Parsonage Well, Manchester, Lancashire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SJ 836 985

Archaeology & History

Long since lost beneath the metal and concrete of modern times, even references to this forgotten place are very faint indeed.  I expected to find something of it in Henry Taylor’s (1906) giganteum, but it even slipped through his considerable work; and, even where mention of it exists, it is only in passing.  In William Proctor’s (1874) survey of early Manchester, he found deeds relating to the land and its early owners wherein the one and only mention of this well appears.  It was located near the middle of the city centre, between the Law Courts and Manchester cathedral, in the area known today as the Parsonage Gardens on the east-side of the River Irwell.  In earlier centuries this was the abode of a Christian minister, or parson, and the water from this well supplied his religious abode.  Proctor wrote:

“Crossing over to the Parsonage, we find that, in 1780, one of its residents was Mr John Quincey, linen-draper, uncle to the English Opium-Eater.  In the previous year Mr Quincey was married to Miss Martha Goodyear, of Ardwick.  His residence was bounded, it seems, on the north and west by “a narrow street or passage called Black Fryars”; while on the other points of the vane his prospect is thus shown by an extract from a lease dated 1758: — “The orchard or garden plot adjoining the river; it is now fenced out with hedges and ditches.”  Some years earlier mention is made of a summer-house, fruit trees, and plants in abundance, with “free liberty of way to the spring or well called the Parsonage Well.”  In 1686, Thomas Heyrick of Manchester, gentleman, leased a “tenement and parcel of land abutting upon a messuage and garden heretofore in the possession of George Tipping, deceased, and now the dwelling-house of the warden [Richard Wroe] of the said College; bounded on the east part with the old Parsonage ditch adjoining to the tenement of Mr John Oldfield.  Close by are or were the residences of John Nield, Hugh Boardman, Richard Haworth, Esq., and lately Jane Haworth, his widow.”  A worn parchment proves the existence, in 1698, of “Parsonage Croft;” another of “Parsonage Pool;” and an order of the Court Leet, 1594, required the tenants to “go along the hedge-side, keeping the footway towards the Parsonage style, for their fetching of water from the river.”  In 1765, an advertisement in the Mercury mentions “the sign of the Grey Horse in or near Parsonage Brow.” St Mary’s Church covers the ground once known as the Parsonage Green.”


  1. Proctor, Richard W., Memorials of Manchester Streets, T. Sutcliffe: Manchester 1874.
  2. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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