Hawklemass Well, Whittingham, Northumberland

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NU 0683 1228

Archaeology & History

Hawklemass Well on 1866 map

Hawklemass Well on 1866 map

References to this site seem very scarce.  A well is highlighted on the 1866 OS-map of the region close to the spot which D.D. Dixon (1895) said it was found, “near to the Howbalk Lane end, where is also the Hawklemass Stile and Hawklemass Well.”  A stone trough could once be seen here, but its presence today needs to be confirmed by local researchers.  The site is listed in Binnall & Dodds (1943) survey, but with no additional comments to those made by Mr Dixon.


The historian D.D. Dixon (1895) told that the village of Whittingham only had one ghost, but it was known as the “Hawklemass Ghost” and was occasionally encountered at the Hawklemass Well:

“This was a place never passed after nightfall by the youth of the village without feeling an eerie, creepy sensation, and with many a furtive glance on either side.  This unearthly visitant, in its gambols and uncanny pranks, was said to rattle the chain by which it was supposed to be bound in a fearsome manner.  It was usually seen or heard by persons who, having lingered long at the village inn, could say with Tam o’ Shanter,

“While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An gettin’ fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and styles,
That lie between us and our hame.”

One Saturday night many years ago—perhaps fifty—a poor fellow on his way from Whittingham to Glanton fel into the roadside at Hawklemass, where he was found, quite dead, the next morning by some persons on their way to Glanton meeting.  This sad affair may have given rise to the tradition of the Hawklemass Ghost.”

The name of the old lane at whose junction the Hawklemass Well once flowed, ‘Howbalk Lane’, may derive from a lost tumulus, as the word how (and its variants) regularly relate to prehistoric mounds in our more northern climes.  Such an ancient tomb, close to the well, may be the origin of the ghost story.


  1. Binnall, P.B.G. & Dodds, M.H., “Holy Wells in Northumberland and Durham – part 2”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 10:2, 1943.
  2. Dixon, David Dippie, Whittingham Vale, Northumberland, Robert Redpath: Newcastle 1895.

Acknowledgements:  With thanks to Gill Rutherford for prompting me to finish this; and to Claire Heron for the OS-map reference.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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