St. Helen’s Well, Barmby-on-the-Marsh, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 6900 2841

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1853 map

One of two holy wells in Barmby village which, like its compatriot St Peter’s Well, was destroyed sometime in the 19th century.  Not good!  It was located in the southwest section of the graveyard of St Helen’s Church and was apparently alive and running when the Ordnance Survey lads visited here in 1851 (as shown on their 1853 map).  But when the site was revisited by them in 1905, it seems to have gone.  However, as with the neighbouring St Peter’s Well, there are conflicting reports as to when it was destroyed, for although the Ordnance Survey lads spoke of it in the present tense when they went there, Thomas Allen (1831) told that “within the last six years (it has) been wantonly filled up.”  Despite this, less than ten years later William White mentioned it in the present tense, also saying how it was “said to possess medicinal properties.”  These healing qualities were, according to Allen, due to its iron-bearing or chalybeate nature, meaning that it would revive a weak and feeble constitution.  Iron-bearing wells are damn good for such things!

As the years passed, St. Helen’s Well fell into folk memory.  When William Smith (1923) surveyed the many holy wells in this part of the world he found how “old parishioners have said that as school-children they both drank of and washed in its water”, but little else.

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, A New and Complete History of the County of York – volume 2, I.T. Hinton: London 1831.
  2. Gutch, E., Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, Folk-Lore Society: London 1912.
  3. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion press: Wymeswold 2008.
  4. Smith, William, Ancient Springs and Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A. Brown: Hull 1923.
  5. White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire, R. Leader: Sheffield 1840.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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