St. Philip’s Well, Keyingham, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 23584 25549

Archaeology & History

The Well shown on the 1855 6″ OS map

This holy well was formerly on the northern boundary of a field adjoining the north side of the A1033 west of Keyingham.

In view of the surviving folklore relating to the well it seems that its dedication to St. Philip may have been an effort by the Church to ‘Christianise’ it; and the St Philip here is not the Biblical Apostle, but a local saint – Philip Ingleberd (died c.1325 and also known as Philip Inglebred), whose memory was celebrated by a nearby Cross and a shrine at St Nicholas Church in the village.  The well and the cross may have been dedicated some time after 1392 following a ‘miracle’ relating to Philip’s tomb.  These were destroyed by the mob in the Reformation, although the cross-base survives.  It seems the well may have been restored in the late seventeenth century.  By the early twentieth century the well was described as laying on the Common to the west of the village, by then filled in, only showing signs it ever existed by making the ground near its site wet and boggy in a rainy season.

Folklore

George Poulson writing in 1841 told that,

“…a few fields more to the west is a well, called St. Philip’s Well; on a small stone are inscribed W. H. W. D. IG67. W. K.  It is called the wishing well; and the country lasses were in the habit of dropping pins, or even a sixpence into it, for the purpose of ensuring to themselves either particular or general good luck.”

William Smith (1923) described the well as one of six wishing wells or pin wells in Yorkshire and, moreover, the only ‘Cross Well’ in the East Riding.  At none of these wells was evil allowed to be foreshadowed, and the wells were only to show to a girl the portrait of her future husband.  He told us that,

“In every case the wish had to be with truthful devotion, and not divulged to any living person, or the desired consummation would not be gained…. Tradition adds that the well was much visited by maidens, who, on dropping their pins or coins, expressed the wish to see their lovers mirrored on its waters. Thus they kept a custom, dating to the time when the well was counted to be under the control of the fairies.”

And as Keyingham Common was once the abode of the fairies, it is worth noting that some 700 yards west of the site of the well a ‘Pans Hill’ is shown on the old maps, although whether this rural spirit of classical myth ever made it up to the East Riding is altogether another matter….

References:

  1. Arrowsmith, Nancy & Moorse, George, A Field Guide to the Little People, Macmillan: London 1977.
  2. Hope, Robert, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliot Stock: London 1893.
  3. Poulson, George, History and Antiquities of the Seigniory of Holderness, Thomas Topping: Hull 1841.
  4. Smith, Rev. William, Ancient Springs & Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A.Brown: Hull 1923.

© Paul T Hornby 2021

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