Holy Well, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9344 2441

Getting Here

Now I aint been here for a few years, but it’s hopefully still where I last left it!  You need to get into the trees behind the Christ’s Church just out of the town centre, along the south-side of the Burnley valley road. (A646)  When you get to the footpath which runs just above the tree-line in the woods (it’s known locally as the ‘Lover’s Walk’ path), wander along for just a couple of hundred yards.  You’ll eventually get to the small spring of water and the tiny stream which runs down the slope, just to the left of the path. According to the old map I’ve got – that’s it!

Archaeology & History

This long-lost sacred well originally emerged a little bit further up the hill from where it is today.  Almost nothing is known about it.  Seemingly first highlighted in 1852, my first “discovery” of the place came as a result of going through some local old maps I’d had the fortune of obtaining.  In Victorian days when the site was much more prominent, the old road that took you into the woods was called Holy Well Lane.  Now, its memory has been subdued, and the old road is known simply as ‘Well Lane.’

A local writer, J.W. Crowther, mentioned the site in his local place-name survey, where he told that the Holy Well was a “name given to a well of excellent spring water” — but nothing more.  It was later mentioned in an article by J.A. Heginbottom [1988] who wrongly reported it as being “destroyed.”

Folklore

Local tradition told that ‘memaws’ (offerings such as rags, coins, flowers, etc) used to be left here by local people in olden times, as offerings to pacify or give respect to the waters; although what time of the year these were left, and the nature of the resident deity, has all been forgotten.  In very recent years however, it seems that some modern NewAge-types are now visiting the place once again.

References:

  1. Crowther, J.W., Place Names of Todmorden, privately printed: Todmorden (n.d.)
  2. Heginbottom, J.A., ‘Early Christian Sites in Calderdale’, in PHAS 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Holy Well

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Holy Well 53.716062, -2.100877 Holy Well

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