Holy Well : OS Grid Reference – NO 45573 21645
Also Known as:
- Lady Well
Entering Leuchars from Dundee or Newport go straight ahead through the roundabout; entering from Cupar or St.Andrews turn right at the roundabout, then up School Hill and bear left up the Pitlethie Road, then immediately past a long terrace of bungalows, turn left up an unmade road opposite the school, where you can park up. Walk down the track, noting the Castle Knowe Motte across the fields ahead and follow the track to the right, and there at the bottom of the slope, below modern housing, is the site of the Lady’s Well.
Archaeology & History
There seems to be only minimal information about Lady’s Well. To the south lies the ancient church of St Athernase, described architecturally as the second finest Romanesque church in Britain (after Durham Cathedral) and apparently built by some of the same masons who built Durham. Prior to the building of St Athernase, a ninth century Culdee church, dedicated to St Bonoc (also known as St. Bennet or St. Bonach or St.Bernard) stood on the School Hill which rises over Leuchars. School Hill was anciently known as Temple Hill, perhaps indicating a connection with the Knights Templar.
Writing in the Old Statistical Account for Leuchars in the 1790s, the Reverend Kettle wrote:
“A little north of the east end of the village, to the convenience and comfort of the inhabitants, there is another well of equal excellence, called the Lady well, no doubt consecrated to the Blessed Virgin”
The mid nineteenth century Ordnance Survey name book has the following entry referring to the Lady’s Well, contributed by a Messrs Pillans and David Keddie:
“The site of a Spring Well in a small piece of open ground adjoining the Village of Leuchars. It ran dry before the year 1843 from some unaccountable reason. and in that year A New well was sunk and opened a short distance from it. which since supplys its place. This last was done by subscription by the inhabitants of the village the original well was sunk and opened for use by a Lady of the name of “Carnegie” who formerly Lived at “Leuchars Castle” hence the name “Lady’s Well” it was never resorted to as a holy Well.”
Despite this, we must bear in mind the Kirk’s powerful post Reformation antipathy to holy wells, which may be reflected in the story given by the above two correspondents.
While your writer was bimbling around Leuchars, a chance (?) meeting led to him being introduced to probably the oldest residents in the town (mid- to high-90s). They only remember the Lady’s Well site being known as ‘The Well Green’ where the old Fife County Council waterworks were once situated, and there we may have the reason for the Well’s physical demise: modern water extraction to serve Leuchars RAF Station and its ancillary barracks and housing has lowered the water table, leading to the spring drying up as it passes from living memory
- Leuchars St. Athernase, Church of Scotland
© Paul T Hornby 2014-16, The Northern Antiquarian