St. George’s Well, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2997 5561

Also Known as:

  1. St. George’s Spa

Archaeology & History

About 50 yards away from the Royal Promenade on the east-side of Parliament Street, there used to the flowing water of this old holy well, later becoming one more of Harrogate’s spa wells.  It was first recognized as a medicinal spring about 1792 when Thomas Garnett (1794) uncovered it beneath the overgrowth of vegetation surrounding the spring-head.  In doing so, it became evident that at some time in the past it had been used by local people as,

“a wall was discovered round the spring, but whether this had been built with an idea of its being a medicinal water, or with an intention of collecting water for cattle, I cannot determine.”

Chalybeate (iron-bearing) in nature, the waters were analyzed by Adam Hunter (1830) in the 1820s and, although possessed of soluble iron, had less than its medicinal compatriots nearby, meaning that its fortifying qualities weren’t quite as good. He told us how,

“it had been known (by locals) for many years, but at no time much used internally; it had acquired some celebrity however as a wash for sore eyes, for which purpose it was well adapted.  As chalybeate water has long been a favourite popular remedy for a wash in various weaknesses, and chronic affections of the eyes, it is proper to state that (the nearby) John’s Well, the Tewit Spa, or the succeeding one at Starbeck, are the only three chalybeates which can at present be recommended for that purpose.”

A few years after Hunter had been here, the well was destroyed “by the making of a highway drain.” Jennings 1981)

Folklore

St George (saint’s day – April 23) was one of the christian dragon-killers.  There is no known tradition of the saint or festivities that may once have occured here.

References:

  1. Garnett, Thomas, A Treatise on the Mineral Waters of Harrogate, Thomas Gill: Leeds 1794.
  2. Hunter, Adam, The Waters of Harrogate and its Vicinity, Langdale: Harrogate 1830.
  3. Jennings, Bernard, A History of the Wells and Springs of Harrogate, Interprint: Harrogate 1981.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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