Holy Well, Baildon, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1609 3961

Archaeology & History

This site is all but unknown to the great majority of folk in Baildon, and even some of the local historians have let it slip from their investigative tendrils.  According to the primary Baildon historian, W.Paley Baildon, it was first known as the ‘Halliwell Holy Well’.  In his magnum opus (1913-26) of the township he relates that,

“The 1852 Ordnance map marks Halliway Banks Wood to the south of Langley Lane, with a well just below it, and a footpath from Holden Lane to the well.  Halliway, I think, is a corruption of Halliwell, the ‘holy well,’ with the special footpath leading to it and nowhere else.  Haliwell Bank occurs in (the Baildon Court Rolls of) 1490, when it formed part of the property held by William Tong of Nicolas Fitz William.”

This etymology is echoed by the great place-name authority A.H. Smith (1954).  It also caught the attention of archaeologist Andrea Smith (1982), in her investigation of twenty-five holy wells in the West Yorkshire region.

“Many wells,” she wrote, “are recorded simply as ‘Holy Well,’ or the various forms ‘Halliwell,’ ‘Helliwell’ and ‘Hollowell.’  It is possible that in these instances the identity of the patron saint or guardian of the well has been forgotten, which may be the case with the site at Collingham, now known as Hollowell.”

Site of the Holy Well in 1852

The well itself can no longer be seen.  When I looked for the site in 1982, I found that to the right of where the 1852 map showed it, was a waterworks lid covering the old holy waters, just in the trees atop of the field beneath a great sycamore with a number of small stones roughly encircling the site: perhaps the only possible relics of the century before when the waters would have been used.  A stone trough was situated at the bottom of Holden Lane, fed by the waters from the Halliwell and from here the course of the stream meandered down the side of Slaughter Lane, now known as Kirklands Road.  The land around Halliwell became known as Kirkfield, or field of worship.

A local resident told how during autumn and winter, the left side of the field gets extremely boggy – the region were the old stream ran from the old well, along which dowsers have found aquastats abound.  Now however, houses have been built where the waterworks-lid used to be and is likely to be in someone’s backyard, all but forgotten.

Folklore

According to local lore, the site of this most ancient of holy wells was found in the warmest place in the Baildon district.  Whilst its geographical position doesn’t necessarily suggest this (although it did face south, into the sun), this lore may reflect some healing aspect of the well that has long since been forgotten.

Perhaps relevant to Andrea Smith’s comment about there being ‘guardians’ at holy wells is found in folklore relating to nearby Holden Lane: locals in the last century also referred to it as Boggart Lane, so called after the Boggart which was seen there in the form of a spectral hound that was said to possess large glowing red eyes and was a sign of ill omen.  Modern sightings of the spectral hound, which appeared along the road which led to the old well, are unknown.

References:

  1. Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons (parts 1-15), St. Catherines: Adelphi 1913-26.
  2. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1954.
  3. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.852504, -1.756778 Holy Well, Baildon

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