St. Helen’s Well, Holbeck, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 295 329

Archaeology & History

In the Holbeck area of Leeds, one of the three spa wells was previously patronised to this mythical saint, whose wells profuse in this part of the world.  St. Helen’s Well (later becoming the Holbeck Spa Well) was found at the appropriately named St. Helens Bridge.  Ralph Thoresby (1715) wrote of the place: a supposed medicinal holy well, it previously had a chapel by it, of which no trace is seen today. John Mayhall (1860) also mentioned this “medicinal well,” but told little more. It was Andrea Smith (1982), more than a century later, who wrote the most about the place:

“In connection with the well by St.Helen’s Bridge, Holbeck, (Thoresby) refers to “another ancient fabrik called St. Helen’s,” but there is a difficulty in deciding exactly what he means by ancient; it is taken here as meaning more than two hundred years old. This suggests, then, that by St. Helen’s Bridge there was once a well and chapel which gave rise to the dedication and which was probably a Medieval foundation, considering the popularity of St. Helen at that time.”

Both of these sites have long since disappeared. The well eventually became known as a local Spa Well, and was found to possess a high sulphur content.


  1. Mayhall, John, The Annals of Yorkshire, Joseph Johnson: Leeds 1860.
  2. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  3. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis: or the Topography of the Ancient and Populous Town and Parish of Leedes, Robinson & Holdsworth: Leeds 1816.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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