, Annie. After an early childhood spent in Cape Town, in 1917, aged ten, she returned with her mother from France, where her father was serving with the army, to stay with the Wright family in Cottingley, on the outskirts of Bradford.

With cousin Elsie Wright, Frances Griffiths experimented with photography in her teenage years. Griffiths and Wright created photographs featuring "fairies" in their back garden in Cottingley. The photographs later caught the attention of Edward Gardner of the Theosophical Society and Arthur Conan Doyle, who had become interested in the paranormal following the death of his eldest son during the First World War.

Conan Doyle arranged for cameras to be given to Elsie and Frances so that they could take some more fairy pictures. The girls managed to produce three further ‘fairy’ photographs; these, together with the original two, were reproduced in the Strand Magazine and in Doyle's The Coming of the Fairies, published in 1922. The photographs grew in notoriety and spread across the world.

Frances Griffiths married Sidney Way, a soldier, and after several foreign postings, including a long spell in Egypt, they settled in the midlands with their two children, Christine and David.

Though media interest subsided, the ‘Cottingley fairies’ continued to capture the public imagination. Elsie and Frances were interviewed in magazines and on radio and television; in 1978 the BBC broadcast a 'Play of the Week' based on their story, entitled Fairies. It was not until 1983, however, that the full story was revealed, when Elsie and Frances finally admitted that the photographs were fakes and that the fairies were in fact nothing more than cardboard cut-outs.

Frances died in 1986.